Does a police officer or other law enforcement official have to prove that a driver is under the influence before making an arrest? Many people are surprised to learn that the answer is no. An officer only needs to show probable cause for a DUI arrest.
A DUI arrest often starts with a person being pulled over by the police. An officer needs only to have a reasonable suspicion that a person has violated a law to stop someone. This reasonable suspicion might include speeding, running a red light or driving erratically. Once a person has been pulled over, the officer can determine if there is probable cause for a DUI arrest.
For example, let’s say an officer catches someone speeding and pulls that person over to investigate. As the officer begins to engage with the person behind the wheel, he may notice that the person has bloodshot eyes and that their breath smells of alcohol. After asking more questions, the officer notices that the person is speaking with slurred speech and has difficulty completing simple tasks, such as showing the officer his or her driver’s license.
Most people assume that, at this point, the officer would begin performing field sobriety tests to gather further proof that the driver was indeed under the influence of alcohol while driving the vehicle. But that isn’t necessarily true. At the time of a DUI arrest, an officer doesn’t have to prove that the driver was under the influence, only that it was probable he or she was. According to Arizona law, a police officer has the ability to place someone under arrest if they have any probable cause to believe that the person has committed a felony crime in their presence.
In many cases, an officer will perform sobriety tests and even a breathalyzer test to confirm their probable cause, but these tests are not required. This is an issue that has been appealed and challenged to higher courts in Arizona. In the end, the courts concluded that an officer can rely on their judgment and training to determine probable cause of a DUI and does not need to show technical or scientific data to prove it.
What does this mean to you? It’s important to know that you don’t necessarily have to fail field sobriety tests in order to be arrested for DUI. An officer may have all of the probable cause they need before you ever set foot outside of your vehicle.
At Naegle & Crider Criminal Defense Attorneys, we make it a point to educate people about their rights when it comes to being pulled over for a DUI. Those first few seconds and minutes after you have been pulled over can convey a great deal of information to the officer. To learn more about your rights, we invite you to download our DUI Guide by clicking here. Carry this information with you just in case you are pulled over.
We also recommend that you call our offices as soon as possible, both day and night to ensure you have the representation you are entitled to. Call us a 480-378-9000.