Recently, an appeal of a DUI case was heard by the Arizona Supreme Court. The court is being asked to decide if a blood draw from an individual suspected of drunk driving was constitutional under the Fourth Amendment. The decision, which will come at a later point in time, could have a significant impact upon DUI arrests and procedures in Arizona.
The case involved a man who was injured in a traffic accident. He was in a vehicle that crossed the center line and struck an oncoming car. The other party in the accident recognized the driver, and pointed him out to law enforcement that arrived on the scene. Law enforcement went to question the driver, and found that the man and his passengers appeared to have been drinking in the vehicle. Empty containers were found inside the SUV, and they all smelled of alcohol.
The man admitted to driving, but became unconscious when law enforcement officers asked what happened. He needed to be airlifted to a hospital in a nearby state to receive care for his injuries. Arizona police instructed the officers in the other location to draw blood from the man to determine his blood-alcohol content, and he registered at 0.21 percent, well above Arizona’s legal limit of 0.08 percent. He was subsequently charged and convicted of a felony DUI offense.
The driver had contested his that the blood evidence was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against illegal searches and seizures. The court ruled that Arizona’s implied consent law permits officers to draw blood when an individual is unconscious, and even if that particular provision of the law was held to be unconstitutional, the good faith exception would apply. This exception allows officers to obtain evidence and use that evidence if they acted appropriately under the law prior to a law being held to be unconstitutional.
The Arizona Supreme Court is being asked to examine both of the issues that the driver had raised throughout his case. They will need to determine if this portion of the implied consent law is constitutional, and whether or not the officers were protected by the good faith exception.
If you have been charged with DUI, your very first act should be to contact an experienced DUI attorney to help you build a strong defense in your case. Your attorney will be able to contest and challenge the evidence that the prosecutors have against you, and help you develop a strategy that focuses on helping you defend your rights. Arizona has very harsh penalties for a DUI conviction, and you should not take chances with your future by simply pleading guilty to the charges.