Failure to stop at a port of entry is a charge we see with some frequency. Arizona has 22 ports of entry, but the majority of failure to stop at a port of entry tickets that we see originate from just two ports, both of which happen to be on major highways:
San Simon Port of Entry on I-10. These tickets go to the Bowie Justice Court.
Sanders Port of Entry on I-40. These tickets go to the Puerco Justice Court
What is the law?
In summary, A.R.S. 28-369(E) provides that a police officer may require a vehicle that is subject to the fee in A.R.S. 28-5433 or the requirements in A.R.S. 28-2321 through 28-2324 to stop at a port of entry in Arizona for the purpose of enforcing a motor vehicle law. A person who fails to stop as required by this statute is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.
What vehicles are subject to this law?
In short, if you are driving a vehicle used for some commercial enterprise (you are driving and getting money for it), or you are doing work related to being a mortician, you need to stop at Arizona's ports of entry.
Under A.R.S. 28-5433, the following vehicles are subject to this law:
- A trailer or semitrailer with a gross weight of ten thousand pounds or less and that is used in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise.
- A motor vehicle or vehicle combination if the motor vehicle or vehicle combination is designed, used or maintained primarily for the transportation of passengers for compensation or for the transportation of property.
- A hearse, an ambulance or any other vehicle that is used by a mortician in the conduct of the mortician's business.
- A commercial motor vehicle as defined in section 28-5201.
Foreign (owned by someone who is not a resident of Arizona) vehicles operated in Arizona:
- For the transportation of passengers or property for compensation.
- In the business of a nonresident carried on in this state.
- For the transportation of property.
- In the furtherance of a commercial enterprise and is a passenger-carrying motor vehicle designed to seat twelve or more persons.
Why would a driver fail to stop at a port of entry?
Almost every driver we speak with is a responsible and careful driver. No one intentionally bypasses a port of entry, but sometimes it happens. The reasons vary, but there seem to be 4 common situations that arise.
Highways are often under construction. This can result in lanes being closed and traffic being redirected. This can impact traffic flow around a port of entry. If a driver is not familiar with the port or the changed traffic pattern, this can result in the driver inadvertently bypassing the port of entry. For example, if the port exit is to the right, and the right lane is closed for construction, it can be unclear where the exit for the port is. Sometimes due to poor signage, it can be unclear whether or not the port is even open.
Sometimes if traffic approaching the port is particularly dense, it can make it difficult for a driver to get into position to exit for the port. For example, if a driver happens to be in the left of the two travel lanes, and the right lane is dense with vehicles and moving significantly more slowly than the left lane, it can be very hard to merge a truck from the left lane to the right lane.
Accidents are like a combination of construction and heaving traffic. An accident can result in lane obstructions or closures, redirected traffic, and certainly slow and backed-up traffic. Depending on the location of the accident, such a situation could make it very difficult for a commercial driver to exit for the port of entry as needed.
In Arizona, commercial drivers carrying hazardous materials are required to stop at ports of entry. The problem that can arise is when a driver is using a station bypass system like PrePass. A driver approaches a port of entry in Arizona and gets a green light telling them to bypass. However, even though they get the green light, they have to stop if they are carrying hazardous materials. Carrying hazardous materials is an exception to the bypass and commercial drivers are expected to be aware of this exception.
Confusion about the nature of the vehicle
What makes a vehicle a commercial vehicle? This can be a complex question.
How do you defend against a failure to stop at port of entry charge?
There are a number of exceptions to the laws above. For example, religious institutions or schools may be exempt from this requirement. If charged with this violation, you would always want to read the statutes carefully and see if any of the exceptions apply to your circumstances.
There might also be factual arguments. Maybe the signage for the port of entry was obscured. Maybe the port of entry was temporarily closed. Maybe there was a traffic accident that made it impossible to exit in time.
Beyond any defenses or factual arguments, the driver's character and background, if good, could be helpful in negotiating an improved outcome.
What are the consequences of a conviction?
A failure to stop at a port of entry conviction is a criminal charge according to A.R.S. 28-5240, which states:
A. In addition to civil penalties imposed under this chapter, a motor carrier, shipper or manufacturer who operates or causes to be operated a commercial motor vehicle in violation of this chapter or who knowingly violates or knowingly fails to comply with any provision of this chapter or with any rule adopted pursuant to this chapter is guilty of:
1. A class 2 misdemeanor for a first offense.
2. A class 1 misdemeanor for a second offense.
3. A class 6 felony for any subsequent offense.
For a first offense, which would be charged as a class 2 misdemeanor, there is the potential for up to a $750 fine plus surcharges of $630, up to 4 months in jail, and probation. In practice, jail time is unlikely and the fine will likely be far less than the maximum.