Many people accused of driving under the influence feel they have no recourse, that they have to plead guilty because their breath or blood test is all the proof needed to convict someone of DUI charges. But that’s just not the case. With a skilled criminal defense attorney by your side and one of these common DUI defenses, your DUI case may end with reduced charges, dropped charges or a not guilty verdict.
Fighting Your Chemical Tests
One of the strongest pieces of the state’s evidence in a DUI trial is the chemical test, either a Breathalyzer or blood test. If you can prove that these were performed improperly, you may weaken the state’s case enough to successfully win your case.
Blood test results can be beneficial in that the stored sample can offer your lawyer the chance to retest the results. If these results turn out differently, you can challenge the accuracy of the lab that originally tested your sample. Even if these test results turn out the same, you can challenge the collection, storage, transportation or testing of the blood sample because any procedural mistakes involved with the chain of command in your blood test can render it invalid as evidence as it could have been mixed up with someone else’s blood, tainted or tested improperly.
Similarly, Breathalyzers must be properly calibrated and in working order in order to render accurate results. Even simple issues such as temperature changes in the room, chemicals in the immediate area, a person’s breathing pattern and more can affect the results of a Breathalyzer.
While it is rare for these pieces of evidence to be subject to such obvious mistakes that they are exempted as evidence, if your case goes to trial, your defense lawyer may be able to question these factors enough to win the jury over, which is why challenging the results of chemical test is one of the most successful DUI defense strategies around.
Falsely High Breathalyzer Results
Even if your Breathalyzer was performed correctly, a number of factors can result in falsely high results. If you have certain medical conditions such as diabetes, a KETO diet or had a fever, any of these factors could inflate your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) on a Breathalyzer by .01% or more, which is more than enough to cause someone to fail. Even using a diet mixer could change your BAC.
One of the most common reasons people get a falsely high breathalyzer result though is that they had alcohol in their mouth at the time they took the Breathalyzer. Obviously most people aren’t drinking while waiting to give a breath test, but vomiting or burping can result in alcohol in your stomach going back into your mouth, which will inflate your Breathalyzer results accordingly.
That’s why California state law requires law enforcement officers to watch suspects for 15 minutes in order to make sure that they do not put anything in their mouth, burp or regurgitate prior to testing so the results can be accurate. In reality though, many officers fail to watch suspects this full time and instead fill out paperwork or prepare the blood test machine. But if the suspect burps or vomits when the officer looks away, the entire breath test will be compromised. This is something you should share with your lawyer if you noticed it happened while waiting for your test as many DUI cases have been thrown out for this very reason.
The Initial Traffic Stop Was Illegal
The law states that police must have a reasonable suspicion you committed some Vehicle Code violation or are driving impaired before stopping a vehicle. They must also not prolong a detained driver longer than reasonably necessary if they don’t suspect drunk driving or some other crime being committed.
If you were stopped for an infraction unrelated to your driving and showed no indication of intoxication or given the officer any other cause for reasonable suspicion, it is against the law for the officer to make you take a field sobriety test or Breathalyzer. While it can be difficult to successfully argue that the officer had no grounds for reasonable suspicion because there are so many things that meet this legal requirement, people are still occasionally arrested for drunk driving without meeting the standard.
It’s worth mentioning that field sobriety tests are not legally required and the results are highly subjective. In fact, many people fail simply due to road conditions, medical conditions or similar problems that have nothing to do with their actual state of inebriation. That means that even if you failed a field sobriety test, you can still fight and win against your DUI charge if your defense lawyer invokes the right strategies for your specific circumstances.
You Were Illegally Stopped at a DUI Checkpoint
Likewise, while DUI checkpoints are legal, they are only legal if performed under a specific set of rules. Some courts insist that police must allow drivers the opportunity to turn away and leave the checkpoint rather than pass through it, although some courts do not require the police to require an opt out of a sobriety checkpoint. If not every car is being stopped, then the cars must be stopped at set intervals -meaning they cannot stop a certain car based on how it, or its driver looks. In fact, even if a driver is demonstrating slurred speech, they cannot be stopped if they are not slated to fit into the pre-determined pattern.
If your rights were violated by a checkpoint that was operated improperly, a DUI lawyer could help ensure the charges against you could be dropped or reduced according to the law.
Other Effective DUI Defense Strategies
Depending on the specifics of your case, you could also use other DUI defenses as well. Two common defenses include the rising alcohol defense and the medical emergency defense. The rising alcohol defense argues that you drank alcohol shortly before you were stopped and that it did not yet enter your system at the time you were pulled over although it did begin to affect you by the time you were chemically tested. This means that you were not technically driving while actually under the influence.
The medical emergency defense is a very specific defense used by those seeking help in an emergency with no other options. While not applicable to many DUI cases, it is a total defense, meaning that if the defense is successfully argued, you cannot be convicted no matter how drunk you were at the time.
Plea Bargains in DUI Cases
Even in cases where you may not be able to successfully fight your drunk driving charges entirely, a skilled DUI attorney may be able to successfully negotiate a plea bargain so you have the minimum sentence possible, sometimes even reducing the charges to wet reckless rather than drunk driving.
If you have been charged with a DUI, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with attorney Peter M. Liss.