What happens if you get stopped for DUI but not charged?
Following a traffic stop for a suspected DUI, you might be wondering why you are not formally charged right away. Arizona DUI law allows law enforcement up to a year to charge you for a DUI if it’s a misdemeanor and up to seven years in cases where it’s a felony.
So if the DUI event itself has come and gone and you are not yet charged with the crime of drinking and driving, you’re not in the clear just yet. The time between a traffic stop and DUI charges allows law enforcement to complete an investigation and pull your previous history. Charges and consequences can change if you’re a repeat DUI offender.
During this time, law enforcement will also await formal results from tests such as a breathalyzer, urine or blood testing. The tests must undergo verification before the local jurisdiction can charge you formally with a DUI.
If the circumstances are there for an aggravated DUI according to Arizona law, there’s also a waiting period while law enforcement checks your record in other states.
Before you think that there’s nothing you should do during this waiting period, keep reading. During this phase, you should hire an Arizona DUI attorney and start building your defense. More than likely, the delay in charges does not mean you won’t ever be charged; it only means that the prosecution is gathering evidence to prove their case.
Why you should hire an Arizona DUI attorney
Before law enforcement files the police report or submits charges against you, your attorney can take some important steps to protect your rights and your freedom. Early in the process, your defense attorney can negotiate and perhaps even get the case dropped before charges are filed.
Even if you are never convicted of the DUI but you’re charged for it, the charges can show up on your record for life. Avoiding ever being charged is in your best interest if you ever hope to secure a new job, go back to school or do a variety of other activities that require background checks.
Plus, if you ever face any future criminal charges, having a record even just of charges filed against you for a DUI can mean that law enforcement is more zealous in their pursuit of a conviction. Prior offenders are placed under a more fine-tuned microscope when law enforcement evaluates them.
If your attorney is unable to avoid charges at all, they might be able to negotiate for lower charges, such as reckless driving. During these negotiations, your attorney might have to commit to you pleading guilty in the case, but that’s all up to you and how you choose to work together with your attorney.
How to avoid self-incrimination during a suspected DUI traffic stop
When law enforcement pulls you over on a suspected DUI, your attorney will not be present. Your actions during the traffic stop are just as important as your courtroom defense and negotiations.
If the officer asks you how much you’ve been drinking, you can invoke your fifth amendment rights and avoid answering the question. In circumstances where the officer asks where you are coming from, you should not say a bar or a party. Don’t lie, but once again invoke your fifth amendment rights to avoid self-incrimination.
You should know that if you decline taking a field sobriety test (where you walk a straight line), your license will be suspended. When you get behind the wheel of a car, you basically agree to take a field sobriety test when asked. In some cases, however, not submitting to the field sobriety test is a better option than showing guilt.
No matter whether or not law enforcement has charged you with a DUI or not if you’ve been pulled over or arrested in connection with a DUI, you should hire an Arizona DUI attorney.