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Happy New Year!

Before we look to the promising year ahead, let’s take a few minutes to look back. A great deal has happened this past year. Let’s sum up the important key points.

Holidays are notorious for DUI crackdown efforts. Although it is always wise to exercise caution by leaving the keys at home, designating a sober driver and knowing your limits when celebrating, be aware that police task forces are out and about on all major holidays. A few of the major dates to be aware of include the period between Thanksgiving and New Years’  (4,175 DUI arrests in 2011-2012), Memorial Day weekend (547 DUI arrests in 2012), Labor Day (564 DUI arrests in 2012), and the 4th of July (434 DUI arrests in 2012). With the increased efforts during these times, it is always a good idea to be cautious.

Become familiar with your Constitutional rights. These rights exist to protect you. Know the basics of the Fourth Amendment, which protects you against unreasonable search and seizure. Applied to DUI, this means that if you are pulled over by the police, you do not have to submit to field sobriety tests, and you do not have to give a preliminary breath test. The Fifth Amendment protects your right against self-incrimination, or the “right to remain silent.” Do not answer questions that you are not comfortable answering. Once you invoke this right, it must be honored.  The Sixth Amendment awards you the right to an attorney, which you may exercise at any time. DUI investigations can be stressful, but you may request to speak with an attorney for advice at any point, which also must be honored.

Challenges and changes to these protections are happening all the time. Law is a changing field, and court decisions may affect you or somebody you know. Back in October of this year, we wrote about the case of Missouri v. McNeely, a case asking whether warrantless blood draws are constitutional. This case is set for argument next week. This decision, and other court decisions, may affect how DUIs are handled here in Arizona. Reading through the Supreme Court blog is a great way to keep up with these changes.

Also keep in mind that alcohol and its measurable effect on your body is not a perfect science. In fact, there are countless factors that may interfere with this chemistry, or affect how it can be measured. Being aware of these effects may help you or a friend in the future. For example, your body can digest one drink per hour, on average. But food can slow down this rate, and alcohol stays in the body longer. Even being dehydrated can have a significant effect. Energy drinks can contain small amounts of alcohol that aren’t always labeled on the can. This alcohol can show up on an Interlock device test, causing problems. Also, if you are arrested, certain physical conditions can affect a blood or breath test. Diabetes and GERD (acid reflux) are two frequent examples. If you or a friend happens to be arrested on suspicion of DUI, be sure that your attorney is aware of these conditions and their potential effects on your case.

Enjoy the New Year, and stick to those resolutions! We hope that 2013 is even better than 2012. Enjoy time with family and friends, but always know your rights, when and how to exercise them, and how to avoid the potential unforeseen DUI pitfalls discussed here.

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