The Golden State takes driving under the influence (“DUI” – also known as driving while intoxicated, or “DWI”) very seriously. A conviction – or in many cases, even a negotiated guilty plea – has life-changing consequences. A suspension of driving privileges may lead to job loss. Even a first time offender may be sentenced to jail time and payment of significant fines.
Although the most important thing a defendant can do is retain the most experienced and knowledgeable DUI attorney possible, there are a number of tasks that can be accomplished right out of the gate. These may prove invaluable in defending the case, and clients who are willing and able to help with their defense are generally more likely to get an acceptable outcome.
Here are some pointers. These are things a DUI defendant should do, even prior to his or her first meeting with a lawyer.
The detailed memory of a defendant, even one who was not legally impaired, will begin to fade in the weeks or even months it will take for a DUI case to make its way through the court system. The defendant should write down anything and everything he or she can remember about the initial stop, as well as the arrest. Even seemingly irrelevant details can prove to be crucial, so err on the side of too much information. Remember that except when shared with your lawyer the list is not confidential, so don’t show it to anyone else. This could lead to them being called as witnesses.
Some of the more important things to note are:
- The time and location of the stop
- The names of any passengers
- The reason was given for the stop. Except at sobriety checkpoints, this is typically a moving violation or the officer’s observation of erratic driving
- Whether a field breathalyzer test was given. If so, a description of the device used
- Whether other field sobriety tests (balance on one leg, walk a straight line, etc.) were given (and, if so, the result)
- Statements the defendant may have made, either to the arresting officer or others, about what he or she had to eat or drink
Go Dark On Social Media While the Case is Pending
We know that “cold turkey” Facebook withdrawal can be difficult, but prosecutors have learned to look for incriminating evidence on social media pages. Although the state may be able to access the account with a subpoena, one doesn’t need to allow them involuntarily. Even innocent photos, if presented without explanation or context, can be damaging, especially if they were taken around the time of the arrest.
Remember, however, that we are talking about limiting access. Deleting an account or its content is not recommended, as it suggests an effort to hide harmful information. However, defendants should immediately do whatever is necessary to block unknown persons from accessing their accounts
Make a List of Potential Witnesses
A defendant should immediately contact friends, co-workers or others, particularly if they can corroborate facts such as how much the defendant drank in what time frame and the absence of signs of impairment. Testimony of witnesses to the DUI stop and arrest may also become significant if counsel challenges their legality.