Too many people believe the deck is stacked in favor of prosecutors in DUI cases. The truth is that California DUI laws do offer law enforcement and prosecutors weapons to use in apprehending and prosecuting individuals suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The key point to keep in mind is that a DUI charge is nothing more than an accusation until it is proven by competent, reliable evidence in court. You are innocent until proven guilty, so here are some of defenses that might be available depending upon the facts of a particular case.
Challenging probable cause for the arrest
The Constitution protects all Americans from unlawful searches and seizures. An arrest is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, and police must have probable cause to arrest you on a DUI and have at least reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to stop your vehicle.
Police cannot simply pull your car over without observing some activity leading them to believe a crime is being committed. The most common cause for stopping a motorist is usually observing a violation of the traffic laws. One of the most common reasons given by police for pulling over a driver who is later charged with DUI is observing the person driving “erratically.”
A signs of erratic driving could be failing to stay in lane, but there could be any number of reasons why a person might veer from their lane of travel. Unless an officer observes the individual for a long enough length of time to be able to distinguish between erratic behavior and veering to avoid what was perceived as an object on the roadway, there might be sufficient grounds for the police stopping the vehicle.
Even if the officer had cause to stop your vehicle because he or she observed you violating the law, an arrest for DUI requires the officer having probable cause to believe you were impaired. Officers will frequently base this on observations of a driver, including the following characteristics:
- Unsteady gait
- Impaired coordination and balance
- Glass, watery or bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
Experienced DUI defense attorneys know that any of these physical characteristics could be caused by medical conditions or from medications taken under the supervision of a physician. One of the first things defense attorneys do is ask individuals charged with a DUI for a list of all medications they were taking on the day of their arrest.
Refusing to consent to blood or breath testing
If you refuse to give consent to chemical testing to determine your blood alcohol content level, it will result in the suspension of your driver’s license for at least one year. However, state law requires the officer requesting your consent to advise you of the consequences associated with refusing to consent. The failure of the officer to follow the procedures outline in the statute could invalidate the refusal, but you must request an administrative hearing at the department of motor vehicles immediately after your arrest on the DUI.
Alcohol absorption rates and the accuracy of testing
Expert witnesses can play an important role in the defense strategy in a DUI case in which a breath or blood test result will be offered into evidence by prosecutors. Chemical tests measure the blood alcohol content level. A BAC of 0.08 percent or higher is evidence of impairment in California. However, the alcohol you drink is not immediately absorbed into the bloodstream. Your BAC level rises over time.
A DUI charge based on a report of a BAC of 0.08 percent might not necessarily mean that was your BAC at the time of your arrest. An expert witness could help establish absorption rates and the time that elapsed between your arrest and the testing to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors about whether the report accurately reflects your level of impairment at the time of your arrest.
A criminal defense attorney can help
DUI charges carry with them jail, fines, and other penalties if you are convicted. A criminal defense attorney familiar with California DUI laws is your best source of legal advice and representation.