Scottsdale DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols: What every driver needs to know

By understanding their rights at DUI checkpoints, including the right to refuse certain tests, drivers may avoid unwarranted arrests and convictions.

Law enforcement agencies in Scottsdale, and throughout the state of Arizona, often conduct sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols. The purpose of these stops is to identify suspected drunk drivers and get them off of the roads. As a result of these and other traffic stops, more than 29,000 people were arrested for driving under the influence in 2014 in Arizona. Not all of these are cut and dry cases, however. In order to protect themselves from unwarranted arrests, it is important for Arizona drivers to understand their rights at DUI checkpoints and during saturation patrols.

Responding to questioning

At most DUI checkpoints and in the first few moments of a stop, the first thing law enforcement officers do is approach stopped vehicles and question the drivers. People often feel as though they have to answer these questions, but they could potentially incriminate themselves in doing so. Although law enforcement may not inform them, Arizona drivers actually have the right to refuse to answer questions other than their name and address.

Roadside tests

In addition to asking drivers questions at sobriety checkpoints, law enforcement officers also ask them to perform field sobriety tests. These tests include the one-leg stand, walk and turn, and horizontal gaze nystagmus. They are typically used to attempt to prove that drivers have been drinking, not that they should be allowed to continue on their way. They are also based largely on junk science. However, it is wise for driver's to decline to participate in doing those.

Field sobriety tests are not voluntary, meaning that drivers can not legally refuse to perform them. However, law enforcement officers cannot make someone balance on one leg, and the consequence of not participating in them is almost non-existent. It is important for drivers to understand that just because they have refused to perform field sobriety tests does not mean that they will not be arrested. Rather, it may just make it more difficult for the authorities to prove their case in court.

Breath, blood and urine tests

At DUI checkpoints and during saturation patrols, law enforcement officers may also ask drivers to perform chemical testing, such as breath, blood or urine tests. Many people are confused about their rights regarding this type of testing. In general, a driver who has been arrested is obligated to give blood, breath or urine tests at the officer's discretion. However, asking to speak to an attorney is not in and of itself a refusal and since each jurisdiction operates differently, requesting one before performing any tests is usually advisable.

Seeking legal guidance

The consequences of drunk driving charges can have lasting implications for people throughout the state of Arizona. If convicted, they could face harsh penalties, including jail time, fines and the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device. As such, those who have been charged with an alcohol-related offense may benefit from obtaining good legal representation. Working with an attorney may help them to understand their rights, as well as establish a strong defense to the charges against them.