Question: I was arrested for a DUI in Arizona. They towed my car and took me to the police station. They started reading me a long list of questions and something about my constitutional rights. They wanted me to take a breath test and give a blood sample. I didn’t want the cop to stick a needle in my arm so I said no to both. They got a warrant. I sat in an Arizona jail for over 12 hours. Help me, what is going on?
Ryan’s Answer: Getting arrested for a DUI in Arizona is a very serious situation. After you were pulled over and the officer performed his DUI investigation, he arrested you for DUI. Once a police officer arrests you for DUI, a whole lot of things start happening under Arizona DUI law. This blog article covers some of the major things that happen, but not everything.
When you get a DUI in Flagstaff or any jurisdiction in Arizona, you must be informed that you are being arrested for DUI. At that point, your car will usually be towed, and you will be taken to either the police station or the local jail, or both. Once you are under arrest, the police cannot interrogate you unless you have knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived your Miranda rights: Right to remain silent; Right to counsel; and Right to have counsel appointed if you are indigent. Please be aware that you can always politely and respectfully decline to answer any questions.
For example, when a police officer asks you how much alcohol you had to drink before driving, unless your answer is none, keep your mouth shut. You can say, “I do not mean you any disrespect, but I do not consent to answering your questions. I also want to speak with a lawyer, unless I am free to leave right now. If I am free to leave, I want to leave now. Thank you.” If you are not in custody at this point, you may not be provided with a lawyer, but you still do not have to make any incriminating statements.
Once at the station or jail, the police are required to read you certain rights, which are called the Admin Per Se. The officer will inform you of many rights, but the major ones are as follows. You will be requested to take a breath, blood, or urine test (to be decided by the police). You can refuse to provide a sample, but if you refuse, that refusal has consequences, including a longer suspension of your driving privileges in Arizona. When you are arrested for DUI, your license will customarily be suspended as well.
Now, once you have heard your Admin Per Se rights, you have to decide whether or not to consent to providing a breath, blood, or urine sample (whichever the officer is requesting). If you refuse, and you are charged and go to trial, the prosecutor can actually argue to the jury that your refusal to provide a sample is evidence of your guilt!
If you agree to provide a sample, you may be giving the government the evidence they need to convict you. For example, if you agree to provide a breath sample, and it shows you at 0.10% blood alcohol concentration, you are almost definitely going to be charged with DUI. And that breath sample is evidence of your guilt. Trust me, the government will use it against you.
If you refuse to provide a sample, the police can seek an Arizona search warrant from a judge or justice of the peace for a blood sample. If they get the warrant, they will take a sample of your blood. If you refuse, squirm around, or assault a police officer while they are trying to stick a needle in your arm against your will, you can be charged with several felony offenses like Resisting Arrest or Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer. So, once they show you a warrant, do not resist the blood sample.
Unfortunately for you, Arizona law does not require a medical professional to take your blood. Under Arizona law, a “qualified phlebotomist” is all that is required for taking a blood sample. Most police agencies in Arizona, including the Flagstaff Police Department and Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, have qualified phlebotomists on staff. They are usually police officers and/or detectives who are qualified to take your blood. Therefore, you will be placed in a chair, told to extend your arm, and to allow a police officer to stick a needle in you and withdraw your blood.
Once your blood is taken by a qualified phlebotomist, it will be stored in the Evidence Unit and sent over to the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) crime laboratory. Scientists at the DPS crime lab will perform a blood alcohol analysis on your blood sample and file a report with their results.
While your breath sample will be analyzed immediately, your blood sample will not. It often takes months for the DPS crime lab to return results on a blood sample.
So what happens to you?
After the police investigate you for DUI, arrest you for DUI, take you to the station or jail, read you your Admin Per Se, and then obtain a breath or blood (or urine) sample, you can either be held or released. If they hold you in jail, they have to take you in front of a judge within 48 hours, or release you from custody. If you are released, your case will be processed by a city prosecutor or county attorney’s office, and you may be charged with a DUI. Be aware that the government has one (1) year to file a complaint against you for a misdemeanor DUI. If it is a felony DUI, you can be charged up to seven (7) years after the date of offense.
While your license is suspended for DUI, DO NOT DRIVE A MOTOR VEHICLE. You do not want to also be charged with Driving on a Suspended License. If you can afford it, do an alcohol screening assessment with a qualified counselor and find out if you need help with your alcohol addiction, if you have one. Get the help you need. Stay out of trouble and wait to find out if you are charged with an Arizona DUI.