Ways You Can Defend Against a DUI Charge
We often think of criminal defense only in terms of big crimes. Someone accused of murder, for example, obviously wants to avoid the heavy penalties associated with the crime. For smaller crimes, such as misdemeanors and minor felonies, we are led to believe that we should just take our punishment and move on.
Always remember, this is the United States. You have the right to a defense. This right is so sacred that the state will even pay for your lawyer if you cannot afford one. You are innocent until proven guilty. We hear that phrase often, but consider what it means. You walk into a courtroom completely innocent. Your accuser must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you are guilty. If there are any inconsistencies in their case, you can retain your innocence.
No evidence against you is impenetrable, and any charge can be challenged. In a DUI case, police want you to believe they have you “dead to rights.” The evidence, they claim, is undeniable. In this article, we will reveal strategies you and your lawyer can use to protect your innocence, even in a DUI case.
Challenging the Police
Questioning the Stop
If you are stopped by the police for any reason, you should question why. Police have less authority to stop you than you may believe. There are two types of traffic offenses, primary and secondary. A primary offense calls for a stop. If you were swerving, speeding, or driving recklessly, the cops can stop you.
A secondary offense cannot result in a stop. In fact, Virginia recently downgraded many primary offenses to secondary. For example, police in Virginia can no longer stop someone for a broken taillight. To cite you, they must already have you pulled over for something else.
Taking these facts into consideration, ask yourself, why were you stopped? What was the reason? Maybe the police claimed you were speeding and then accused you of being drunk. Can they provide a record of your speed? Perhaps they accused you of reckless driving when you were simply changing lanes quickly.
Regardless of your alleged impairment, the police must have a justifiable reason to pull you over. If not, any extra charges could be irrelevant. Ask your attorney to investigate the stop itself. If it seems suspicious or unjustified, that could be enough to invalidate your DUI charge.
Scrutinizing the Police’s Questioning
In our country, you have a right to remain silent. This right is so important, police must remind you of it when they make an arrest if they wish to question you about the reason you were arrested. By law, they must recite the Miranda warning, where silence is the first right mentioned.
However, police also have tricky ways of evading this right. When they pull you over, you are merely “detained,” not arrested, so they can ask leading questions. For example, they may say, “How much have you had to drink tonight?” Whatever answer you give can be used against you later, after you were officially charged and Mirandized.
The same can happen at the station, where police use your alleged drunkenness against you. Even if you are stone sober, you are likely scared, and they can exploit that weakness. They can use confusing double-speak, coercing you into a confession without your knowledge. Tell your lawyer everything you remember about the questioning. They may be able to find areas where the police crossed the line.
Investigate the Field Sobriety Test
Field sobriety tests are not mandatory, but refusing to do them can be considered at trial. If you were one of so many people choose to perform field sobriety tests, make sure your attorney knows how to challenge them. A field sobriety test is useful when someone is fall-down drunk, but it’s not entirely accurate. Some people have naturally poor balance. It affects their ability to walk in a straight line, but it doesn’t prove they are drunk. Perhaps someone had a recent injury and performing sobriety tests is difficult for them. Even your clothing can change your movement. A sober woman in a tight evening gown and high stilettos could fail a sobriety test. The slightest misstep could result in an accusation, and that’s simply not fair. Give your attorney the details of your field sobriety test. Many times the officers make mistakes in administering these tests, making your performance somewhat irrelevant to the inquiry of drunkenness.
Challenge the Evidence
Evidence can be the most frightening part of a DUI accusation. It’s normally easy to tell when someone is drunk, and the police have room to make assumptions. However, when used as evidence in court, those conclusions can fall apart. Here are some ways to challenge the authorities’ belief that you were inebriated.
Blood Tests Can Go Wrong
Blood tests are the most compelling tools in the prosecution’s case. It’s difficult to argue the results. If there is alcohol in your system, blood tests will locate it and reveal how much is there. A high BAC (blood alcohol content) makes a defense lawyer’s job difficult.
However, the method of drawing blood can be closely scrutinized. First off, who did the actual draw? Only certain professionals are authorized to draw blood in a DUI case, and only certain blood draw kits are approved by the Commonwealth to be used for this purpose. Storage and testing methods can also affect the results. If your blood was taken, make sure to discuss this with your attorney.
For help fighting a DUI accusation, contact our office for a free consultation. We may be able to take on your case and begin investigating the prosecution’s methods and evidence. Our number is (540) 827-4446, and you can reach us online.