Often I get asked if you can defend against a DUI charge. All cases can establish a defense. But, your defense is like most problems in the practice of law. It depends on the facts of each particular case. A defense that could work well in one case might not work in another. In my experience, I prefer to alter my strategy. I will cater a defense depending on the individual case. For example, if I have a case where there is a chain-of-custody issue with evidence, I will focus on that issue. I would rather have one strong issue to work with than something irrelevant. Irrelevant factors are those such as a police officer writing down that the car was a four-door instead of a two-door. This doesn’t really matter in your case. I want to focus on the most important factors to find the best defense.
Some of the best defenses to use are legal defenses. These legal defenses should have basis in case precedent. A person could be clearly intoxicated, and probably unsafe to operate a motor vehicle. But, if a police officer makes a stop without a reason, evidence becomes inadmissible. The judge has to suppress evidence derived from an illegal traffic stop. I will explain some of the more common defenses in DUI cases.
To convict a person of DUI, the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant was driving a vehicle. This means that the prosecutor has to prove that you were the driver of a vehicle. There are many issues that are contested in a case. A few include:
- Where the vehicle was found.
- Whether the keys were in the ignition.
- If the motor vehicle was running.
- Whether the vehicle was operable.
- Whether the defendant was conscious.
If you were passed out, for example, with the vehicle running at a stoplight, a jury might consider this driving. But, if you were in your driveway using your car for shelter, a jury might not consider this driving. In this case, your intoxication level might not matter.
Challenging the Prosecution
When challenging the impairment of a driver, the prosecutor is required to prove that the driver couldn’t operate a vehicle safely. This inability to drive must stem from alcohol consumption. In order to vote guilty, a jury has to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant’s ability to drive was affected by alcohol consumption. If a driver can safely operate a vehicle without swerving, weaving, varying speed, or showing signs of impairment, these facts go towards reasonable doubt. This type of defense is used in cases where a defendant is pulled over by the police for an infraction such as speeding. Issues such as speeding are not necessarily indicative of operating under the influence.
For example, if a driver pulled over for a taillight violation doesn’t show signs of operating under the influence, it could be reasonable to believe that prior alcohol or drug consumption didn’t impair them while driving. Another defense is to challenge the test result. You could challenge a blood, breath, or urine test. Certain factors and circumstances can prevent a breath testing device from obtaining an accurate reading. An example of a problem with breath test results is contaminating substances in the machine. These substances can be mistaken for alcohol molecules and ultimately cause a false result. Human error can also contribute to the accuracy of the test results.
It is important to know that some DUI cases are difficult to defend. Part of effective legal representation involves extensive negotiating. This can result in a better result for the client before trial. My focus on some cases, especially those involving accidents with a victim, is mitigation. I look to get the least restrictive sentence possible. Even cases that look difficult can get a good result. It just depends on different circumstances that may not be easily recognizable. It is always necessary to explore all of the various legal and factual defenses to get the best possible result. This is true regardless of whether or not the case goes to trial.