Despite what some say about defeating driving under the influence (DUI) charges, from sucking on pennies to chomping down breath mints, these types of tactics will get you nowhere. The only real chance you have of beating a DUI charge is mounting a thorough, credible DUI defense strategy that has the best chance of getting your charge reduced or dismissed.
There are many facets of a DUI prosecution, all of which are opportunities for an experienced DUI attorney. Coming up with a defense for a DUI charge can be tough, but, no matter the case, the right strategy can be found for any defendant. You just need the right attorney to formulate the right defense, some of which include the following:
Improper Police Stop
The United States Constitution forbids law enforcement from arbitrarily pulling private citizens over without first having reasonable suspicion. As interpreted for decades through appeals in the Supreme Court, “reasonable suspicion” is typically defined as “articulable and specific grounds that provide [law enforcement] with reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot…” Put simply, this means law enforcement officials require more than simple hunches or gut feelings that certain individuals have committed a crime or are in the act of committing a crime.
Within the context of drunk driving—as well as any plain old traffic stop—police officers need to physically see a suspect commit wrongdoing of some kind. If a driver was not speeding or swerving, was obeying every traffic law, and had no mechanical issue with their car, a DUI attorney could contend that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion for pulling you over. Any evidence collected afterward would be inadmissible in a court of law.
Failing to Adhere to Protocol for Field Sobriety Testing
When police officers administer field sobriety testing (FST), there are actual legal protocols they must follow for the test results to be admissible for a DUI prosecution. Failure by police to follow predetermined measures can lead to a fast suppression of any evidence they gathered, especially if the officers also engaged in overly intimidating, inappropriate, or disrespectful conduct toward you during testing. Furthermore, field sobriety test results are only one piece of the state’s case, and they are not proof of intoxication on their own.
For instance, the importance of the heel-toe test diminishes if the defendant was forced to participate in the test while also wearing awkward footwear, such as high-heeled shoes. If there was inclement weather during testing or if the defendant’s balance was affected by an injury, the officer’s FST observations would also lose significance as state’s evidence.
Improper Testing or Blood Sample Storage
After a DUI suspect has been arrested, the first thing police do is arrange for a blood-alcohol analysis via a licensed, trained phlebotomist as soon as possible. However, due to unprofessional wait times or testing performed by untrained lab technicians, there are very strong defense possibilities here.
As well, police must ensure their samples are maintained properly to prevent contamination, mislabeling, or fermentation, with the last being especially damaging, as fermentation causes there to be more alcohol in a sample. If there are questions regarding a sample’s integrity, it can be declared inadmissible, leaving prosecutors with little for advancing their case.
For defendants with a medical condition, this can not only give the appearance of intoxication at times, but it can even distort the results of roadside breathalyzer tests. Neurological issues or fatigue can lead to slurred speech whereas sinus troubles, crying, and allergies can lead to watery eyes.
Additionally, a supposed “alcohol smell” on a defendant’s breath can come from ketosis, a side effect of diabetes involving the fermentation of glucose within the bloodstream, thereby creating an odor similar to “alcohol breath.” Ketosis can even lead to sober individuals registering alcohol on breathalyzers.
Miranda Violations or Improper interrogation
Once suspects are placed “under arrest,” the United States Constitution requires police officers to inform suspects of this official action taking place, which is distinct from simple conversations where individuals may leave freely if they choose. When individuals are under arrest, officers are required to advise them immediately of their rights, including the right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, and the right to a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford one.
Police must also state that any statements made following the listing of the suspect’s rights can be used against them in court. If police officers fail to issue Miranda warnings, any evidence collected afterward—biological evidence, incriminating statements, FST observations—is likely to be excluded.
Inappropriately Communicating with the Suspect
Prosecutors understand that defendants cannot be spoken to or interrogated without the express consent or presence of the defendant’s attorney. However, this has not stopped district attorneys or law enforcement in the past from trying to circumvent trial by tempting defendants with a plea bargain—using strategies a DUI attorney would not allow.
When this takes place, any pleas that are entered outside of protocol can be overturned quickly after showing that police or prosecutors communicated improperly with the defendant, which wouldn’t go over well with the presiding judge.
Violating Procedure and Rules of Evidence
Unlike previous DUI defenses, there are several that might not come up until the trial begins, such as violations of state rules of civil procedure as well as rules of evidence. This fairly broad category covers rules forbidding hearsay, introducing improper character evidence, and using unauthenticated recordings, photographs, and documents.
For instance, prosecutors may try introducing evidence of dashboard or body cam police videos, hoping to show the officer present for the defendant’s field sobriety tests. However, the prosecution needs the officer’s testimony, stating he was present for the FST, the individual in the video is the defendant, and the recording occurred at the time and date proclaimed by the state. Otherwise, the recording is excluded as evidence.
Regardless of which defense strategy is best for your particular case, it can be difficult to come up with one on your own in the pursuit of beating your DUI charge. That’s why having a skilled DUI attorney by your side is the best option going forward, as we can work to provide you with as many options as are available, getting your charge reduced or even dismissed entirely.