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When Can an Arizona Police Officer Pull You Over?

Posted on March 23, 2023 in DUI

In Arizona, a police officer cannot typically pull someone over without due cause. The law requires police officers to have a valid reason to stop drivers, such as a violated traffic law. This prevents law enforcement from conducting stops for unfair reasons, such as personal biases. In addition, some offenses are written into the law as secondary, meaning an officer must pull a driver over for something else before issuing a ticket or making an arrest for the secondary offense. This includes the crime of driving under the influence (DUI).

Reasonable Suspicion and Traffic Stops

Although many people believe an officer needs probable cause to pull someone over, the actual standard is “reasonable suspicion.” This is a lower standard, and it means that a reasonable person would believe that the driver has committed a crime or violated a traffic law. Examples include speeding, running a red light and driving with an expired tag. This standard also applies to DUI traffic stops.

A law enforcement officer cannot pull a driver over for a potential DUI unless he or she has reasonable suspicion that the driver is committing a crime. There is an exception, however, at DUI checkpoints. A DUI checkpoint is a roadblock set up by law enforcement to stop drivers and check for impairment. At these checkpoints, drivers are chosen at random rather than on reasonable suspicion, such as every fifth or tenth driver.

When Can You Get Arrested for DUI?

While reasonable suspicion is enough to initially conduct a traffic stop, the standard is elevated to “probable cause” to make an arrest. Unless the police have a warrant for the driver’s arrest, they need probable cause that the individual committed a crime in the officer’s presence. Probable cause requires reasonable grounds that the driver committed a crime, including driving under the influence. If the officer suspects the driver of committing a felony outside of the officer’s presence, this also meets the probable cause requirement.

An officer can only pull someone over for a suspected DUI if the driver violated a law, such as rolling through a stop sign or making an unsafe lane change. During the traffic stop, if the officer sees potential signs of impairment, he or she may order a Breathalyzer test. If a driver breathes over a 0.08 blood alcohol content, this is proof of DUI. However, a driver could also get arrested with a lesser BAC if the officer sees signs of “impairment to the slightest degree,” according to Arizona’s DUI law (A.R.S. 28-1381). 

What if an Officer Pulled You Over for No Reason?

Without reasonable suspicion, an officer cannot pull you over. Without probable cause, you legally cannot be arrested for DUI. Unfortunately, law enforcement officers do not always follow the proper standards when pulling drivers over and making arrests. If you get pulled over for no reason or a reason that doesn’t seem to apply to you, you have legal rights.

You are required to comply with a request to take a Breathalyzer under Arizona law. Refusing to do so will automatically result in the suspension of your driver’s license and could still lead to a DUI arrest. You do not, however, have to comply with a field sobriety test. If you get arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, try to remain calm and don’t resist the arrest. Say as little as possible until you have an attorney present. If an investigation of your case finds that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over or probable cause to make an arrest, your lawyer can use this in your defense.

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