When people think about the defense of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) cases, they often think of trials. And while trials certainly have their place in DUI defense, that is not the only point at which a DUI can or should be defended. In fact, an experienced DUI attorney knows to challenge to government at every turn, from the initial stop of the car, the subsequent investigation, the test-taking procedures, and the test results, as well as the trial.
The Stop of the Car
In most, but not all DUI cases, there is a stop of a car which starts the DUI investigation. The law requires that police have probable cause to pull over your vehicle. This means that they must identify a legally valid reason for stopping you. Legally valid reasons for stopping a car include:
- Crossing the fog line
- Crossing the center line
- Failing to signal a turn
- Driving without headlights on, when it is unsafe to do so.
Reasons police cannot pull your car over include:
- Your race
- The type of car you drive
- Their disagreement with your political bumper stickers
- Other reasons not based on the law.
A DUI defense attorney will carefully review the stated basis for the stop. But that's not all. Most squad cars are now equipped with cameras. Every stop should be reviewed to confirm the situation is as the police say it is. If the police stopped your car for an illegal reason, or no reason at all, any evidence they discover as a result of that stop will be suppressed. This can result in a dismissal of the DUI charges.
The Detention after a Stop
Even if you were legally stopped, that is not the end of your DUI defense. After they have legally stopped you, they must have an additional reason to ask you to perform field sobriety tests or arrest you for DUI. In other words, if you are speeding, and they stop you, they can give you a speeding ticket and that is all, unless, once stopped, they develop a suspicion you are intoxicated. Speeding alone is not valid proof that you are intoxicated. Instead, they must observe other indicia of intoxication, such as the odor of alcohol; watery eyes; an inability to perform fine motor function, such as removing a license from one's wallet; or slurred speech.
Again, the body camera an officer wears can be helpful in ascertaining whether there actually was a valid basis to extend the stop beyond simply the original reason for the detention. Without proof of additional indicia of intoxication, the police are not allowed to impose on you by asking you to submit to additional testing.
Field Sobriety Tests
Often, field sobriety tests give police additional probable cause to take someone down to the station to ask them to submit to further testing. In particular, when the government calls in a so-called drug recognition expert (DRE), their evaluation of one's level of intoxication may be called into question. If, after reviewing how one performs on the field sobriety tests, there is no indication of intoxication from drugs or alcohol, the subsequent detention can be challenged. It is possible to get the case dismissed at this stage.
Blood, Breath, and Urine Testing
Whether you are subjected to a blood test, a breath test, or a urine test, the procedure needs to be carefully examined to ensure that quality control measures are in place and have been followed at every step. For example, if someone uses the wrong type of blood tube, alcohol can actually develop in the test tube after collection. If the “air blank,” which measures the amount of alcohol present in the ambient air, reads 0.02, this is an indication either the machine is malfunctioning, or the test results are unreliable because of the amount of alcohol simply present in the air. In each case, the instrument functioning must be assessed.
Additionally, the test results must be carefully reviewed. For example, if a person provides a breath test, the police collect two samples. If one sample reads 0.05, and the other sample reads, 0.24, something is obviously wrong with the test results. Understanding how blood, breath, and urine testing work in DUI cases is critical to a good DUI defense. If the test collection procedures or the test results are unreliable, the case may be dismissed.
Of course, there are also cases where a DUI trial is the best DUI defense. The issue may be who was driving the car, when the driver consumed alcohol, whether the person accused was legally in physical control of the vehicle, or whether it was less safe to drive given their consumption of alcohol or prescription drugs. Every DUI case is different. The defense in one DUI case may or may not be appropriate in another DUI case. In every case, a careful evaluation must be made about the law and the facts when deciding how to proceed to trial.
Are You Facing DUI Charges?
If you are facing DUI charges, you need an attorney well versed in DUI defense. Our Hall County DUI attorneys can provide you the representation you need. We limit our practice to cases involving DUI charges, as well as other alcohol-related charges. This way, we can ensure we are up to date on the most recent case law, statutes, and the science behind DUI cases. Contact our office today for a free consultation at 404.816.4440.