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Are DUI Checkpoints Active in Arizona Around the Holidays?

Posted on March 8, 2023 in DUI

Arizona lawmakers are constantly searching for new ways to prevent people from driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and alcohol. One method used is the installation of DUI checkpoints throughout the state at various times and locations. Checkpoints are especially common in what is perceived as high-risk times of the year: the holidays. 

What Is a DUI Checkpoint?

A DUI checkpoint, also known as a sobriety checkpoint, is a roadblock set up by law enforcement to stop drivers and question them to find motorists who are driving under the influence. Unlike a typical traffic stop for an alleged DUI, the police are legally allowed to stop anyone at a DUI checkpoint, even if they did not exhibit signs of intoxication or violate any laws. 

At the checkpoint, an officer will ask a driver questions and look for signs of impairment while the driver answers, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech or the smell of alcohol. If the officer has any reason to suspect intoxication, he or she will ask the driver to pull over and complete sobriety tests. This can include field sobriety tests or chemical drug and alcohol tests, such as a Breathalyzer to calculate a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). 

Where and When Are DUI Checkpoints Typically Installed?

Law enforcement in Arizona sends out more patrols and establishes a higher number of DUI checkpoints during dates that traditionally see a large amount of drunk driving. Every year, statistics show a higher number of drunk driving car accidents and arrests around the holidays. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), December 14 through January 1 is an especially prevalent time for law enforcement campaigns against drunk driving.

 NHTSA data shows that in 2020, the Christmas and New Year holiday season saw 209 drunk driving deaths – 1.8 percent of the 11,654 total fatalities in 2020 that involved intoxicated drivers. The NHTSA warns against drunk driving around all national holidays, including Independence Day and Thanksgiving. During high-risk times before, during and after prominent holidays, Arizona citizens can expect a larger law enforcement presence to combat drunk driving. This includes more DUI checkpoints.

What Laws Control DUI Checkpoints in Arizona?

Several states have prohibited DUI checkpoints and roadblocks based on their interpretations of state and/or federal constitutions. However, DUI checkpoints are currently legal in Arizona. The state is permitted to install DUI checkpoints at least once per month. However, law enforcement must abide by special rules when conducting these checks. Otherwise, any arrest made or alleged evidence collected could be ruled inadmissible in court during a DUI criminal case.

Law enforcement officials must plan for each DUI checkpoint in advance. They must announce where and when they will be installing the checkpoint to the public ahead of time. At the checkpoint location, the officers in charge of stopping drivers must have a pattern in place, such as choosing every fifth driver to stop. This protects drivers against being chosen based on unfair biases, such as skin color or type of vehicle. All motorists who pass through DUI checkpoints must be treated equally.

How to Handle a DUI Checkpoint

 Be on the lookout for DUI checkpoints in Arizona, especially around major holidays. Keep up with your local police precinct’s announcements or check online for checkpoint alerts. If you get stopped at a DUI checkpoint, stay calm and take steps to protect your rights. This includes not volunteering any information that is not requested and politely refusing to complete field sobriety tests. Do not allow the officer to search your car. 

If you are placed under arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence at a DUI checkpoint, contact a DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can immediately go to work on building your defense and helping you avoid the most serious potential penalties for a DUI. This may include contesting the legality of a DUI checkpoint.

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