Defenses to Drunk Driving

Authored by Wendy Witt, Esq.

Your Real Life DUI Defenses

If you are convicted of DUI, your entire future may be in jeopardy “ this means that you need to analyze your arrest, blood alcohol testing, and your most formidable defenses. Law enforcement and judicial mistakes are made on a daily basis and there are legitimate defenses to drunk driving charges.

Do you have a valid defense to the DUI or DWI charges against you?

You might and not even realize it. Drinking and driving “ even being arrested “ don't necessarily mean that you will be found guilty of DUI “ if you have a strong defense.

Why are DUI Defenses are So Important?

A DUI conviction results in serious negative fallout. If you're not actually convicted, the fallout will be greatly reduced.

Here are examples of the consequences of a DUI conviction:

  • Jail time
  • Fines
  • Loss of driver's license
  • Loss of commercial driver's license
  • Ignition interlock
  • Mandatory drug and/or alcohol evaluation and counseling, including up to 28 days in rehab
  • Mandatory drunk driving education
  • Community service
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • Loss of job
  • Significant financial loss
  • Difficulty renting apartment and getting a job
  • Family discord
  • Loss of friendships
  • Embarrassment
  • Loss of property
  • Physical injuries
  • Death
  • Lifelong guilt

What are My Potential DUI Defenses?

Fortunately, a DUI arrest is not the same thing as a DUI conviction. There are legitimate defenses which include:

  • Illegal stop
  • Lack of probable cause
  • Improper road block
  • Faulty blood alcohol testing
  • Inaccurate observation conclusions
  • Failure to warn of consequences of either refusing or taking a blood alcohol test
  • Failure to provide Miranda warnings
  • Lack of evidence
  • Trial error
  • Jury instruction error

Was My DUI Stop Legal?

If the stop during which you were arrested for DUI was not legal, you cannot be convicted of drunk driving. Police can only stop you to check for DUI in two circumstances.

  • Road Block

    Road blocks must be set up and executed following standard procedures to avoid racial profiling and other abuses. If you were arrested for DUI at a road block, your DUI defense attorney will investigate to determine whether proper procedures were followed.

    If not, an improper roadblock can serve as a complete defense to DUI charges. Why? Because no evidence obtained during an improper stop can be used against you in court.

  • Probable Cause

    If a road block is not used to identify drunk drivers, a police officer can only pull you over if he or she has probable cause to do so. For example, the officer may witness you:

    • Driving erratically
    • Weaving in and out of traffic
    • Crossing the yellow line
    • Driving too slowly
    • Driving too fast
    • Damaging property
    • Causing an accident
    • Otherwise driving unsafely

    If an officer sees you doing any of these things, there is likely probable cause to pull you over. If not, there may not be sufficient probable cause.

Lack of Evidence

As you likely know, under the American legal system, you are innocent until proven guilty. This standard applies to all criminal cases, including DUI and DWI cases.

If the evidence is not sufficient to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you are innocent. Reasonable doubt means that the prosecution must show that all elements of the crime happened and only an unreasonable person could think otherwise.

  • Blood Alcohol Testing

    It may surprise you to know there can be mistakes made in blood alcohol content testing (BAC). If your DUI defense attorney can identify and show a mistake, there may not be enough other evidence to convict you.

    Example BAC testing mistakes include:

    • Faulty machinery
    • Faulty procedure
    • Incompetent tester
    • Inaccurate results
    • Blood alcohol content on the rise
    • High mouth alcohol level
  • Observation

    In addition to BAC testing, a police officer can testify that he or she saw you driving erratically, weaving in and out of traffic, causing an accident, or otherwise driving unsafely.

    However, even non-drunk drivers drive unsafely at times. For example, your defense lawyer may seek to show that you had a medical condition, emergency, or another explanation for your unsafe driving.

    In addition, if you fail a field sobriety test, your DUI defense attorney will investigate to show other reasons for your subpar performance such as an inner ear problem, inability to understand instructions, and the like.

Improper Procedure

There is a legal doctrine called "fruit of the poisonous tree". The rule says that if evidence is illegally obtained, it can't be used in court against you.

This is why you cannot be convicted of DUI if the initial stop was improper.

There are other procedures that must be followed in DUI cases as well. These include:

  • Explanation of BAC testing consent or failure to consent consequences
  • Miranda warnings
  • Jail conduct questioning and holding
  • Trial procedure
  • Jury instructions
  • Jury deliberations

Here are the details to discuss with your DUI defense attorney. If proper procedures aren't followed, you have a strong defense.

  • BAC Testing Notification

    The investigating police officer must let you know what will happen if you take any BAC test and fail. The officer also must let you know what will happen if you refuse to take the BAC test.

  • Miranda Warnings

    If you're like most people, you've heard of Miranda warnings and seen them given on television cop shows. Note that you can be arrested without the warnings, but if the prosecution wants to use any evidence gathered from your statements, the warnings must be given before that statements.

    In general “ though they can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, this is what Miranda Warnings look like:

    You have the right to remain silent.
    Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law.
    You have the right to an attorney.
    If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
    Do you understand these rights I have just read to you?

  • Proper Procedures

    If your initial traffic stop wasn't proper; if you were not given your Miranda rights; if you were not treated properly during questioning or at the jail; if the judge made a reversible error during trial or during the jury instructions; or if there was jury tampering or another serious jury problem, your DUI defense lawyer will use these issues as a DUI defense.

Where do I Get Help with My DUI Defense?

Legally, you have the right to investigate your own drunk driving case and identify and assert potential defenses. However, if you choose, you may work with a DUI defense attorney who knows how to interact with investigators, the court, witnesses, and the prosecutor and formulate your strongest defenses.

You can find a DUI defense attorney by asking a friend for a referral or by calling the bar association and asking for a list of criminal defense attorneys. However, if you want to keep your DUI arrest on the down low, you can use our free “ private “ confidential site, www.attorneys.org. You're entitled to a free “ no commitment case evaluation if you contact an attorney from this site.

Related topics

More articles about dui

  • DUI Law

    From arraignment to sentencing - learn about your options for dealing with your DUI or DWI charge.

  • DUI Glossary

    Understanding DUI terms police, prosecutors and courts use can help your defense.

  • What You Tell Your DUI Defense Lawyer

    Disclose absolutely everything to your attorney and if there is any doubt, disclose that too - here’s why.

  • Why You Must Hire a DUI Attorney

    Just one DUI conviction can cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

  • Penalties for a DUI Conviction

    Penalties typically depend on three factors - where you live, your criminal history and other mitigating or aggravating circumstances. Many offenders face more than just fines if convicted.

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