In the case that you are charged with a DUI, you do not want to endure the brunt of the punishments. There is always a defense that you can make in the face of a DUI charge to hopefully lighten charges, or even have them dismissed. Most of the best defenses actually involve an offensive move. For instance, challenging the police officer’s handling of the situation or the accuracy of the testing and equipment are two of the most common, effective approaches.
If you are faced with a DUI, here are some strategies we recommend:
- Miranda Rights: After you are pulled over with reasonable suspicion, and then arrested after the officer’s DUI investigation, you are taken into custody. At that point, the officer should read you your Miranda rights—which say you have the right to remain silent because anything you say can be used against you in court, and that you have a right to an attorney. If an officer fails to read these rights to you but continues probing you with questions, the court would not be legally allowed to use those words against you.
- Probable cause for traffic stop: Police offers cannot arbitrarily pull people over. They can stop someone for a legitimate traffic violation or if there is reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence. What constitutes reasonable suspicion is not set in stone, which is a great defense. Many of the driving patterns associated with drunk driving—such as swerving in your lane—could be the result of distractions or poor driving training and not the influence. You have the right to request a suppression hearing or 1538.5 hearing. The judge cross-examines the officer and evaluates the probable cause for the stop. If the judge determines that the officer did not have a legitimate reason to pull you over, then the entire case could be dropped.
- Probable cause for arrest: Similar to pulling you over, an officer must have significant evidence that you were driving under the influence before he can arrest you. This evidence is based off his observations, questions, breath tests, and a field sobriety test. You can also request a suppression hearing to challenge the officer’s reasoning in arresting you. If the judge determines that the officer did not have a valid reason to arrest you, they will dismiss evidence such as the breath and blood tests. Even if you are still convicted, the severity of the charges could be decreased as a result.
- Inaccuracies in tests: There are three primary tests to determine someone’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC): breath, blood, and urine. By driving on the road, you agree that an officer has the right to conduct them if he believes you are under the influence. In Arizona, refusal to take a test results in a year-long suspension of your license, so you should take it if an officer asks you to. However, these tests are not always one-hundred percent accurate. The equipment used to conduct these tests has to be calibrated and maintained in a very careful, specific way, and the tests themselves must be conducted in an exact manner. A qualified expert can review the use of equipment and the tests themselves and determine that they were not done correctly. If this occurs, the charges against you could be dismissed.
- Timing of tests: Generally, alcohol takes about fifty minutes to fully go into effect, but it can take as long as three hours. The law says that your alcohol blood concentration cannot surpass .08 WHILE you are driving. So, if you had drunk right before you began to drive, your BAC would not be high enough to exceed the legal limit. But if the officer pulls you over, takes you to the station, and then conducts the test, your BAC would have been rising the whole time. By challenging the timing of when the test was implemented, you can make a case that you were not actually in control of the vehicle while your BAC exceeded the limit. Even if this does not dismiss the charge, such a defense could certainly reduce its severity.
If you are faced with a DUI charge, it is important to have an experienced DUI attorney who can help you determine your best defense. Our team at West, Longenbaugh and Zickerman has the experience to help you determine your approach to a DUI charge. Contact us now at (520) 790-7337 or browse our website to learn more.