Month: May 2012

Arizona Drug and DUI Traffic Stops

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Enjoy the weekend. And be careful out there.

Arizona law enforcement has announced that they will be setting up several DUI Checkpoints in Northern Arizona, which may include Flagstaff, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Prescott, and more. In addition to checkpoints, officers will be on high alert for people traveling while intoxicated or people suspected of traveling with drugs in their vehicles. Officers will stop you for a minor traffic violation to begin an investigation into DUI or marijuana transportation.

DUI Checkpoints in Arizona

This Memorial Day Weekend, watch out for the DUI Checkpoints. Even the Grand Canyon will have DUI Checkpoints this weekend (here’s the article in the Arizona Daily Sun)! You might think that the police have absolutely no right to stop and detain you with no suspicion or probable cause of any criminal activity. Well, you’d be wrong. DUI Checkpoints are a suspension of your 4th Amendment rights. They are lowly intrusive on your freedom, and, as the courts have ruled, the public safety outweighs the minimal intrusion caused to sober drivers who have to stop and wade through a checkpoint. If you end up a DUI Checkpoint, you will be forced to speak directly with a police officer. That officer will be looking for watery bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, the odor of alcohol, open containers in your vehicle, lack of coordination, and admissions to drinking prior to driving. Do not flee from a checkpoint or try to make a U-turn and get out of there. The police will be watching for that; they will chase you; and you can be charged with separate criminal offenses. If you are at a checkpoint, do not admit to anything. Just because the police force you to stop and speak with them does not mean you have to give up your 5th Amendment and 6th Amendment rights to silence and to have a lawyer’s advice. Never admit to drinking alcohol. And never consent to a search of your vehicle. If the police tell you they are going to run a “dog sniff” or K9 search, they may only do so around the exterior of your vehicle. Do not consent to allow the dog into your vehicle. Ask the officer politely, “Am I free to leave?” If they say yes, it’s time to get out of there.

Tips to Avoid a DUI or Drug Conviction in Arizona

1. Do not drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle. If you drink alcohol, don’t drive until you’re sober. Meaning, 0.00% blood alcohol concentration. If you decide to sleep in your vehicle, be very careful! If you sit in the driver’s seat and turn the vehicle on, you will be in “actual physical control” of the vehicle – you can be convicted of a DUI before you even put the car into drive! So, if you sleep in the vehicle, don’t sit in the driver’s seat and leave the keys in the back of the vehicle, away and out of your reach. You don’t want to be accused of being in “actual physical control” of a vehicle. That’s the same as driving drunk under Arizona DUI laws.

2. Watch out for the driving “cues” of impairment. The police are trained to recognize “cues” of possible impairment that can justify a DUI investigation. Don’t give them the chance. There are several categories of cues with subcategories that are used in Arizona courts to justify a traffic stop and DUI investigation or drug courier investigation. Here is the breakdown:

Problems Maintaining Proper Lane Position

  • Weaving
  • Weaving across lane lines
  • Straddling a lane line
  • Swerving
  • Turning with a wide radius
  • Drifting
  • Almost striking a vehicle or other object

Speed and Braking Problems

  • Stopping problems (too far, too short, or too jerky)
  • Accelerating or decelerating for no apparent reason
  • Varying speed
  • Slow speed (10+ mph under limit)

Vigilance Problems

  • Driving in opposing lanes or wrong way on one-way
  • Slow response to traffic signals
  • Slow or failure to respond to officer’s signals
  • Stopping in lane for no apparent reason
  • Driving without headlights at night
  • Failure to signal or signal inconsistent with action

Judgment Problems

  • Following too closely
  • Improper or unsafe lane change
  • Illegal or improper turn (too fast, jerky, sharp, etc.)
  • Driving on other than the designated roadway
  • Stopping inappropriately in response to officer
  • Inappropriate or unusual behavior (throwing, arguing, etc.)
  • Appearing to be impaired

3. If you get stopped by the police… Avoid making the many mistakes that the police are looking for.

First, have your insurance, registration, and driver’s license ready to hand to the officer before he or she even makes it to your window.

Second, don’t fiddle around with your window or open your door. Have your window rolled all the way down before the officer gets to you. Do not open your door. Wait until the officer asks for your papers, and then promptly and smoothly hand the documents to the officer.

Third, make sure your music is turned off and that your car looks neat and clean. Do not leave trash, especially beer or alcohol containers, anywhere in plain view of the officer.

Fourth, keep your discussion with the officer to the minimal amount required. Do not tell the officer if you drank alcohol. Do not agree to answer questions about impairment or drugs. Do not consent to a search of your person or vehicle. Do not agree to a PBT (portable breath test). Do not agree to perform Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s) no matter how kindly the officer asks you. Simply do the minimums and be cooperative, polite, and nice.

4.If you are arrested for drugs or DUI…Lawyer up. Ask the police to let you speak to a lawyer. If the officer reads you the Admin Per Se / Implied Consent and demands a breath, blood, or urine sample, generally you can agree to perform the test. Otherwise, your driving privileges will be suspended for 12 months and the officer will still get your bodily fluids by way of a search warrant. So that’d be a lose-lose for you. Ask the officer to allow you to collect an independent sample of your breath, blood, or urine for future testing by your defense team.

Northern Arizona Drug Transportation Cases

Many DUI stops or investigatory stops based on poor driving (see the “cues” above) are actually drug transportation stops. The police won’t tell you this, but they aren’t stopping you just to give you a ticket for having a GPS device on your windshield. They will force you get out of the vehicle. They will talk to you and observe signs of impairment or nervousness.

They will ask you to allow them to search your vehicle. They will use scary words like: “I’m going to keep you here for a while if I have to go get my drug dog to sniff your car. So you should just tell me right now where you have marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine, okay?” They will say, “Can I take your pulse? You sure look real nervous.”

Just stay calm, respectfully decline to allow any search of your person or vehicle, and make the police officer do their job thoroughly. It’ll give us much more to work with in your defense. A “bad” search (i.e., constitutional violation) is priceless in a drug transportation case because we can push it all the way to dismissal in certain cases.

Drive safely if you’re visiting the Grand Canyon, or driving through our neck of the woods on I-17 or I-40 (Kingman, Seligman, Williams, Flagstaff, Winslow, Holbrook). Call us if you need help. We do free consultations on all criminal and DUI cases. And we’ve got 35+ years of combined experience.