Can You Be Charged with DUI Without a BAC?
Many people are unaware of the process that takes place following a DUI stop. Cooperating with the police is obviously important but what rights does the suspect have? Is it possible to be charged with DUI without a BAC test and if so, can the suspect do anything about it?
DUI Arrests without the Consumption of Alcohol
Arizona has witnessed a couple of cases in which individuals who hadn’t consumed alcohol were arrested on DUI charges. The case of Jessie Thornton is probably the most prominent one.
In 2013, a retiree aged 64 was arrested on DUI charges following a field sobriety test performed by police officers. Jessie Thornton was pulled over for crossing the white line on the road. Since he had been swimming before getting in the car, his eyes were reddened and irritated due to the pool chemicals.
In addition, Thornton was scheduled to have a hip replacement surgery two days following the arrest. This fact obviously impacted his field sobriety test performance. Thornton was arrested and taken in custody on DUI charges. At the police office, a breathalyzer test showed a blood alcohol level of 0.00.
The DUI charges were eventually dropped but the damage had already been done. Thornton later on filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Surprise. The outcome of the lawsuit is still pending.
Heather Squires was in a similar situation in 2008. A designated driver for a group of friends, she was taken into custody on DUI suspicions without having consumed a drop of alcohol. When a test was administered in the police office, it showed that her blood alcohol concentration was zero.
What Happens during an Arizona DUI Stop?
The cases presented above are more of an exception rather than a general rule. Police officers in Arizona have to follow certain procedures whenever they pull drivers over on DUI suspicions.
An officer cannot just stop a random driver and do the DUI tests. There must be some sort of violation or erratic behavior indicative of intoxication. Upon the stop, the officer will make an initial observation. The behavior of the driver, whether the car smells of alcohol and the signs of impairment will all be taken in consideration.
The driver may be asked to step out of the vehicle. If this is the case, cooperating with the police officer is the best approach.
Arizona residents have the right to refuse field sobriety testing without consequences. This is something that Jessie Thornton probably wishes that he knew. The same applies to breathalyzer or BAC tests administered on the spot. Keep in mind, however, that Arizona is an implied consent state. If a driver refuses a BAC test, their license will be revoked automatically.
Based on all of these observations and the results of alcohol concentration tests, a police officer may eventually decide to arrest the suspect on DUI charges. During the process, the constitutional rights of the suspect have to be observed.
It is not unlawful for police officers to take suspects in custody on the basis of evidence and observations. Usually, BAC tests are administered in police headquarters. While field sobriety tests are not always reliable, they can provide some information about the condition of the driver. This is one of the main reasons why refusing to do a field sobriety test is the best approach.
If you do a BAC test and the results show you haven’t been consuming alcohol, you will be released. If there are aggravating circumstances, however, you may be kept in jail. This is why remaining silent and calling your lawyer immediately is the best approach. Do cooperate with the police but know your rights. An experienced legal representative will know which course of action is likely to yield the best results under the specific circumstances, especially when charged with DUI without a BAC.