Can I be convicted of a DUI if I was stopped unlawfully?
A DUI conviction can significantly impact your freedom, wallet, and your future. In the state of Arizona, DUIs are treated as a serious matter. Even a first time offense could result in prison time, fines, and suspension of your license. If you have prior DUI convictions or aggravated factors existed, your penalties will climb exponentially. For these reasons, it is critical that you mount a strong defense against the DUI charges you face. Your exact defense will depend on the circumstances surrounding your arrest. Below, our Phoenix, Arizona DUI defense lawyers discuss some of the most common defenses raised against a charge of driving while intoxicated in the state.
Challenging the Stop
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides the American people with certain protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Per constitutional and case law derived from the U.S. Supreme Court, police officers are said to need reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in order to stop your vehicle outside of an authorized DUI checkpoint.
For the stop to be valid, the arresting officer will need to prove that he or she personally observed commission of a crime, which could include an expired plate or illegal lane change. Alternatively, a tip could lead to a finding of reasonable suspicion, but it will depend on the reliability of the information and the tipster. If you believe the stop was merely a pretext for your DUI arrest, your attorney may elect to challenge the legality of your stop, which could lead to dismissal of the charges as fruits of the illegal stop.
Questioning the Field Sobriety Tests
Officers in Arizona and elsewhere across the country must stringently adhere to protocols regarding field sobriety testing. Should officers fail to adhere to company and national protocols, the results of the tests should be suppressed, which may also lead to dismissal of the charges. Your attorney may subpoena dash cam footage and notes from the field sobriety testing to determine whether the arresting officer followed protocol.
In addition to challenging the field sobriety testing procedures, your attorney may further wish to challenge the evidence gathered during these tests. Often, field sobriety testing will form a major part of the case against you. Evidence gathered during testing may be insufficient to establish your intoxication, especially if outside factors could explain your conduct. For example, if you struggled with the heel to toe test but were wearing flip flops or heels, then your test results could be meaningless.
Medical Conditions Influence Test Results
There are several medical conditions that can give a driver the appearance of being intoxicated, and some conditions can even cause the driver to fail a breathalyzer test. Diabetes, stomach conditions, extreme fatigue, neurological issues, allergies, and motor problems could all lead an officer to suspect that you are intoxicated. Anyone with one of these conditions or a related condition that they feel may have influenced the outcome of the breathalyzer or field sobriety testing should alert their attorney and challenge these findings.
These are just a few of the many potential defenses against a DUI charge. Your criminal defense lawyer will closely examine the circumstances surrounding your arrest and mount a strong case to challenge the charges you face.