Gavel with Keys and AlcoholThis is my fourth post on defending against DUI/DWI charges in Phoenix, Arizona. My last post discussed ways to challenge cases arising out of sobriety checkpoints. This post will discuss ways to challenge whether there was probable cause for the initial traffic stop. Generally, when you are pulled over for driving under the influence it is because the arresting officer witnessed some sort of traffic infraction. If you find yourself in such a situation then it is important to contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately.

Phoenix residents are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures in DUI/DWI cases

Police must have reasonable suspicion to detain you and probable cause to arrest you. This means that officers must have a reason, which they can explain, to believe that you are actually committing a crime. It is not enough for the officer to simply stop you because of a “hunch” or because they believed something did not look right. If the officer has reasonable suspicion he or she has a limited time to confirm or deny a crime is in progress and cannot detain you further without additional information. When you are driving a car, an officer needs probable cause to pull you over. This usually takes the form of a simple traffic stop, either because of speeding, weaving in between lanes, failure to follow traffic signs or collisions.

There are also several common non-traffic causes for stops in DUI cases. They include:

  • Non-functioning signal lights
  • Obstructed view of a license plate
  • Expired Registration
  • Excessively loud music or exhaust
  • Failure to wear a seatbelt

All of these stops are contingent upon the ability of the officer to perceive the violation as well as whether or not the violation actually occurred. Your attorney will need to review the reports, possibly visit the scene at the same time of day as the stop, and if there is audio or video available make requests for copies. Counsel may also wish to file a Motion to Suppress Evidence to test the officer on his or her recollection of the details.

All of the same discovery goals apply to these traffic violations and your attorney will wish to discuss with you your recollection of the details of the stop. Each case is very fact specific and it is important that you obtain qualified Phoenix DUI counsel to aid you in the defense of your case.

A Phoenix DUI attorney can assist with bringing Motions to Suppress Evidence in DWI cases

Once your lawyer reviews all the reports, any audio or video recordings available, and does any necessary investigation it may become clear that you need to file a Motion to Suppress Evidence in regards to your initial traffic stop. Your lawyer will file a notice with the Court and the prosecutor and set a date for a hearing. At that hearing the arresting officer(s) will come to court to testify regarding the events that lead to your arrest or citation. This is a live proceeding. You will be required to attend and it may take some time. After testimony there will be argument from your lawyer and the prosecutor and the judge will make a decision regarding whether or not the officer had probable cause to arrest you. The officer must initially demonstrate he or she had probable cause to pull you over. Once that is established, he or she must show that there were objective signs that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Signs include slurred speech, glassy or bloodshot and watery eyes, the smell of alcohol or other drugs, containers of alcohol or drugs visible in the car and an inability to follow instructions.

The judge will hear all the evidence and make a ruling regarding probable cause for each step based on the facts in your case. It is in your best interest to consult an attorney experienced in Phoenix’s Courts as soon as you are arrested or cited on a DUI/DWI.

I also represent defendants in other Maricopa County cities such as Mesa, Glendale, Scottsdale, Chandler, and Gilbert. We also assist Pima County residents in Tucson.