Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that there is no way to successfully challenge drunk driving charges. Maybe the police officer smelled alcohol on your breath or noticed that you were slurring your words. Perhaps you stumbled or fell down while performing the field sobriety tests. Maybe your breath or blood test demonstrated that you had a blood alcohol concentration higher than 0.08 percent. Based on this type of evidence, you might think that you have no choice but to plead guilty or no contest and face serious penalties including a driver’s license suspension, monetary fines, possible jail time, and a future of living with a criminal record. The fact, however, is that it is always possible to fight DUI charges, and it is very often possible to win.
The team at Okabe & Haushalter includes attorneys who are leaders in the field of Fourth Amendment scholarship. What does this mean to you? It means that we have an intimate understanding of the legal rights that can frequently be used to beat DUI charges by having the evidence suppressed as being inadmissible in court. One of the most common strategies for fighting a DUI case is to allege that the defendant has been the victim of an unlawful traffic stop.
Under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer cannot legally pull a driver over to investigate for DUI or other crimes unless he or she has “reasonable suspicion” to believe that a crime has been—or is being—committed. Unless the officer can demonstrate there was valid reason to pull you over, all of the evidence that was subsequently gathered may be declared inadmissible in court.
Even if the traffic stop was fully legal, there are still many options available for challenging the evidence in your case. To begin with, the field sobriety tests that law enforcement agencies nationwide use to determine whether a driver’s abilities are impaired by alcohol or drugs are anything but reliable. These tests, which include the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus, are largely subjective—if the officer wants you to fail, you will most likely fail. Other factors militate against a successful test, including knee problems, gravel on the road surface, inappropriate footwear, being overweight, and even being intimidated by the flashing police car lights and the officer’s demeanor. By subpoenaing the footage from the police car dashboard video camera, it is often possible to reveal that the officer made errors in administering the tests or that the defendant did in fact pass.
The breathalyzer test that is commonly used to screen for intoxication is not perfect either. It does not directly test the level of alcohol present in the individual’s blood, but instead tests for alcohol vapors in the breath. Therefore, the presence of residual alcohol in the test subject’s mouth can lead to a false positive; it has even been demonstrated that physiological conditions such as diabetes or gastric reflux may cause a failed test. Similarly, blood test samples are sometimes incorrectly handled or analyzed, and contaminants in the vial containing the blood may actually cause fermentation in the sample. If the records of the chain of custody of the sample have any gaps in them, it may be possible to raise doubts about whether the sample might have been mistakenly switched for that of another person.
What you must remember in the wake of an arrest for DUI is that you are legally innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. By challenging the validity of the evidence and introducing doubts as to your guilt, it may be possible to clear your name and protect you against the serious consequences you face. Contact our firm now for a free case evaluation so we can discuss the circumstance of your arrest and determine the most effective strategy for you!