You are innocent until proven guilty, and DUIs are no exception. You may have tested at or above the legal limit of .08 percent on a breath or blood test, you may have failed field sobriety tests, and law enforcement may even have witnessed you driving erratically.
None of this means anything unless the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving under the influence. In order to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt," they need evidence, and a court must dismiss any evidence that was not obtained lawfully.
One of the most common, and arguably one of the most effective, DUI defenses is attacking police procedure. If law enforcement did not conduct themselves in a way that regulations require, then the evidence they obtained at your arrest cannot be used to prosecute you. Police procedure is most important at the traffic stop and during BAC (blood alcohol content) testing.
Police Procedure at the Traffic Stop
There are certain things police officers can and cannot do at a traffic stop. Some things DUI defense attorneys will look out for include:
- Whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to pull you over – You cannot be pulled over unless you committed a traffic violation or police have reasonable suspicion to believe you committed some other type of violation.
- Whether the officer manipulated you into consenting to a search – Police do not have the right to search your person or your vehicle unless they have probable cause to do so, but they often twist words to make it seem like they have that right.
- Whether the officer unreasonably detained you – Unless the officer has probable cause that you committed a violation, they cannot keep you for an "unreasonable" amount of time. It may be helpful to ask "Officer, am I free to go?"
- Whether the officer required you to take field sobriety tests – Prior to an arrest, you are not required by law to submit to any field sobriety or alcohol/drug testing. These tests are highly subjective and can be used against you as evidence to back a DUI charge.
Police Procedure During BAC Testing
- If you did consent to field sobriety tests… there are standardized procedures that every law enforcement officer must follow. Any deviation from that standard means the evidence from that particular test must be thrown out.
- If you took a Breathalyzer test… law enforcement officers should have informed you of your rights prior to the test, asked you to "keep blowing" to ensure you completed the test properly, and other requirements. Again, deviation from this standard can result in the evidence being dismissed from your case.
- Your right to independent testing – One right that law enforcement must explain to you is your right to independent chemical testing should you choose it. Should this differ from law enforcement's chemical testing, this evidence would be called into question.
To learn more about challenging your DUI, contact Gwinnett County DUI Attorney Richard S. Lawson today!