Common DUI Defenses and How They Happen
Facing a driving under the influence (DUI) charge can be very stressful for any defendant, which is completely understandable considering a DUI can have serious consequences on that person’s life.
If someone finds himself or herself facing a DUI charge, it is important that he or she has an advocate to fight these charges. However, in order to succeed in fighting a DUI charge, it is important that the defendant understand how these defenses work.
1. Improper Stop Made by Police
One defense is that the arresting officer had no legal justification to make the stop or that he or she did not follow proper legal procedure during the stop and subsequent arrest.
The U.S. Constitution prohibits police from being able to arbitrarily stop someone without reasonable suspicion. Therefore, the officer must have more than a simple hunch that a crime is being committed or must not just be randomly making stops.
If the driver is otherwise following the speed limit, is not swerving, is obeying all traffic laws and no other violations can be found, a defense may be able to be raised that the stop was improper.
2. Not Following Field Sobriety Test Protocol
Once the stop has been made and if the officer believes the individual may be intoxicated, the officer must follow specific protocol to conduct what is known as a field sobriety test (FST). These tests are meant to determine whether the person is operating the vehicle while impaired.
However, it is imperative that the predetermined procedures be followed closely. If the officer does not follow the protocol, it is possible that evidence obtained through the FST that would indicate that the person is intoxicated can be suppressed by the defense.
Further, certain factors can play into whether the evidence is even reliable. If the defendant was asked to do the heel-toe walking test, but he or she did it in footwear that was not proper or if the weather conditions were bad, the reliability of this evidence could be questioned.
3. Improper Breathalyzer Procedure
Many police officers use a breathalyzer to determine the person’s alcohol content. However, these machines must be properly maintained and calibrated on a regular basis for them to function properly.
In addition, the test must also be properly administered for the results to be valid. If it is found that the results are not proper or that the breathalyzer may have malfunctioned or not have been calibrated properly, the evidence may be successfully suppressed.
4. Improper Testing and Handling of Blood Alcohol Samples
Police often rely on blood alcohol tests to determine the person’s level of intoxication. However, this test must first be properly conducted to be valid, meaning they must be taken by a trained and licensed phlebotomist as soon as possible following the arrest.
If the wait time between the arrest and testing is too long or if the lab technician is not properly trained, this could cause the results to be put into question.
Once the samples are taken, they must also be properly stored and maintained to avoid any contamination, mislabeling or fermentation.
An attorney will be able to review the results and the chain of custody to help determine whether the proper procedure was followed during and following the blood alcohol testing.
5. Attributing Factors or Medical Conditions
Occasionally, the defendant may not actually be intoxicated but may be affected in a similar manner by a medical condition. In fact, many conditions exist that can give the appearance of intoxication. Many substances or medications that the defendant is taking may also skew the results of a breathalyzer test.
If someone is suffering from a neurological problem or severe fatigue, he or she may also exhibit certain behavior, such as slurred speed or stumbling, that may give reason to believe he or she is intoxicated.
Similarly, other medical conditions, such as allergies or sinus issues, may lead to watery or red eyes. In other situations, the defendant may suffer from a condition known as ketosis, which is a diabetic side effect that causes glucose to be fermented in the blood stream and create a smell of alcohol on the person’s breath.
If any of these medical conditions apply, they could be used to fight the evidence presented by the prosecution.