In Arizona, it is legal for police officers to conduct a random driving under the influence (DUI) stops at checkpoints. An Arizona Supreme Court decision ruled DUI checkpoints and roadblocks constitutional. DUI checkpoints do not involve any specific suspicions; rather, they stop every driver at a certain point to check for DUI. Checkpoints are random and temporary. If you end up in line at a DUI checkpoint in the Grand Canyon State, take the following steps to protect your rights:
Avoid a Checkpoint If Possible
Simply turning around or making a turn to avoid a DUI checkpoint is not enough reason for an officer to pull you over. You have the right to avoid a checkpoint if possible. However, make sure you do so without breaking any traffic laws. If you break a law, such as making an illegal U-turn, you give officers a reason to pull you over. At this point, the officer could request DUI tests just as he or she would have at the checkpoint.
If you cannot avoid the checkpoint, exercise your right to remain silent. The officer conducting the checkpoint will ask you questions. You do not have to answer them. Show the officer your driver’s license and registration if asked, but try to do so without talking. Intoxicated or not, an officer could ask you to submit to DUI tests if you talk and the officer believes you have slurred speech or the smell of alcohol on your breath – completely subjective DUI cues.
Furthermore, the officer could also use your answers to his/her questions against you, no matter how innocent they might sound. Politely decline to answer any questions about where you’ve been, where you’re going, and if you’ve been drinking. The officer cannot force you to answer or arrest you for staying silent.
Refuse Requests to Search Your Vehicle
Officers do not need probable cause to stop you at a DUI checkpoint, but they still need proper legal grounds to perform a search of your vehicle. You may refuse this request and remain inside your vehicle unless the officer explicitly orders you to step out. If you do leave your car, lock it unless the officer tells you not to. Remain calm and polite. Do not give the officer any reason to further interrogate you.
Politely Decline a Field Sobriety Test
You do not have the obligation to submit to field sobriety tests during DUI checkpoints in Arizona. These are almost always voluntary tests you have to agree to take. Politely decline the officer’s request to take a field sobriety test, as they are almost always biased against the drivers, and rely on the subjective observations and opinions of the officer. You could fail a field sobriety test even if you are sober, and then have to go through an unnecessary arrest. Always decline field tests whenever possible.
Refuse a Chemical DUI Test
If you have been drinking, it might be a good idea to also refuse a blood, breath, or urine DUI test. However, there may be consequences for doing so, as it goes against Arizona’s implied consent laws. You might lose your driver’s license for one year unless you can win your driver’s license hearing. Remember, police can arrest you for DUI even if your BAC is lower than 0.08% on a chemical test.
No matter what you do or don’t do at a DUI checkpoint, hire a defense attorney if police place you under arrest in Arizona.