You cannot be charged with a crime, even DUI, without evidence. However, it is a mistake to believe the only evidence the prosecution can use against you in a DUI case is a chemical test of your blood alcohol concentration. Individuals in California can and have been convicted of DUI without taking a breathalyzer or blood test.
Not all evidence is the same, and not all evidence will hold up in court. A skilled DUI lawyer can evaluate your case and determine what evidence is likely to be challenged successfully. For a free consultation with a leading DUI attorney, call us today at (310) 862-0199.
DUI Without BAC
You may have heard that the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in California is 0.08%. While this is true, California Vehicle Code 23152(a) makes it illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol without regard to a specific BAC. Therefore, a chemical test to determine your BAC isn’t a strict requirement to be charged with a DUI.
Refusing a Chemical Test Can Cause Additional Problems
Before you are arrested for a DUI, you may be asked to perform a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS). Typically, you are legally allowed to refuse the request with no consequences.
The ability to refuse a test of your BAC changes if:
- You are on probation for a previous DUI offense.
- You are a driver under the age of 21.
- You have been arrested for a DUI.
If you meet any of these conditions, you may face additional penalties if you refuse to submit to testing. A chemical test refusal at this stage becomes a sentence enhancement, meaning you face:
- More time in jail
- More time without your license
- Extra mandatory DUI classes
The specific increases will depend on your DUI conviction history. The more DUIs you have on your record for the past 10 years, the harsher this sentence enhancement will be.
Types of Evidence in a DUI Case
In order to secure a DUI conviction, a prosecutor must prove that you were:
- Under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Driving a vehicle
Prosecutors can have multiple types of evidence to prove a DUI case. These could include:
- Chemical blood tests
- Field sobriety tests (FSTs)
- Officer testimony
- Physical evidence (e.g., a bottle of alcohol in the cupholder)
- Video evidence of your driving behavior
Prosecutors typically build cases around more than one piece of evidence. This is why refusing to conduct a chemical test does not guarantee that you’ll avoid a DUI conviction.
Field Sobriety Tests Are Not Mandatory
The results of an FST can be a convincing piece of evidence to members of a jury. However, you should know that:
- You are not required to perform an FST.
- Your defense attorney can successfully dispute the results.
Like a PAS, an officer may not compel you to perform an FST. You may politely decline any request to perform an FST and you do not have to provide an explanation for your refusal.
FSTs can show signs of inebriation, but your DUI lawyer may be able to successfully challenge the results by showing:
- You were tired.
- You have a medical condition.
- The officer was unclear in their instructions.
If you agreed to an FST, make sure you let your lawyer know what you remember about the experience as it may allow them to have that part of the officer’s testimony excluded from the trial.
Fighting the Evidence Against You in a DUI Case
While there are many forms of evidence that may be used against you in a DUI, not all may be permitted. If there is an error in how a piece of evidence was gathered, your lawyer may be able to invoke the exclusionary rule and submit a motion to suppress it. Errors that might occur in a DUI case include:
- Improperly stopping you
- Failing to have probable cause to make the arrest
- Conducting an illegal search
- Missteps in the chain of evidence
If your lawyer successfully argues that the evidence was gained improperly, it may not be used to convict you of a DUI.
Your Case Outcome Improves with Evidence Suppression
When evidence is successfully challenged, it can weaken the prosecutor’s chances of securing a victory when the charge is brought to trial. As more evidence is suppressed, you improve your likelihood of receiving a plea deal for a downgraded charge (e.g., drunk in public, open container, wet reckless driving) or having the charge dismissed entirely.
Having evidence suppressed is not easy. You must understand the rules of evidence in order to properly challenge it, which is why it is critical to have an experienced lawyer working on your side.
If you’re ready to speak with a leading DUI attorney for a free case evaluation, you can call us today at (310) 862-0199.