Dui – Drunk Driving Attorney
Criminal Defense Lawyer for DUI Charges
Drunk driving is a crime in all 50 states. It is unlawful to operate or drive a motor vehicle while impaired by the effects of alcohol or with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher. If faced with severe penalties and DUI Charges, you need the best defense.
Depending on where you live, these criminal offenses include Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) or Operating Vehicle Intoxicated (OVI).
Facing DUI Charges
If you face a drunk driving charge, seek the assistance of a criminal defense attorney. There are certain actions an attorney can take to protect your rights. Additionally, an attorney’s actions may minimize the penalties you face or help you avoid a conviction.
The DUI process can be very intimidating and complicated, especially for first-time offenders. Therefore, having a DUI attorney by your side will bring you peace of mind. Know you have a smart legal advocate fighting to help you get your life back on track.
How DUI Charges Can Impact Your Life
Don’t think of a DUI as just a “traffic violation.” The consequences of a DUI arrest and conviction are severe. In fact, they have the potential to affect your life in numerous ways adversely.
Criminal Penalties for DUI Charges
DUI penalties vary by state but include the following
- Driver’s license suspension or revocation
- Steep fines
- Jail or prison time, community service or probation
- House arrest
- Installation of an interlock ignition device in your vehicle
- Court ordered alcohol education program or treatment
- Increased insurance premiums
- Restitution paid to victim/s
DUI Charges or a DUI Conviction damages your reputation. It also creates a strain on personal and professional relationships. The impact may be felt for years because employers, credit bureaus, educational institutions, landlords and other organizations will have access to your criminal record to conduct a background check.
Aggravating Factors that can Enhance Punishment
The severity of your punishment may depend on certain aggravating factors and may include:
- An open container in your vehicle at time of your arrest
- Having a child in the car
- Having a BAC two or more times above legal limit
- Causing an accident that leads to property damage, bodily injury or death
- Having prior DUI Charges
- Refusing to submit to chemical test
- Underage drinking
When researching lawyers in your area, choose a DUI attorney who is board certified. Additionally, your attorney has a thorough knowledge of local DUI laws and courtroom procedures.
It’s also highly important to find a lawyer with a keen understanding of the science behind chemical testing. In fact, the attorney needs to understand how breath test machines work. These tests include the machines’ faults, what maintenance they require and what protocols an officer must follow.
Most DUI attorneys offer a free initial consultation.
Protect Your Rights During a DUI Stop
A traffic stop always precedes a DUI Charges. Law enforcement can pull you over on suspicion of drunk driving if you are exhibiting erratic driving behavior. This practice includes: swerving, speeding, driving on the wrong side of the road, or breaking sporadically.
A police officer can stop you for an unrelated reason. For example, this includes a burned out taillight. However, the officer can proceed with a DUI investigation if they smell alcohol on your breath, see an open container in your car, or notice you slurring your words.
When the officer approaches your car, roll down your window and keep your hands on the steering wheel. Provide the officer with your license and registration, as well as your insurance information. Address the officer as Sir or Ma’am. However, don’t engage in conversation — anything you say may later be used to impact you negatively.
The officer may ask if you were drinking, how many drinks you had, where you have come from and where you’re going. However, you are under no obligation to answer these questions.
Additionally, if the police offer asks if he/she can search your vehicle, say no. The fourth amendment states that you have a right to privacy and from illegal search and seizures. If the officer looks through your car or demands that you open your trunk, your attorney can file a motion to suppress the evidence gathered.
What to Do if You are Asked to Take Field Sobriety Tests or Preliminary Breath Test
To begin gathering evidence, a police officer may ask you to step out of your vehicle. Then, they will ask you to perform a series of field sobriety tests. These tests include walking a straight line or touching your fingertip to your nose. It can also include reciting the alphabet backward. These tests are used to assess whether or not you display any obvious physical or cognitive impairments because these impairments can affect your ability to operate your vehicle safely.
Field sobriety tests are voluntary, and you should politely decline to participate. These tests are designed to make you fail. In fact, in the end, it’s the police officer’s word against yours.
A police officer may ask you to breathe into a portable breathalyzer machine and is also known as a preliminary breath test (PBT). The test is a voluntary test that you should refuse. A roadside breath test is known to be an inaccurate device that can inflate BAC levels.
If You Are Arrested
If you are handcuffed and placed under arrest, do not argue with the officer or attempt to resist arrest. When you arrive at the police station, state that you want to exercise your right to speak to an attorney. Do not answer any questions while in police custody.
Take the Breath Test
The officer will ask you to submit to a chemical test. The test can be a breath, blood or urine test. It’s important that you consent to this test. All states have an implied consent law. This law states that every person who applies for a driver’s license must agree in advance to a chemical test if arrested by police on suspicion of DUI. If you refuse to take the chemical test, you risk an automatic driver’s license suspension (six to 12 months).
Contest Driver’s License Suspension at DMV Hearing
In your DUI case, you can expect the District Attorney’s Office in your county to file criminal charges against you in court and the Department of Motor Vehicles to take administrative action to suspend or revoke your driver’s license.
When you get arrested, the police officer most likely confiscated your driver’s license. In its place, the officer gave you a temporary permit valid for a specified number of days.
You have the right to contest the suspension of your license. However, you must contact your local DMV and request an administrative hearing. The hearing is usually within 5 to 10 days from the date of your arrest.
To determine the exact deadline, refer to the fine print on your temporary permit given to you by the officer. If you fail to schedule this meeting in the time allotted, you forfeit your right to a hearing.
A DMV officer hears an administrative hearing, and this offers you the opportunity to argue why your driving privileges should not be suspended or revoked.
Your attorney can represent you at this hearing and challenge the circumstances surrounding your arrest. Did the officer have probable cause to pull you over? Was the arrest lawful? Was your BAC at or above .08 percent? If you refused the breath test, did the officer inform you that refusal could result in an automatic suspension of your license?
How to Beat DUI Charges
Even if you fail a sobriety test and feel the evidence against you is strong, there are many opportunities to mount a strong defense. An experienced DUI attorney will discuss your legal options and make a recommendation in your best interests.
Challenge the Legality of the Traffic Stop
The most common line of defense is to challenge whether the police officer had probable cause to pull you over. Or, a reasonable suspicion to believe you committed a crime. The police can’t stop you based on a “hunch.” They need to articulate the exact legal cause for pulling you over. If the traffic stop was illegal, any evidence gathered after the arrest is considered inadmissible in court.
Challenge the Reliability of Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are highly subjective and notoriously unreliable. They don’t always prove whether you are too impaired to operate a car safely. An attorney can challenge certain external factors that may have skewed the results. These include a medical or psychological condition, slippery or uneven road, inclement weather, poor footwear, restrictive clothing, poor lighting, etc.
It’s also possible that the police officer did not follow the proper protocol outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration when executing the tests. Your lawyer can refer to the police report as well as the police dash cam videotape to argue this point.
Rising Blood Alcohol Argument
If your breath or blood alcohol level exceeds .08 percent but it was obtained an hour or two after your DUI stop, your attorney can argue that your BAC level at the time of the test was still rising. Therefore, it’s possible your BAC at the time you were driving was lower.
Question the Accuracy of the Breath or Blood Test
Contrary to popular belief, there is a broad range of factors affecting the admissibility of breath and blood tests in a DUI case.
There are many potential reasons for a breathalyzer device to produce an erroneous reading:
- Improper maintenance, not properly calibrated
- Equipment malfunction
- Health conditions (acid reflux, GERD, diabetes, or asthma)
- Incorrect blood draw
- Blood contamination
- Improper handling/transfer/storage of blood sample
Negotiate Plea Deal with Prosecutor
Depending on the circumstances of your case, your attorney may negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor and may involve entering a plea of guilty to a lesser offense to avoid more severe penalties. There may be alternative sentencing options such as alcohol and drug rehabilitation, sober living, house arrest, community service, etc.