A DUI conviction can have profound impacts on your life. Even if it's your first offense, you could be ordered to probation, be required to pay hefty fines, and/or sentenced to jail. Additionally, you could lose your driving privileges. Unfortunately, many people believe that they can't fight their DUI charges and end up suffering the consequences. We're here to tell you that this is a common misconception. You do have the option to challenge the drunk driving accusations made against you even if a field sobriety test or breath test "revealed" that you were driving under the influence.
The Burden of Proof
To get a better understanding of how it's possible to fight your DUI charge, it's helpful to know a little bit about the criminal justice process – specifically the prosecutor's burden of proof. When you're charged with DUI, you are innocent until proven guilty. It is the State's job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offense.
To meet their burden of proof, the prosecutor must present evidence against you. In a DUI case, this could include the arresting officer's observations, results from field sobriety tests, and/or readouts from breath or blood tests. The most effective way to fight a DUI charges is to cast doubt on the prosecutor's evidence, which requires identifying holes and weaknesses. If the judge or jury hearing the case cannot say with certainty that the prosecutor's case proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you're guilty, they must return a not guilty verdict.
Raising Defenses in a DUI Case
Although the prosecutor might have evidence against you in your DUI case, that does not mean you are guilty or that you'll be found guilty. You can fight your charges and defend your innocence. To do this, you must carefully review the State's case against you. It's essential to have a lawyer on your side throughout the process, as they can help you understand how you can proceed with your case.
Depending on the circumstances, DUI charges can be fought by raising various defenses that include, but are not limited to:
- Field sobriety test inaccuracy: Many times, after an officer pulls someone over on suspicion of DUI, they will require them to participate in field sobriety tests (FSTs). These may include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, one-leg stand test, and walk-and-turn test. FSTs can be challenging for someone who isn't under the influence of alcohol, and various factors can influence performance, such as uneven surfaces, personal balance, or poor lighting. This is why it's important to politely refuse to take part in FSTs.
- Chemical test error: After a DUI arrest, the individual may have to take a breath or blood test. These tests must be administered correctly; otherwise, they can return skewed results. Things such as incorrect machine calibration or improper storing of blood can suggest that someone was under the influence when they weren't.
- No probable cause: Before an officer can stop a person on suspicion of DUI, they must have probable cause. That means there must be some reasonable belief that the driver broke the law. Generally, probable cause is based on the officer's observations of driving behavior. If the individual was weaving between lanes, driving too fast or slow, or disobeying traffic laws, the cop might have reason to pull them over. However, if they weren't doing anything wrong, they might have been subject to an unlawful stop.
- Improper arrest procedures: When an officer makes an arrest, they must do so following proper procedures. If they fail to do something during the process, such as read the Miranda Rights, or they do something outside of their lawful power, the arrest may be deemed illegal. The evidence obtained may be suppressed in court.
It's important to note that although the above are possible defenses to a DUI charge, each case is unique. If you were arrested for this offense, speak with an attorney right away to assess your situation and determine your legal options.
At Koenig Law Office, our Bakersfield attorney has extensive experience handling DUI cases, and we'll help fight your charges. Call us at (661) 338-5353 or contact us online today.