Probable cause for a DUI stop by Arizona law enforcement

Posted by Craig Penrod | Mar 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

In the state of Arizona, law enforcement officers are required to establish probable cause as a condition of stopping a motor vehicle for suspicion of a potential driving under the influence (DUI) offense.

In Tempe, Phoenix or other communities in Maricopa County, it is important that you consult Arizona lawyers experienced in DUI and related offenses like those associated with the Law Offices of Craig W. Penrod, P.C.

In an effort to establish probable cause in order to detain a vehicle and its driver the officer will typically approach the window on the driver's side of the vehicle in order to ask some preliminary questions. The real purpose of this conversation is to attempt to detect the possible presence of evidence such as:

  • an odor of alcohol on the breath of the driver or in the interior of the vehicle;
  • the slurring of speech when the driver or others respond to questioning;
  • the appearance of bloodshot or reddish eyes on the driver;
  • a flushed face on the driver;-any difficulty in understanding and responding intelligently to questions;
  • any fumbling by the driver of their license and registration;
  • the presence of containers of alcoholic beverages in plain view in the vehicle.

If these observations lead the law enforcement officer to have a reasonable suspicion to legally justify any further detention and investigation, the driver will be asked to exit their vehicle.

The next step in the investigation will involve one or more field sobriety tests (FSTs) if alcohol impairment is suspected. The most commonly administered FSTs include:

  • walk-and-turn including walking heel-to-toe in a straight line;
  • finger-to-nose, while tipping the head back with eyes closed and touching the tip of their nose with tip of their index finger;
  • modified-position-of-attention, which involves placing their feet together, titling their head back with their eyes closed for 30 seconds;
  • a one-leg-stand for 30 seconds;
  • the recitation of all or part of the alphabet, backwards or forwards;
  • touch fingers of hand to thumb in both directions in rapid succession;
  • horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), which involves following an object with the eyes to determine characteristic pupil reaction;
  • counting backwards from a number such as 30 or 100;
  • picking up a coin from the ground without bending down;
  • take a breath test to determine individual breath alcohol concentration (BAC).

The BAC of a driver suspected of DUI does not have to be at or over 0.08 percent in order to establish probable cause for DUI. A BAC at the 0.08 percent level translates to the automatic assumption that you are DUI. It is possible that you can be arrested based upon the other probable causes listed above.

While every state may have different procedures for establishing probable cause to arrest, if the law enforcement officer has sufficient facts to justify a reasonable suspicion that the suspect has been DUI involving alcohol, the officer will make the arrest, take the suspect into custody and transport them to the police station or to the nearest jail. The officer may advise them of their rights on the way to the station or the jail, as well as their legal implied consent to submit to an evidentiary chemical test of blood, breath or possibly urine.

It is important that your legal situation should be handled by expert professionals with the experience possessed by the attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig W. Penrod, P.C. Our office offers free consultations for all DUI and criminal matters. Our Arizona DUI attorneys and Arizona criminal lawyers can provide you with the experience and knowledge needed for qualified representation. An experienced Arizona DUI lawyer is vital in DUI cases and our DUI attorneys set that standard. If you're in need of a criminal defense, our Arizona criminal attorneys are ready to assist you.

About the Author

Craig Penrod

Craig W. Penrod was born and raised in Arizona and has practiced criminal defense for over 30 years. Mr. Penrod is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, Maricopa County Bar Association, State of Nevada Bar Association, American Bar Association, American Trial Lawyers Association, Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, Nevada Trial Lawyers Association, Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.


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