Arizona’s law enforcement personnel take great pride in enforcing Arizona’s DUI’s laws. It goes without saying that the best way to avoid a DUI is to not be impaired and operate an automobile. I recognize that this is not reality and that on occasion some of us do operate an automobile after having a drink or two, or even more. Set forth below are some of the tips that you should follow in the event you are ever pulled over for a suspected DUI violation.
After finding a safe place to pull over you should be courteous and polite with the DUI officer. However, other than providing him with your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance you should have very little to say to the DUI officer. The DUI officer will ask you whether you have been drinking, what you had to drink and where. You are under no obligation to answer these questions and generally should not. I suggest that you politely tell the police officer: “I have been advised to never answer these types of questions and I do not wish to do so.” Almost always any answer you give the police officer will hurt, and not help, your situation.
You should generally never agree to take the field sobriety tests. The DUI officer will not tell you that you are under no obligation to take the field sobriety tests. Almost always the field sobriety tests hurt rather than help your case. In many instances the DUI officer will exaggerate what you did wrong in the field sobriety test and overlook all that you did properly. In other words, the DUI officer may portray you as having failed the test even though you performed the test reasonably well. Perfection on the field sobriety test is not easy even for someone completely sober.
Generally, you should also not take the Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). A PBT is a hand-held device the DUI officer may ask you to blow into at the scene of the DUI traffic stop. The DUI PBT is unreliable and often gives false high readings that the DUI prosecutor will try to use against you in court. Having said that, it is true that in some cases the DUI officer will let a suspect go if the results read a low BAC.
You also have the right to contact a criminal defense attorney during the course of the traffic stop and the DUI officer must give you reasonable opportunity to talk to your attorney. You should absolutely contact a criminal defense attorney during a DUI traffic stop.
If the DUI officer arrests you for a DUI, he will make you take a chemical test of his choosing. Under Arizona’s Implied Consent Law, you have to take this test. If you don’t agree to take it, they will physically force you to take the test. Moreover, the refusal to take the chemical test after you have been arrested will make the consequences of a DUI more severe including possibly a one-year suspension of your Arizona driver’s license.
Finally, you should absolutely limit the amount of communication with the DUI officer at the traffic stop. You do need to be polite and courteous but, more times than not, anything you say will generally not look good when the DUI officer types his version of what you said into his investigative report. Remember the DUI officer has great discretion. He can simply let you go if he chooses. He can also let you call someone to come pick you up.
• Brian Foster is a 20-year Ahwatukee resident and senior partner at Snell & Wilmer L.L.P. in Phoenix. Reach him at (602) 382-6242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.