Lake Havasu DUI Lawyer Explains Local DUI Cases
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DUI (Driving Under the Influence or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) in Lake Havasu City there is some information you need to know about the criminal justice process right away. There are questions that you will need answers to because you will want to know happens next.
The Court Process for a Lake Havasu City DUI
In the event of a Lake Havasu City DUI, all suspects are arrested. Those suspects will be immediately booked into jail either at the Lake Havasu City Police Department or at the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office substation on highway 95. A judge must see them within 24 hours of their arrest at a hearing called an initial appearance. The suspect could appear in person or via video conference.
(Note: The court process described below does not apply to citations issued by the National Park Service for violations at the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. Criminal cases initiated by the National Park Service are prosecuted in the U.S. District Court and are Federal Crimes with similar but different fines and consequences as DUI cases in state court.)
(Note: The court process described in this section also applies to BUI (Boating Under the Influence) or OUI (Operating Under the Influence Cases). The fines and consequences, legal issues and defenses of BUI arrest are similar and nearly identical to DUI cases.)
The initial appearance hearings are conducted at the Lake Havasu City Consolidated Court at 2001 College Dr. in Lake Havasu City, AZ 86404. Initial Appearance hearings are regularly conducted at 8:30am seven days a week. The city magistrate, justice of the peace, or pro-tem judge will conduct the hearing.
Initial Appearance hearings are regularly conducted at 8:30am seven days a week. The city magistrate, justice of the peace, or pro-tem judge will conduct the hearing.
At the initial appearance hearing the judge will tell the suspect what they are charged with. They will tell the defendant what the range of penalties are for the offense. The judge will ask the suspect for their correct address and inquire if they are a U.S. Veteran. (Lake Havasu City has a veteran’s court program). Defendant’s are given a questionnaire at the jail that inquires about their financial background and criminal history. The questionnaire is used by the judge to determine if the defendant qualifies for a public defender and the judge uses the biographical information to determine what release conditions are appropriate and what bond amount to place on the defendant.
Lake Havasu City is notorious for setting very high bond amounts for defendants in custody. The bond amount can be posted with cash or certified check at the Court House itself or a bond company can be used to post the required bond with the jail. If a suspect arrested for a DUI cannot post a bond, the Court will usually set a bond review hearing a few days after the hearing if the Defendant is in custody.
The Court will then order the Defendant to appear at two court hearings set for approximately thirty (30) and forty-five (45) days out. These hearing are called a pretrial conference and an omnibus hearing/judgment and sentencing hearing.
The pretrial conference is a hearing in which the defendant with his or her attorney have an informal meeting with the prosecutor. The prosecutor is required to give a copy of all police reports or evidence that they intend to present at trial. This is called “discovery” or “disclosure”. If there are printouts of the breath test or blood test results, they are given at this hearing.
The Court sets the pretrial conference so that a non-trial resolution might be discussed with the prosecutor and the defendant. If the State or prosecutor intends to make a plea offer, they will do so at that time. A defense attorney will usually present some facts or defenses to the prosecutor to present legal reasons for a dismissal of the case or what is more common to present mitigating circumstances to negotiate a favorable plea agreement.
A defendant is required to attend the pretrial conference if the represent themselves or are appointed a public defender. If a defendant has a public defender this is usually the first time that they get to met with their lawyer. Any defendant who has hired a private attorney usually meets with their attorney ahead of time, and private defense counsel will usually waive their client’s appearance at the pretrial conference if possible.
Omnibus/ Change of Plea/ Judgment and Sentencing Hearing
The next scheduled court hearing is a called an omnibus/judgement and sentencing hearing. Every defendant is REQUIRED TO ATTEND. A defense attorney is not allowed to waive their client’s appearance. A defendant who lives out of town or out of state MUST appear in person.
If a defendant and an attorney reached a plea agreement with the prosecutor and the State at the pretrial conference, the judgment and sentencing hearing is the time and the place in which the Defendant will enter a change of plea before the judge. After the change of plea, the judge will immediately proceed to sentencing. The defendant must always be present for a change of plea and judgment and sentencing hearing for ANY DUI.
If a defendant does not agree to enter into a plea agreement, the Court will set a trial date in the case. In Arizona a defendant has a right to a jury trial for a DUI. The Court will conduct an omnibus hearing to determine what issues are involved in the DUI case to be resolved prior to the scheduled trial date. A defendant is required to be in person for this hearing so that they will have notice of when the trial date is set. If a defendant fails to appear for a trial date, then they could be charged with Failure to Appear, and a trial could be conducted without them being present.
Jury Trials are usually set two to three months after a pretrial conference. The State is required to present evidence and witnesses to a prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A jury comprised of six persons must reach a unanimous verdict to find a defendant either guilty or not guilty. Even though a defendant does not have the burden of proof, evidence can be presented by the Defendant along with expert witnesses to demonstrate that they were not impaired by alcohol or challenge the reliability of the blood or breath alcohol testing results.
The DUI Arrest.
Lake Havasu City is a popular destination for folks that want to enjoy water sports in the Summer or want to escape the cold climate in the winter. Lake Havasu is a very popular spring break destination for college students during March and April. The year round weather is popular for outdoor recreation, so it is not uncommon for locals and tourist alike to consume alcohol and sometimes to excess.
Lake Havasu City Police Agencies
The Lake Havasu City Police Department and the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) are the primary law enforcement agencies that conduct DUI arrest in Lake Havasu. But there are several police and law enforcement agencies that patrol the areas in and around Lake Havasu City.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZ DPS) or highway patrol also conduct DUI investigation all over the State but primarily patrol the highways and state routes. Highway 95 runs through Lake Havasu City along the lake and the Colorado River. Interstate 40 does not intersect with Lake Havasu City but is located in the Lake Havasu City Justice Court’s jurisdiction. A DUI investigation by the highway patrol is more likely to occur at those areas.
The National Park Service primarily patrols the waterways and areas along the Bill Williams National Wild Life Refuge and the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge area. Arizona State Park Rangers patrol the lake and the Lake Havasu State Park. It is very common for boaters off the lake to get cited for DUI while they are towing their boats in and out of the water at launch ramps.
The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office patrol the unincorporated areas surrounding Lake Havasu including the Desert Hills area north of Lake Havasu City.
The Lake Havasu City Police Department (LHCPD) conducts the majority of DUI investigations within the city limits. The primary commercial business district areas with the most bars and restaurants are where the most traffic patrols are conducted. These areas include McCulloch Boulevard, the London Bridge Resort, Acoma Avenue, and Mesquite Avenue.
The Traffic Stop and the DUI Investigation
It is typical that traffic stops for routine traffic violations turn into full blown DUI investigations. Most traffic and patrol officer will ask a driver if they have been drinking during traffic stops at night. Sometimes a motorist can have no bad driving other than a rolling stop sign violation or a stop bar violation and find themselves becoming a suspect in a DUI investigation. Every intersection can effectively become a DUI checkpoint for a LHCPD officer.
A police officer will usually ask a driver during a traffic stop if they have been drinking. A police officer will usually inquire if someone has been drinking at night even if they don’t detect “an odor of alcohol” or don’t observe “bloodshot watery eyes.” An admission of drinking will give the officer probable cause to extend the detention. The normal I just had “two drinks officer” response is usually enough for an officer to ask a driver to step outside their vehicle and conduct field sobriety tests.
The Lake Havasu City Police Department only uses three types of Standard Field Sobriety Tests. These are the only tests recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to be used during DUI investigations. These test include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN), the walk and turn test, and the one leg stand test. LHCPD does not usually use the Finger to Nose, Finger Count, or Rhomberg Modified (ABC’s test).
The HGN test is usually the first test that officers perform on a DUI suspect. HGN tests are used to detect the presence of nystagmus in the eyes by tracking how well the subject’s pupils can track or follow a stimulus (usually a pen). One of the many causes of nystagmus is alcohol impairment. This test is perceived to be the most objective DUI tests but it requires that the officer be certified to conduct the tests and keep regular logs of past performance of test given and how they compared to subjects tested blood alcohol level (B.A.C.)
The officer will conduct a walk and turn test and a one leg stand test. Remember these are called “Standardized” field sobriety tests. These tests must be explained and conducted the same way each time for the results to even be considered reliable. The officer must explain to the subject how to perform the tests and demonstrate how to do it. Often times subjects perform the test during a variety of testing conditions with uneven surfaces, poor lighting, imaginary lines. The subject is never told what things they will be marked down for not successfully performing the test and there is no criteria for what it means to pass the test.
Suspects are never told that they have the right to refuse any of these field sobriety tests. There is no legal requirement or “miranda warnings” required to notify them that they do not have to perform any of the field sobriety tests requested of them. A suspect will inevitably always incriminate themselves by performing theses tests. The only purpose of these tests is to give the officer probable cause to arrest those suspected of a DUI, and to develop further evidence to be used in court that the suspect was impaired by alcohol close to the time that they were driving or in “actual physical control” of a motor vehicle. Once the officer has probable cause to arrest someone, they are taken to the Lake Havasu City Police Department (or the Mohave County Sheriff Substation) to have the suspect perform a test of their “blood, breath, or urine”.
The Breath Test.
When a suspect is arrested for a DUI, under Arizona law they must submit to a test or tests of their “blood, breath, or urine.” These is referred to as the Admin Per Se law. The most common test used by the LHCPD to test someone of the breath alcohol level is to use a breathalyzer machine.
The LHCPD breathalyzer machine is located at the Lake Havasu City Police Department Jail at 2360 McCulloch Blvd N. Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403. A suspect has to be placed under arrest before they are REQUIRED to take the breath test. An officer must have probably cause to arrest someone for a DUI. A driver who operates a motor vehicle on the road automatically “consents” to have their blood, breath, or urine tested if they are suspected of committing a DUI. If a suspect refuses to give a test, their license can be suspended for twelve (12) months by the Arizona Department of Transportation.
The officer will read to the suspect the warnings as described above. These warnings are outlined in a document called the AZ Implied Consent Affidavit. An officer must swear under oath that the facts for the DUI stop are true, and that the warnings were given to the suspect on their requirement to perform the test of their breath or blood alcohol level, and that the notice of suspension was served on the suspect if they performed a test above the legal limit or refused the test.
The machine that is used is called an Intoxilyzer 8000. Regular quality assurance tests must be performed on the instrument on a monthly and quarterly basis. An officer must be trained and licensed to be an operator of the instrument, and follow an operation checklist for each subject tests. An observational period must be performed by the officer to insure that the suspect has no residual mouth alcohol. The machine must also perform a calibration test before and after each subject tests. If a test is marked as “successful” a printout is made of the results.
Legally a suspect may be required to submit to multiple tests. Most agencies including LHCPD do not use urine test with individuals but blood tests are sometimes performed. If a suspect refuses a breath test a search warrant could be obtained to force a blood draw. A suspect might then be taken to the Havasu Regional Medical Center where a phlebotomist would perform a blood draw. Sometimes blood test are requested because it is suspected that the driver may have been using illegal drugs. A blood tests is the only reliable method to measure the quantities and levels of drugs in the blood system.
The blood sample is packaged and sent to the crime lab for further analysis. Blood samples are analyzed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety Western Regional Crime Lab. The crime lab itself is actually housed at the Lake Havasu City Police Department. Result from the crime lab can take several weeks or months to be processed.
There are several penalties and consequences that are unique for getting a DUI in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
If a Defendant can loose their privilege to drive a motor vehicle due to a DUI if they are served with an Admin Notice of Suspension (civil suspension) or If they convicted of a DUI (criminal suspension).
A Defendant who is served with an Admin Per Se Form must request a hearing with MVD within 15 days or their privilege to drive a motor vehicle will be automatically suspended. If they do request a hearing, a defendant may drive until that hearing is conducted and a determination is made that the Defendant was above the legal limit or whether they refused to submit to breath test.
A Defendant that requests an Admin Per Se hearing in Lake Havasu City will have their hearing conducted at the Administrative Hearing Office in Kingman. The hearing is held at the Kingman MVD Office at 3670 E. Andy Devine, Kingman AZ 86401. LHCPD police officers and law enforcement are required to attend the hearing, which is conducted via video conference with an administrative law judge in Phoenix.
A Defendant may also loose their privilege to drive if they plea guilty or are convicted of a DUI at trial. At sentencing the clerk of the Lake Havasu City Consolidated Court will notify MVD with an “abstract” that reports the DUI conviction. MVD will then process the information and mail a notice of suspension in the mail after the criminal conviction.
A defendant may also be ordered to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for twelve months following an MVD suspension.
Fines and Fees:
The mandatory sentencing guidelines for the State of Arizona obviously apply for a DUI committed in Lake Havasu. It is however common that fines in the Lake Havasu City Consolidated Court regularly exceed the mandatory minimum fines by 50 to 100%. A regular minimum DUI fine is typically $1,500.00 which includes surcharges and assessments. In Lake Havasu City Consolidated Court, a first time DUI fine can typically start at $2,500.00. For more serious DUI offenses the maximum misdemeanor of fine of $2,500 is often imposed. With a mandatory 83% surcharge, fines and assessment can easily be increase the total fines up to $5,000.00.
Jail fess are also imposed on defendants convicted of a DUI. These fee include a $62 booking fee, and $69 per day. A thirty day jail sentence for an Extreme DUI would costs $2,132.00 in jail fees alone.
If you are convicted of a DUI in Lake Havasu City you will be ordered to serve that jail time at one of two facilities.
Mohave County Jail.
501 Historic Rte 66, Kingman, AZ 86401
Lake Havasu City Jail
2360 McCulloch Blvd N. Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403
Phone: (928) 680-5409
Fax: (928) 855-5810
Both program have work release if the Judge orders a defendant eligible for that program. For most people living in Lake Havasu, it is usually preferable to serve their time at the Lake Havasu City Jail if vacancy is available.
Alcohol Treatment and Counseling:
A defendant is required to attend Alcohol Treatment and Counseling as a term of probation when they are convicted of a DUI, or if the driver’s privileges are suspended for a DUI in order for them to get their privileges reinstated for a restricted license.
The Court System:
The Court system is run by a number of different components and agencies that serve different roles in the judicial process. After a police agency investigates a DUI and submits an Arizona Criminal Complaint with the court, the criminal judicial process begins.
The Lake Havasu City Consolidated Court is named that because the court house itself is comprised of the Lake Havasu City Justice Court and the Lake Havasu City Municipal Court. These courts have combined resources, staff, and physical space to efficiently handle the number of cases that serve the Lake Havasu area. The courts share judges and clerk staff even though the justice court and municipal court have different legal jurisdictions.
Prosecutors are lawyers who represent the state government throughout the court process. Prosecutors review the police reports made the law enforcement agencies and make final decisions about criminal charges filed by the police. Prosecutors present evidence in court, question witnesses, and decide whether to negotiate plea agreements with defendants or their attorneys. Prosecutors have some discretion on how to prosecute a DUI case. In Lake Havasu City, there are two distinct prosecuting agencies.
The Lake Havasu City Prosecutors Office.
DUIs that are committed in the Lake Havasu City Limits are brought before the Municipal Court. The prosecutors for cases in the Municipal Court work at the Lake Havasu City Attorney’s Office. The Lake Havasu City Attorney’s Office is located at 2330 McCulloch Blvd N. in Lake Havasu City.
The City Attorney’s Office handles legal affairs for the City of Lake Havasu. Currently there are two full-time assistant city attorneys that exclusively handle and prosecute criminal cases for the city. These prosecutors include Charles F. Yager (admitted to the AZ Bar in 2003) and Kristen Rienfeld (admitted to practice law in 2000 and the Arizona Bar in 2006). Both prosecutors are seasoned attorneys with each having over a decade of prosecuting experience.
The Mohave County Attorney’s Office.
DUIs that are committed in the outlining areas outside of the Lake Havasu City Limits, such as the unincorporated areas north of Lake Havasu along State Route 95, Interstate 40, and Desert Hills are brought before the Justice Court. The prosecutors for cases in the Justice Court are part of the Mohave County Attorney’s Office. The main office for the Mohave County Attorney is in the county seat of Kingman but it has some satellite offices in Bullhead City, and an office at the Lake Havasu City Police Department.
The Defense Attorneys
Lake Havasu City has no established public defender office. All defendants in the Lake Havasu City Municipal Court that are indigent and cannot afford legal counsel are appointed an attorney to represent them. The court only has to appoint them a public defender if the defendant is facing any jail time. Currently the law firm of Whitney and Whitney, PLLC has a contract with Lake Havasu City to provide indigent defense work for the city. These are private attorneys who accept appointed cases by the Court for substantially reduced compensation.
The Mohave County Public Defender’s Office is appointed to represent indigent defendants that appear in the Lake Havasu City Justice Court. If the public defender has a potential conflict of interest in representing a defendant, the Mohave County Legal Defender’s Office may be appointed instead. Defendants usually meet with their public defenders for the first time at the court scheduled pretrial conference.
Note: A public defender will not handle a civil Admin Per Se hearing with ADOT/MVD. The civil case to suspend a license for an Admin Per Se Hearing is beyond the scope of the criminal case in which a public defender is appointed for. Most private DUI attorneys will handle an ADOT/MVD hearing as part of the complete representation.
Hon. Mitchell Kalauli – City Magistratge – Lake Havasu City Municipal Court.
Judge Kaluali appointed City Magistrate by the Lake Havasu City Council in 2011. Judge Kalauli attended the University of Washington College of Law. Admitted to practice law in 1997 and the State of Arizona in 2011. Judge Kalauli was the former justice of the peace for the Moccasin Justice Court in rural Mohave County. Judge Kalauli also established the first Veterans Court in rural Arizona in 2014.
Hon. Judge Jill W. Davis – Justice of the Peace – Lake Havasu City Justice Court.
Elected Justice of the Peace in 2002. Attended ASU and California Western Law School. Former partner at Wachtel, Biehn & Malm law firm in Lake Havasu.
Hon. Peter Michael Dunbar – Associate City Magistrate, Justice Pro-Tem – Lake Havasu City Consolidated.
Judge Dunbar was appointed a judge pro tempore in 2013. He assists with the day to day functions of the Lake Havasu City Consolidated Court and appears in both the municipal and justice court.
How Can We Help?
I have been practicing criminal law in Mohave County for over fifteen years. As a Deputy County Attorney I prosecuted cases in the Lake Havasu City Justice Court. I worked frequently with police officers and detectives at the Lake Havasu City Police Department and criminalist at the AZ DPS Western Regional Crime Lab. I prosecuted hundreds of DUI cases.
As a defense attorney I frequently represent individuals charged with DUI in the Lake Havasu City Consolidated Court. I have faced many of the same prosecutors for almost a decade since I have been in private practice. I have appeared in court or in trial before all magistrates and justices of the peace in Lake Havasu City.
DUI investigations have some of the most complex steps for the police from a scientific and legal perspective. An experienced DUI attorney can effectively spot issues and defenses that could mitigate a jail sentence or possibly get a case dismissed or the charges reduced. My office wants to help get your life back on track and try to mitigate the impact a DUI arrest can have on your life.
Call Us Immediately To Help You With Your DUI Case.
Contact us for a case evaluation. We can assist you will all stages of the proceeding and request an MVD hearing within fifteen days of your arrest.
We can be reached at 928-753-6868 or in Lake Havasu City at 928-846-8455.