Police Procedures in DUI Cases

Phoenix Lawyer Defending Against Drunk Driving Charges

It can be frightening to see the lights of a police vehicle in your rear-view mirror or hear a siren behind you as you drive home in the middle of the night. You may be very worried about being pulled over, particularly if you’ve been drinking. The police must follow certain procedures when they pull over a suspect for drunk driving. When officers depart from established protocol, the defense may file a motion to suppress evidence or challenge the charges in other ways. If you are concerned about police procedures in DUI cases, you should talk to Phoenix DUI attorney James E. Novak.

Police Procedures in DUI Cases

After you’re pulled over, the police will likely ask for your license, registration, and insurance. In some cases, the police may suspect that you are driving under the influence because your vehicle is weaving between lanes or tailgating another car ahead of you. In that case, the DUI investigation may start right away. However, in other cases, an officer may pull a driver over because the vehicle has a cracked windshield or broken taillight or turn signal. Police officers in those situations shouldn’t immediately start investigating a DUI. The police must have a reasonable suspicion for pulling you over. This needs to be something that can be articulated, and not a mere hunch.

If the officers notice the smell of alcohol or observe slurred speech, a flushed face or other signs of drunk driving, they may probe further. The officers may ask you questions about whether you’ve been consuming drugs or alcohol and where you’re coming from.

Initial DUI Testing

When police officers suspect a person of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may perform field sobriety tests, which are not always reliable, even when performed correctly. When an officer fails to perform the test correctly, the defense may be able to bring a motion to suppress the test results in order to keep them out of the DUI trial. The purpose of these tests is to determine whether an officer has probable cause to arrest the driver. Probable cause is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion. It requires the officer to have a reasonable belief a crime occurred; however, it’s a lower standard than clear and convincing evidence. In addition to administering field sobriety tests, the police will likely ask the driver to take a portable breath alcohol test. A handheld, portable breath test device isn’t subject to maintenance and its accuracy can’t be determined, but an adverse test result be used to generate probable cause for an arrest.

Reading You Your Rights

If the police subject you to custodial interrogation, they need to give a Miranda warning. The arresting officer must inform you of your right to remain silent, that what you can say can be used against you, and that you’re entitled to a lawyer, even if you can’t afford one. The warnings should be given whenever you’re arrested and brought into custody for DUI.

Chemical Testing

Once you’re arrested, you may be subjected to chemical testing of your blood, breath, or urine. These are further efforts by the police to gather evidence that you were drinking and driving. A chemical test may determine your blood alcohol content as well as whether you were under the influence of drugs. You may feel defeated if your chemical test came back positive for a controlled substance. However, when an officer or the lab fails to follow proper procedures, an experienced attorney may be able to contest the results of a chemical test.

Chemical testing devices should be periodically maintained and must undergo quality assurance. The defense may challenge chemical test results when the test doesn’t accurately measure blood alcohol content, when the police failed to properly maintain the testing devices, when the test was inaccurate according to quality assurance records, or if a medical condition may have affected the test results. Additionally, officers have to be properly trained to administer chemical tests. The lack of training may also serve as a basis to challenge test results.

Officers must observe you for 20 minutes prior to administering the breath test. If you eat or drink, or even belch, it may affect the accuracy of a breath reading, such that it may be challenged.

When the police administer a blood test, they use a special kit. Officers need to follow a particular protocol to mix the blood with chemicals and rotate the tube a certain number of times. It may be possible to challenge a blood test by showing that the officers contaminated the sample, they didn’t follow the correct mixing protocol, or that they were not properly trained to conduct the chemical test. A chemical test can also be challenged because of chain of custody issues or improper storage of the sample.

In order to conduct a urine test to determine whether drugs are in your system, an officer will take you to a certified detention facility that can perform a DUI urine test. Urine test results can be challenged because of the timing of the test or lack of officer training or certification, along with lab error.

Hire a Seasoned Phoenix Lawyer

If you’re concerned about police procedures in DUI cases, you should call seasoned attorney James E. Novak, who uses his prior experience as a prosecutor to build strong defenses for clients charged with DUI. He represents clients in Phoenix, as well as Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale and throughout Maricopa County. Contact him at (480) 413-1499 or complete our online form.

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