Just because you've been accused of driving while intoxicated does not mean that you have to be convicted of this crime. As soon as you're arrested, one of the first things you should do is contact an experienced DUI attorney. He or she will analyze the scenario that led to your arrest and formulate what is called a defense. Legally speaking, your defense is the argument that you and your lawyer make as to why you should not be found guilty of driving while intoxicated. You don't have to prove you were not driving under the influence -- just that the court does not actually have the legal evidence to prove that you were. While each situation is different, most DUI defenses fall into one of the following formats.
Defense #1: Your driving patterns were not, in fact, that indicative of drunk driving.
One of the first pieces of evidence brought against those who are accused of drunk driving is usually that they were observed driving erratically -- either by a police officer or by witnesses. If you and your lawyer can show that your driving patterns were not actually that indicative of drunk driving, this calls the evidence into question. Basically, your lawyer may argue that since sober people drive erratically, too, your driving patterns cannot be taken as evidence of your intoxication. There are plenty of statistics to support this argument. For example, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, people driving without headlights are only 30% more likely to be driving while impaired. Those who brake or turn abruptly are only 35% more likely to be impaired.
Defense #2: The officer did not have probably cause for pulling you over.
Officers cannot just pull drivers over at random. They have to have probable cause. You need to be speeding, not obeying traffic signals, driving erratically, or otherwise not following driving laws. If you and your lawyer can prove that the officer did not have probable cause for pulling you over, then any evidence collected once you were pulled over will be thrown away -- and without this evidence, there most likely won't be much of a case against you. Proving there was no probable cause for pulling you over can be tough. Sometimes, it's your word against the officer's word. However, evidence from dashboard cameras and statements from witnesses can make your defense a lot more effective.
Defense #3: You performed poorly on the field sobriety test for some reason other than intoxication.
If one of the main pieces of evidence against you is poor performance on a field sobriety test (such as walking in a straight line or touching your nose with your finger), your lawyer may argue that your poor performance does not prove you were intoxicated since there is another valid explanation for it. Other factors that can cause poor performance on these tests include nervousness, fatigue, and a natural lack of coordination. Imagine, for instance, that you can show proof that, prior to your arrest, you just worked an 18-hour shift. Evidence of this could be used to argue that you performed poorly on the sobriety test because you were exhausted -- not because you were drunk.
Defense #4: The BAC reading as determined by the breathalyzer is inaccurate.
It's a common misconception that if your BAC was measured at above the legal limit, you're definitely going to be convicted. Actually, your lawyer might be able to get the charges dropped by showing that the BAC reading as determined by the breathalyzer is not an accurate representation of your BAC at the time. There are a numbers of arguments that can be made here:
- Perhaps you used breath freshener not long before you were pulled over and the product left an alcohol residue in your mouth, raising the reading.
- Maybe you burped before taking the test, bringing alcohol up from your stomach and resulting in a higher reaching.
- Perhaps the breathalyzer had not been calibrated in several months and, thus, could not be proven accurate.
DUI cases are complex, and the defense or defenses that your lawyer will recommend will depend on your unique circumstances. One thing is for sure, however: you should not just admit guilt and accept the charges. An experienced lawyer from a firm like Mesenbourg & Sarratori Law Offices can use one or more of the defenses above to poke holes in the evidence against you and get the charges dropped or reduced.