Drunk Driving Defenses
Facing a DUI charge can be a stressful and life-changing experience. Fortunately, there are many ways to defend against DUI allegations. One of the first things that the prosecutor will ask the arresting officer about is the defendant’s driving pattern. Movements like swerving, jerking, and straying outside the lines can indicate that the driver is operating a vehicle while intoxicated. In many cases, however, a sober driver will engage in the same erratic movement patterns. A good defense to allegations that you were swerving or gliding is to ask the arresting officer about the good driving habits that you were also exhibiting, such as using turn signals, making safe lane changes, and obeying traffic signals. Ultimately, driving pattern is not a standalone way to determine whether the driver was intoxicated.
Officers also typically rely on objective physical indicators such as red eyes, slurred speech, an unsteady gait, the odor of alcohol on the breath, and a flushed face. There are many other reasons, however, that an individual can experience one of or a combination of these physical manifestations. For example, individuals who suffer from severe allergies will often have red, watery eyes and a flushed face. Other explanations include a cold, fatigue, and eyestrain or irritation.
If an officer conducts a field sobriety test and uses it as the basis for determining that a motorist is driving under the influence, there are many ways to overcome the test results. One of the main things that officers evaluate during a field sobriety test is the driver’s demonstrated coordination. There are many variables that can affect an individual’s balance and coordination, including shoes, natural athletic ability, clothing, fatigue, and nervousness. Many people become extremely anxious when subjected to a field sobriety test, making it difficult to relax and perform the test to the best of their ability.
Many opportunities for DUI defenses arise from issues associated with the breathalyzer machine. In some jurisdictions, like California, an officer must wait a specified period of time before administering a breath test. During this time, the officer must observe the motorist to determine whether a test is necessary. In order to measure a driver’s blood alcohol content, the breathalyzer machine draws air from deep inside the lungs. If there is alcohol in the individual’s mouth, however, it can mix with the so-called “deep lung air” and skew the results. This can also occur when the driver has recently used mouthwash, mouth spray, and certain medications. Other factors can inflate your blood alcohol content, including hypoglycemia, low-carb diets like paleo or Atkins, and diabetes.
Breathalyzer machines are subject to strict calibration requirements. One way to defend against a DUI is to request the calibration records for the machine that was used during your breath test. If the machine was not calibrated according to applicable requirements, the reading may not be admitted against you. Additionally, an officer must have probable cause before initiating a traffic stop and must read the Miranda warnings to each individual at the time of arrest. An officer’s failure to perform either of these requirements may provide a basis for defending against the DUI, or reducing the charge. For example, if the defendant can prove that the police officer had no justifiable reason for initiating the traffic stop, he or she can move to suppress any evidence that was obtained as a result of the unlawful detention, including a driver’s BAC level.