The legal consequences for a DUI (driving under the influence) which may also be called “DWI” (driving while intoxicated)) can be very severe. A driver may challenge the DUI and DWI charge upon an arrest and arraignment, but it is vital to understand the defenses available in law before putting up your defense.
If your defense is feasible, the prosecution may be compelled to drop or lessen the charges or avert the suspension of your driver’s license, and you might even gain victory for an acquittal at trial of the matter before the court.
The standard of proof in criminal matters is proof beyond reasonable doubt and in the case of DUI; the prosecution is under a legal duty to prove that the person charged with the offense being the “defendant”: actually drove a vehicle, and was “under the influence”, that is to say, the person charged was either impaired or had a prohibited amount of drugs or alcohol in his or her body.
A defense to DUI and DWI charge must attack any of the two components or elements of the offense cited above because until the prosecution can prove the existence of both elements, conviction cannot be gained.
In other words, before the prosecution can charge an offender for the offense of DUI or DWI, they must ensure that shreds of evidence are available to prove that the defendant actually was the driver at the material time and that he or she was impaired or had a prohibited quantity of drugs or alcohol in his or her body.
The law of each state to a large extent determines the nature of defenses available to a DUI defendant. This article aims to review possible DUI defenses legally available in the majority states.
Defenses Related to “Driving” in DUI and DWI Charge
Until it is proved that you were actually the driver of the vehicle at the material time, you cannot be convicted for DUI in some states. This goes to mean that the car must be in motion; therefore, you almost certainly have a good defense if you were asleep in a stationed vehicle in one of these states when police arrived.
However, in other majority states, the law does not require proof of actual driving for a DUI conviction. The prosecution only needs to prove is that you were “operating” or “in actual physical control” of a vehicle while intoxicated. This goes to mean that you don’t have to be caught behind the wheel with a car in motion to be found guilty of DUI provided you are seen to be in control of the vehicle.
Defenses Raised Concerning Arrest Procedures
There are legal procedures on how an offender should be apprehended and a deviation from same can provide a good case to a defendant in a DUI charge. Defenses raised Concerning Illegal arrest procedures involves contending that specific evidence sought to be tendered by the prosecution should be ignored by the court on the grounds of failure of the police to follow the due process of law at the time of arrest. Example of such wrong arrest procedures are:
• Where there is No Probable Cause for Arrest
It is necessary for the police to have a probable cause to stop your vehicle, and where there is a need to arrest a driver for DUI; there should be probable cause for arrest.
For instance, a driver who disregards the traffic stop light ought to be stopped by the police for breaking the law. Then as a follow up to that, the attitude or behavior after he is stopped if it indicates intoxication then it will be proper to apprehend the driver. An exception to the probable cause rule is an arrest made at DUI checkpoints and roadblocks.
Principally, any traffic violation will be sufficient cause for an arrest, but a court is likely to disallow the admissibility of evidence subsequently obtained where the police pull you over devoid of a legitimate reason.
You must also note that a valid traffic stop doesn’t necessarily make a DUI arrest proper; the police officer must have reason to believe the driver violated the state’s DUI laws.
The observations and good judgment of an officer and sometimes breath test result generally helps an officer to draw inference on the Probable cause for a DUI arrest. It can be complicated to challenge evidence drawn from the officer’s observation and the breath test result. For most judges, it would be sufficient probable cause if an officer may say you performed poorly on field sobriety tests (FSTs), had slurred speech or smelled of alcohol.
The biggest challenge that will face a defendant is the inability to dispute probable cause due to breathalyzer results showing blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was over the limit.
• No Miranda Warnings
The Police are generally under duty to give Miranda warnings before questioning or interrogating a suspect in police custody. This is because intermittently, Miranda warnings come into play in DUI cases.
Until a Miranda warning is given to a suspect, any statement made whether of admission or denial will not be admissible in court, and even if admissible, the probative value attached to it will be low.
The statement of a DUI suspect who is in police custody but was not given Miranda warnings who makes an incriminating statement in response to police questioning cannot be used in court against the suspect.
Challenging the Testimony of an Officer Concerning Your Behavior at the Time of Arrest
There are two types of DUI charge in all states which are:
• DUI charge based on actual impairment (an “impairment” DUI) 4
• DUI charge based on the quantity of drugs or alcohol in the driver’s system (a “per se” DUI).
In proving impairment DUI, the officer’s observations can be a significant part of the prosecution’s case. The views of the officer for impairment might include Bad Driving, Poor FST Performance, the odor of alcohol, bizarre behavior, slurred speech, and bloodshot eyes.
To defeat or quash a DUI charge, the defense must challenge the significance of the observations of the officer depending on the circumstances, but it can be difficult to convince jurors that the inference of the officer about the intoxication of the driver was wrong.
Legal Ways to Contradict the Testimony of the Officer in DUI and DWI Charge
• Introduce Witnesses Who Saw Things Dissimilarly
The primary way to challenge or contradict the observation of an officer is to call in witnesses who were physically present at the time of your arrest and saw things differently or dissimilarly than the officer. Alas, in most cases, the only person that may be available as another witness will usually be a passenger whom the prosecution will always argue is deem as a bias and the evidence of a person seen as bias may not still be the kind of evidence a court will totally want to depend upon to decide a matter in your favor.
• Present Convincing Explanations for Your Appearance and Behavior
A driver can also be allowed in law to proffer other explanations leading to the cause of his or her behavior as a basis to counter the observations of an officer other than intoxication leading to the driver’s behavior.
For instance, fatigue and physical disabilities, pressure, bloodshot eyes caused by allergies or other irritants and other ancillary factors can lead to poor FST performance.
Get an Attorney for DUI and DWI Charge
You may read our article on Top 20 Law Firms in America; you may also hire lawyers through UpCounsel. UpCounsel is an online souk for legal services. It allows users to find and hire attorneys via their site. UpCounsel was founded in 2012; it is based in San Francisco, California, USA, and initially provided its service to users in California and New York.
You may also read our article on Traffic Tickets: Legal Options Available To An Offender and How To Deal With DUI or DWI Charge for more information on this subject.