Protecting our Roads AND Your Rights
By Zachary Mushkatel on October 8, 2014
Drunk driving laws were put in place to protect those traveling on our streets, roads and highways from the dangers of intoxicated drivers. The law also protects your rights – but how? Obviously, driving while heavily intoxicated endangers other motorists.
No matter how much legislation is passed or penalties increased, cases exist in which a driver is accused of being over the limit and is facing charges for DUI. No one would recommend that you drink and drive, but a driver may be illegally stopped by law enforcement and charged with DUI when no driving conduct could be attributed to intoxication.
Injury or Fatal Accidents and DUI Charges
Cases also occur in which an injury or fatal accident has occurred, and upon blood testing one driver is found to have been over the limit, and subsequently accused of a felony DUI, or in the most tragic cases, vehicular homicide. Those who are accused of DUI also have rights, including protections under the U.S. Constitution.
As a general rule, you cannot be stopped (pulled over) without reasonable suspicion or probable cause of a crime. One exception exists to this general rule: a DUI checkpoint. These checkpoints must be managed strictly or they, too, are illegal. Profiling by race, gender or type of vehicle is prohibited. The law enforcement officers must pull over cars without profiling, such as every third car.
Probable Cause for a DUI Arrest
Once you are pulled over, the police must gain “probable cause” to arrest you. They will ask you questions such as, “Have you been drinking?” “Where have you been tonight?” “Are you leaving (bar, restaurant, club, concert, sporting event etc.)?” These questions are so they can identify slurred speech or other signs of impairment. They look for bloodshot eyes, alcohol on the breath, open containers, slurred speech or other type of indication that you have consumed enough alcohol to be over the legal limit. In fact, you are not actually required to answer these questions. You are required to provide the officers with your name, address, driver’s license and insurance documents.
The next step police take to establish a sufficient level of probable cause for an arrest is to ask you to perform field sobriety tests. Once again – you are not legally required to comply. These tests are difficult at the best of times. For example, try standing on one foot for 30 seconds while completely sober and you will notice that unless you have excellent balance and coordination, it is difficult. The one leg stand, the walk and turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus (light shined in your eyes) are the standardized tests developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These tests must be administered exactly correctly for the outcome to be accurate. Even when correctly administered, the most accurate of the tests (the nystagmus) has been established as being only 77% correct in identifying an intoxicated driver.
Were your rights violated?
Were you pulled over illegally? Were you tested incorrectly for DUI? Were you operating your vehicle safely, and within the strictures of the law? If you were involved in an injury accident, what process was used to test your blood? What other factors were present that could have led to a false test result? These are all questions that should answered with the help of a skilled Phoenix DUI defense lawyer.
The penalties imposed in a felony DUI case will be life-changing. Even a first time, misdemeanor DUI will have a long term impact upon your opportunities in the future. Do not take chances if your rights have been violated.
Call the professionals at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC and speak with our Phoenix DUI attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. What you do now could make the difference between a jail term, loss of your license and fines and the ability to walk away without further repercussions.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.