Defending a Driving While Under the Influence (DUI) case takes knowledge, patience, and persistence. Because there are many areas where a DUI charge may be challenged, there is no single approach that will be successful in all cases. Instead, the defense of any DUI case must be fact specific. However, in every case, an experienced DUI attorney will challenge the charges at every juncture where such a challenge is reasonable.
Challenging the Basis for the Stop in DUI Cases
Police are not permitted to just pull cars over because they feel like it. They cannot act on a whim or caprice. Instead, they must have “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that a crime is being committed before they can pull someone over. In the context of a DUI case, this typically focuses on driving conduct. For example, if a car is weaving over the fog line and center line, is speeding, fails to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, or fails to signal a turn, there are reasonable bases for pulling a car over. On the other hand, stopping a car because it is close to bar time, or because the cop is curious about who would drive a red Ferrari are not reasonable bases for pulling a car over.
Challenging the Extension of the Stop in DUI Cases
Assuming the car was legally stopped, this is not the end of the analysis. Next, an attorney in a DUI case must examine the circumstances under which the stop was extended beyond the original basis for the stop. If, for example, a person is stopped for speeding, the police are entitled to detain that person long enough to give them a speeding ticket. They are not permitted to expand the stop unless they have a reasonable basis to do so.
If, for example, the driver is slurring their words, cannot remove their license from their wallet, or cannot focus on answering the police's questions, this may provide a reasonable basis to detain a person longer, to determine whether they were driving under the influence. On the other hand, if a person does not exhibit any signs of intoxication, it is “beyond the scope” of the stop to require the driver to exit the vehicle and perform roadside field sobriety tests.
Challenging the Roadside Field Sobriety and Drug Recognition Testing in DUI Cases
Police often use roadside testing to determine whether someone should be asked to submit to blood, breath, or urine testing to measure the presence of drugs or alcohol. In cases where drug use is suspected, the police may rely on a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to observe the suspect and draw conclusions. There are many reasons one may fail roadside sobriety testing, including many that do not include being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Sometimes, a careful review of the videotaped evidence of the roadside testing reveals inconsistencies with the police report which render the police officer's testimony unreliable. These can be the basis for defending a DU charge.
Challenging the Allegation of “Driving” or “Being in Physical Control” in DUI Cases
While it doesn't happen often, sometimes the issue in a DUI case is whether or not the person was actually driving the car. This can happen if the police come across an accident scene where no driver is found. Police might logically assume the registered owner is the person who drove the car. However, this assumption must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a person can be convicted of a DUI. There may very well have been other people who drove the car.
Another challenge to the driving element of the offense focuses on the language, “being in physical control,” sometimes referred to as “parked car DUI cases.” Under Georgia's DUI laws, if one is driving or if one is in physical control of the vehicle, they can be charged with DUI. Being in physical control can be a judgment call. Obviously, a person driving a car is in physical control of it. Obviously, a person inside their home, when the car is sitting in the driveway, is not in physical control of it. The gray areas in the middle are where the challenges lie. Consider these scenarios: someone is in the back seat of a parked car; someone is in the front seat of a parked car but the keys are outside the vehicle, or someone is in the driver's seat but there are no keys to be found in the car. In each of these cases, an argument can be made about whether or not the driver was in “physical control” of the vehicle.
Challenging the Test Results in DUI Cases
In some DUI cases, it all comes down to the blood alcohol concentration, as reflected by the testing employed by the state. Whether the test is from blood, breath, or urine, there are challenges that can be launched against the test results. Sometimes the challenge comes from whether the test results were within the margin of error, such that the blood alcohol concentration may have been 0.08, but may also have been 0.075, which makes a difference from a legal standpoint.
Challenges can also be mounted based on the collection of the sample, the storage of the sample, the calibration of the instruments that tested the sample, and the qualifications of the person who performed the test.
Are You Facing DUI Charges?
If you are facing DUI charges, you need an attorney who will provide a vigorous defense. Our Roswell & Alpharetta, Georgia DUI attorneys can help. We litigate hundreds of DUI cases each year. Because our focus is exclusively on these types of cases, we have the focused experience you need. Call us today for a free consultation at 404.816.4440. We have attorneys available to answer your questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.