Phoenix DUI Checkpoint Laws and Your Rights


Arizona is one of 38 states that conduct DUI checkpoints. Some states have found the checkpoints unconstitutional – in conflict with the fourth amendment, which requires probable cause in order to conduct a search or seizure – but Arizona performs the checkpoints routinely.

DUI checkpoints can occur monthly, or more frequently, and are usually set up during the late night or early morning hours of Friday,Saturday, or holidays, when drunk driving is more likely to occur. In Arizona, these checkpoints may be constitutional, but that doesn’t mean you lose your rights as a citizen.

How Arizona DUI Checkpoints Work

DUI checkpoints are strategically placed stations where police can check for intoxicated drivers. These stations are typically set up near areas where many people are drinking, such as concerts or sporting events.

However, they can  be just about anywhere, and there are resources online where drivers can find a list of previously held DUI checkpoints. Law enforcement officials must also disclose the location of these checkpoints in the newspaper or through local news stations ahead of time. Checkpoints must also be clearly marked so there is no confusion for drivers.

At the checkpoints, police officers may stop every vehicle or decide to pull over cars randomly, say, every fifth vehicle. In either case, they’ll check for signs of intoxication. Officers may ask questions, monitor your behavior, and observe your coordination. If the officer believes signs of intoxication are present, the driver may be asked to conduct a field sobriety test.

​​Types of Field Sobriety Tests Used in Arizona

If an officer has reasonable suspicion that you are driving under the influence, they may ask you to submit to a field sobriety test (FST). Officers may use several tests to determine whether a driver is impaired. FSTs assess cognitive function and motor skills, which can hint at whether a driver may have been drinking.

These are the most common FSTs used in Arizona:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) – An officer will test your visual focus by asking you to follow a focal point, like a pen, back and forth with your eyes.
  • Walk and Turn – This test asks a driver to take multiple steps along a straight line in one direction, then pivot and turn around to walk back in the other direction.
  • One-leg stand – An officer will assess balance by asking a driver to balance on one foot for 30 seconds.

With any type of test, keep in mind that an arresting officer will almost always present the results in court. Therefore, it’s helpful to understand that submitting to these tests will rarely help your case in court, especially if you don’t perform well.

Accuracy of Field Sobriety Tests

The accuracy and reliability of field sobriety tests are often called into question—even completely sober people have failed these tests because of their subjectivity. They’re often not an accurate assessment of whether someone has actually been drinking. 

For example, even on their best day, some people do not have enough coordination to balance on one foot for 30 seconds. Factors like age, disability, or medications can all influence a person’s ability to perform these tests.

Other conditions can impact the credibility of these tests as well—weather, lighting, and road conditions can all make it difficult to perform the tests properly. Keep in mind that FSTs are different from a breathalyzer test, which is considered a chemical test.

The concerns around FSTs lead to questions surrounding their reliability and legitimacy. Tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provided the following results:

  • The HGN test is only 77% accurate
  • The walk-and-turn test is 68% accurate
  • The one-leg-stand test is 65% accurate.

Clearly, these tests are far from 100% accurate. If you’re charged with a DUI, it can be possible to have charges dismissed based on the subjectivity of these tests alone. With this being the case, it’s important to know your rights so that you can avoid adding legitimacy to the charges.

Your Rights at DUI Checkpoints

If you’re stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you have more rights than you may think. If you’re asked to take a field sobriety test – including a breathalyzer or blood test – you’re not legally required to perform the test

If you’re pulled over, Arizona law states that you’re only required to provide officers with your name, driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. There is no law that states you’re required to submit to an FST, even if the officer tells you that it’s in your best interest. Not taking a sobriety test is not an admission of guilt.

You have the right to turn down the test. However, if you’re asked to step out of the car, you must exit the vehicle. Refusing to do so could lead to a charge. Be sure to follow all other instructions from the officer, including providing them with documents like your ID or registration.

Remember that anything you say can be used against you in court. Be wary of questions like, “Have you been drinking this evening?” If you respond stating that you only had a few drinks earlier, an officer can use this information to build the case that you may have been driving impaired.

You’re not required to answer all questions. If an officer asks questions past what information you’re required to give, you may politely state, “I prefer not to answer questions.” You should remain polite and respectful throughout the interaction.

Contact your attorney as soon as possible in order to avoid anything that could be used against you during your case.

Can You Refuse a DUI Test in Arizona?

Yes, you have the right to refuse FSTs at DUI checkpoints in Arizona. However, if you decline to take a sobriety test, the officer may arrest you under suspicion that you have been drinking and take you to the police station for further testing. Your refusal may also be used in court by the prosecution to state that you were afraid of failing the test.

If you refuse an FST, an officer will likely ask you to take a breathalyzer test, which will measure the presence of alcohol in your blood. Handheld breathalyzers are still not completely reliable, so the best option is often to avoid any testing until you reach the police station. 

A breathalyzer test is the most common chemical test, but a blood or urine test is also possible. These tests are far more accurate than an FST.

You have the right to decline chemical tests under Arizona law as well, but this can come with additional consequences. Refusing the chemical tests is often not recommended, as doing so brings a suspension of your driver’s license for a minimum of 12 months. 

When you refuse a chemical test, the arresting officer will often obtain a search warrant, which will require you to take the chemical test anyway.

Getting Help After a DUI Checkpoint Arrest

If you’ve been arrested during a DUI checkpoint, it’s important to know how the process works and what you can do after your arrest to minimize the impact of your charge.

At JacksonWhite Law, we work with clients all over the Phoenix metro area to reduce their charges, limit their penalties, and make the most of their legal case.

If you need help with a DUI checkpoint charge, call the East Valley’s premier criminal defense team.

Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 418-4281 to discuss your case today.

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Call (480) 467-4370  or fill out the form below to get your free consultation and discuss your best legal options.