1540 E. Maryland Ave., Suite 100B
Phoenix, AZ 85014

The Molina Law Group PLLC

Call For Your 30 Min Case Evaluation

(602) 718-1249

The Molina Law Group PLLC

Know Your Rights When Encountering DUI Checkpoints Around the Phoenix Metro Area

  • Published: June 6, 2024

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in Arizona, carrying potentially severe criminal penalties and life-changing consequences. Law enforcement agencies, including those in Phoenix and the surrounding metropolitan area, utilize several different methods to identify and arrest impaired drivers in an effort to keep the roads safe. One common tactic is the use of DUI checkpoints.

As a driver, it’s important to understand your rights when encountering a DUI checkpoint. Let’s go over the legality of DUI checkpoints, what to expect if you go through one, and most importantly – your rights and how to protect them. The Phoenix criminal defense team at The Molina Law Group is dedicated to educating the community and vigorously defending those facing DUI charges.

The Legality and Purpose of Phoenix DUI Checkpoints

DUI checkpoints (also called sobriety checkpoints) are roadblocks designed by law enforcement to screen drivers for indications of alcohol or drug impairment. While some states have deemed DUI checkpoints unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld their legality. In the 1990 case of Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, the court ruled that the public safety interest in preventing drunk driving accidents outweighed the brief intrusion upon drivers.

However, for a DUI checkpoint to be legally valid, it must adhere to certain guidelines:

  1. Publicity: Law enforcement must announce the intention to conduct a checkpoint in advance.
  2. Systemized screening: Officers must use a neutral, pre-determined formula for stopping vehicles, such as every third car.
  3. Safety: The checkpoint setup and procedures must not pose unreasonable risks to drivers.
    Reasonable location: Checkpoints should be located in areas with a demonstrated history of DUI incidents.
  4. Minimally intrusive: The stop should be brief unless impairment is detected.
  5. Adequate staffing: Trained officers and sufficient personnel must be present.

If a checkpoint fails to meet any of these requirements, it may be challenged in court. This is one reason why having an experienced Phoenix DUI defense attorney is so important if you are arrested at a checkpoint.

What to Expect at a Phoenix DUI Checkpoint

When approaching a DUI checkpoint, you will see clear signs, flashing lights, traffic cones, and uniformed officers directing traffic. As you near the stopping point, an officer will motion for you to roll down your window. They will likely ask for your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.

While you gather these documents, the officer will be observing you for any visible signs of intoxication, such as:

  • Slurred speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Alcohol odor
  • Open containers
  • Fumbling or delayed responses

The officer will also likely ask if you have been drinking. You have the right to politely decline to answer any incriminating questions. If the officer has no probable cause to suspect impairment, you should be waved through the checkpoint.

However, if the officer notices signs of impairment, you may be directed to a separate area for further evaluation. This could involve field sobriety tests, a breathalyzer test, or even a blood draw.

Arizona has an implied consent law, meaning that by driving on the state’s roads, you consent to BAC testing if an officer has reasonable suspicion of a DUI. Refusing a test will result in automatic license suspension and can be used as evidence against you in court.

If arrested for a DUI at a checkpoint, contact a Phoenix DUI attorney right away. Everything you say and do from the point of arrest can impact your case. Politely inform the officer that you will not answer questions without a lawyer present.

Your Constitutional Rights at a DUI Checkpoint

When stopped at a checkpoint, always keep your constitutional rights at the forefront. These include:

The Right to Remain Silent (Fifth Amendment)

While you must provide basic identifying information, you have the right to decline to answer any questions that could be self-incriminating, such as “Have you been drinking?” or “How many drinks did you have?” Politely responding with “I prefer not to answer any questions” is completely within your rights. Remember, anything you say can be used as evidence.

The Right to Refuse a Search (Fourth Amendment)

If the officer asks to search your vehicle, you have the right to refuse consent. Officers need probable cause, your consent, or a warrant to conduct a search. If they perform a search over your objection, this may be challenged in court as an illegal search. Always state clearly but respectfully that you do not consent to any searches.

The Right to an Attorney (Sixth Amendment)

If you are arrested at a DUI checkpoint, you have the right to legal counsel before answering questions. Inform the officer that you wish to have an attorney present for any interrogation. Contact an experienced Phoenix DUI lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights and start building your defense.

It’s important to exercise these rights calmly and respectfully. Never argue with officers, resist arrest, or attempt to flee – this will only worsen your situation and lead to additional charges. Your cooperation is required, but not at the expense of your constitutional rights.

Challenging a Checkpoint DUI Arrest

If you are arrested for a DUI at a checkpoint, several potential legal challenges may apply to your case. An experienced Phoenix DUI defense lawyer will thoroughly review the circumstances of your arrest to identify any rights violations or procedural errors.

Some common issues raised in checkpoint DUI cases include:

Illegal Checkpoint

If the checkpoint did not adhere to the legal requirements discussed earlier, your attorney may file a motion to suppress evidence gathered at the unconstitutional roadblock. If successful, this could lead to a dismissal of charges.

Lack of Probable Cause

For an officer to require field sobriety tests or a chemical BAC test, they must have probable cause to believe you were driving impaired. Probable cause is a higher standard than the reasonable suspicion needed for the initial checkpoint stop. If the officer lacked sufficient probable cause, any evidence obtained after that point may be inadmissible.

Inaccurate BAC Tests

Breathalyzer and blood test results are not infallible. Factors like medical conditions, diet, machine calibration, and testing procedures can impact the accuracy of BAC readings. At The Molina Law Group PLLC, our Phoenix criminal defense team may bring in expert witnesses to challenge the reliability of the prosecution’s chemical evidence.

Rising Blood Alcohol

In Arizona, you can be convicted of a DUI even if your BAC was below the legal limit while driving but rose above 0.08 percent by the time of testing. However, the prosecution must prove your BAC was 0.08 percent or higher within two hours of driving.

Miranda Rights Violations

If you were arrested at the checkpoint, officers must inform you of your Miranda rights before any custodial interrogation. If they failed to provide a Miranda warning or continued questioning after you invoked your rights, any incriminating statements you made may be suppressed.
Building a strong DUI checkpoint defense requires analysis of police reports, toxicology results, witness statements, and video footage by a knowledgeable attorney. It’s essential to be proactive and contact a lawyer promptly after an arrest to ensure your rights and defenses are protected.

Protect Your Future After a Phoenix Checkpoint DUI Arrest

A DUI conviction can haunt you for years, impacting your freedom, finances, and opportunities. Don’t leave your fate to chance – let us put our knowledge, experience, and dedication to work for you. Call The Molina Law Group today at (602) 718-1249 for a free consultation and start building your defense.

 

Edwin A. Molina III

The Molina Law Group has expertise in two
areas of law; Criminal Defense and Personal
Injury - Call Us Now - (602) 718-1249