Are Sobriety Checkpoints Permitted Under Arizona Law?

If you have been arrested for DUI at a sobriety checkpoint, you are probably wondering if police have the right to just make random stops of motorists and cite them for DUI. In Arizona, sobriety checkpoints are permitted. These sobriety checkpoints are also called roadblocks or mobile checkpoints. These are police traffic stops that are not connected with any suspicions based on individual behavior or performance. The law enforcement agencies can randomly choose the temporary locations and establish the checkpoints.

sobriety checkpointsAbout $62,500 in police resources are saved at each sobriety checkpoint, according to state estimations. These resources include the costs of travel delays along with the value of losses caused by impaired drivers who are sanctioned and apprehended. State records indicate it costs about $8,900 on average to conduct a sobriety checkpoint. When a sobriety checkpoint is conducted, drivers are briefly stopped, detained and then interviewed. Any drivers suspected of intoxication after the interaction will be subjected to a field sobriety test.

These checkpoints were established in an effort to decrease the number of drunk drivers on the road. The goal is to catch inebriated drivers before they are involved in accidents and to make Arizona roads safer. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that about one out of every 10 deaths caused by DUI can be prevented with the proper use of sobriety checkpoints. A sobriety checkpoint is allowed by law, so it is different from a traffic stop. Laws indicate probable cause must be required for a traffic stop in Arizona. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that drunk driving dangers are worse than the amount of intrusion that is suffered by sobriety checkpoints, so sobriety checkpoints are permissible and do not require probable cause like a traffic stop.

Guidelines for law enforcement who are administering a sobriety checkpoint have guidelines that have been issued by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA). The most important of these guidelines might be that checkpoints must be publicized before they are set up. Each state can set its own guidelines for these checkpoints, or the states can outlaw the checkpoints completely, which 12 states have already done. However, Arizona law permits the use of sobriety checkpoints to make DUI arrests and to help make the roads safer and free of drunk drivers.

Do I Have Constitutional Rights At An Arizona Sobriety Checkpoint?

If you are stopped at an Arizona sobriety checkpoint, you still have Constitutional Rights. False arrests can and do happen at these checkpoints. You should be prepared to protect yourself. You should know your Constitutional Rights and state laws so you will understand how to proceed. As an example, according to the NHTSA guidelines, not everyone who comes through a checkpoint is a candidate to undergo field sobriety testing. Among those who should not be subjected to the test are those who are recovering from surgery or have serious medical condition that makes them physically unable to undergo the testing. There have been situations where the driver was not driving while drunk but was arrested because of his or her inability to perform the field test successfully because of health problems.

When stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, you will be asked to provide your license and registration. While you are providing these documents, officers are watching your behavior, coordination skills, attitude, and your response. Officers have been trained to watch for impairment, but some medical conditions, nervousness or anxiety, or fatigue could be confused with driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. If you are asked to step out of your vehicle or pulls you from the traffic line to question you, you must comply. If you don’t comply you could face other charges, such as disorderly conduct. If you are asked to perform a field sobriety test, it is not required by law. Most Arizona criminal defense attorneys will recommend that you refuse the field sobriety test in a polite manner. These tests are often inaccurate and can be biased.

Next, you will most likely be asked to perform a breath test. You can refuse this test as well, but it does have penalties. Refusing to take this test will result in a one-year suspension of your driver’s license. Your refusal to take the breath test can be held against you when the case goes to trial. If the police do have probable cause because of other evidence, they can ask a judge on call to issue a warrant so they can draw blood to check for alcohol or drugs without your permission. If you have been charged with DUI at a sobriety checkpoint, you should consult with an Arizona DUI attorney.