Is it possible to beat a DUI charge? DUI lawyers do so every day, often in cases where there was chemical evidence against the defendant. While no one can promise you they’ll win your case for you, and many different factors affect the outcome, there is an old saying that no case is unwinnable if you have the right lawyer.
12 Defenses to Beat a DUI
Lawyers use a variety of defenses in DUI cases. These defenses have been vetted in previous court cases and have a history of improving a client’s outcome. Not every defense will be appropriate for every case, but here are twelve of the most commonly used:
- Unlawful traffic stop. There are rules governing when a police officer can and cannot pull over a motorist. Generally, the motorist has to be doing something wrong (police must have a “reasonable suspicion” of a crime being committed), or there is evidence that someone in the vehicle needs help. If police pulled you over on a whim, or because of your race, it may have been unlawful. If that’s the case, your entire DUI charge could be thrown out.
- Unlawful arrest. Similarly, there are procedures for how to arrest someone, and when an arrest is legal. Again, your case could be thrown out.
- The arresting officer failed to advise you of your rights. Officers of the law must inform you of your rights at various points in the arrest process. Most famously, they have to read you your Miranda rights (“You have the right to remain silent…”). Additionally, if they ask you to take a blood or breath test, they must inform you that compliance is mandatory and that refusing the test is itself a crime. If they fail at any of these procedures, you will probably still have to face the DUI charge, but some of the evidence against you may be thrown out.
- You weren’t the person driving. It’s not illegal to be intoxicated in a car that someone else is driving. Normally, police assume that whoever is behind the wheel was driving, and that if you were alone in the car you were the driver even if they found you in the passenger seat. If you weren’t the driver, however, you are innocent. Providing evidence of this makes a strong DUI defense.
- The blood alcohol test equipment was flawed. The breath devices used to measure blood alcohol content are not perfect. They must be maintained properly and calibrated regularly. Even then, the data from hundreds of cases can show that a given machine is faulty. A lawyer with special DUI defense training will know how to get this data and review whether a device was working properly.
- The lab that conducted your blood alcohol test didn’t follow proper procedures. Often, police use a blood test instead of a breath test. These are more reliable if done properly. However, personnel at labs can make mistakes, and labs don’t always follow procedures that exist to ensure accuracy. A lawyer will look through the lab’s documentation to spot errors.
- You were within the margin of error for a legal blood alcohol result. All blood alcohol tests have a margin of error. This is considered acceptable in most cases, but what if your test results were close to legal? In that case, you might have been within the legal limit and the margin of error has made you look guilty.
- Law enforcement delayed your blood alcohol test. Police don’t always administer a blood or breath test right away. Sometimes they can’t; other times they choose not to. They do this because, as time goes by, your blood alcohol level actually increases. That’s because alcohol you’ve already consumed will continue to metabolize and enter the blood stream as time goes on. If police delayed your test, then your actual blood alcohol while driving may have been legal despite an over-the-limit test result hours later.
- Mouthwash or medicine threw off the test. You may have alcohol on your breath even if you haven’t consumed any. Some common substances, like mouthwash breath spray or herbal tinctures, may contain alcohol and throw off the test results. If you used such a product, the test can be disputed in court.
- A medical condition threw off the test. Certain medical conditions affect how you perform on a breath test. For example, acid reflux may put large traces of alcohol in your throat and mouth, even if you are not intoxicated. Diabetes commonly throws off breath tests, because it changes your body chemistry and gives the test a false positive.
- Your diet affected the test results. If you eat a low carb, high protein diet (like Atkins, or the Paleo diet), you may get a false positive on a breath test. Again, these diets change your body chemistry. They cause your body to produce ketones, which are similar in structure to isopropyl alcohol.
If you’re not a lawyer it’s not easy to make these defenses. Most must be raised long before the trial. They require filing motions, requesting hearings, or subpoenaing evidence. For example, telling the police your rights were violated when you were arrested will do nothing, but filing a request for the dash cam footage from the arresting officer’s patrol car could prove your case. Even when a lawyer cannot use these tactics to get your case dropped, they can use them to bargain an incredibly lenient deal from the prosecution. That could save you thousands of dollars.
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