When a police officer stops a driver suspected of driving while intoxicated, the officers need evidence to support suspicion of DUI. This usually comes in the form of a field sobriety test which includes several key factors: testing to see if the driver can track a light or object without losing focus; walking in a straight line then turning around without falling over; and standing on one leg to maintain balance. If the suspect fails these tests, the officer usually has reasonable suspicion to test the driver’s blood for alcohol or drugs.
The development of blood-alcohol tests, which provide a more conclusive and scientifically accurate way of judging whether a driver is intoxicated or not, have largely replaced officer testimony as the primary evidence supporting a DUI conviction. However, a recent case in Arizona throws into question of under what circumstances police can force the involuntary testing of subjects for blood alcohol content.
Blood alcohol tests are required to be performed by a competent lab technician. They cannot be done roadside unless the jurisdiction has an approved mobile crime lab. In many cases, drivers are forced to go to a hospital so the police and prosecutors can gather evidence. This issues brought up problems when a woman crashed her car into a guard rail and was told by police that if she did not submit to their demands and visit a local hospital they would have to arrest her on the spot. The woman refused the hospital visit at first, but then went after the threat of an arrest was imposed on her.
The state Court of Appeals overturned to woman’s conviction and rescheduled her trial to a later date. The reason they claim for overturning her case was that she has not voluntarily consented to her blood being drawn and the police has no form of warrant to force her to do it. Therefore the test results could not be used as evidence by the prosecutors.
It is important to understand that police in Arizona can compel a driver to have a blood alcohol test, but only if they have probable cause, such as a failed field sobriety test. In some cases, a crash is enough to warrant an involuntary test, but in some cases it is not. In this case, the court did not believe the officers had enough evidence to warrant the test.
With over 31,000 arrests in Arizona for DUI in 2012, this decision could have implications for hundreds of drivers accused of being drunk behind the wheel. Alex Lane, a DUI attorney in Arizona, is ready to help you fight the charges against you for the best possible outcome. Contact him today for a consultation.
If you have been charged with a DUI, drug charge, sex crime or any serious criminal offense, let an experienced defense team fight for you. Schedule a consultation with one of our partners today. Call (480) 562-3482 or send an email.