When it comes to driving under the influence (DUI) charges, trying to win your case and avoid a charge (or get charges reduced) often feels like an uphill battle. But at the end of the day, it comes down to your approach. With the right plan in place, you can put yourself in a better position to be successful and put this nightmare behind you.
The Challenge of Winning a DUI Case
DUI charges are serious. They’re a major priority in just about every police department across the country. Thus, you’ll rarely find much (if any) leniency when it comes to DUI stops, charges, and convictions.
As you probably already know, a DUI is a charge that’s brought against someone who is operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit that is set by the state. (DUIs can also be brought for someone who is under the influence of another impairing substance.) The BAC limit is set at the state level but is generally considered to be 0.08 percent for drivers over the age of 21 (source). For folks under the age of 21, any elevated BAC can usually justify a charge.
The challenge of DUI cases, from the defendant’s perspective, is the overall complexity and subjectivity of the charges. In most cases, a DUI charge is brought when a police officer pulls a driver over for a violation – often “reckless driving,” but not always – and conducts a field sobriety test. If this field sobriety test indicates that the driver is in fact impaired, then the driver is usually put under arrest and the legal process unfolds from there. The problem is that these tests aren’t as accurate as they should be.
“Field sobriety tests might as well be called ‘subjectivity shticks,’” DUI attorney RowdyWilliams.com says. “They’re not foolproof measures of impairment, but rather subjective assessments that can be dramatically influenced by a variety of variables unrelated to alcohol consumption.”
Field sobriety tests, which we’ll abbreviate as FSTs from here on out, are often criticized for their lack of consistency and ability to be manipulated (whether intentionally or unintentionally).
The results of FSTs are often dependent on the arresting officer’s individual observations and judgment. And while most officers are genuinely trying to do their best, human judgment is, by definition, subjective. It’s open to personal biases, training, experience, and even expectations.
Plus, FSTs don’t take into account the wide variation in individual physical abilities and health conditions. A person with poor balance, a physical disability, an injury, or even certain medical conditions (like neurological disorders) might struggle with FSTs despite being sober. Additionally, nervousness or anxiety during a traffic stop could affect performance on these tests.
It’s not just FSTs that come into play, though. There can also be procedural errors in a DUI stop that lead to an errant charge. This might include failing to read Miranda rights and/or not having probable cause for a stop in the first place.
How to Increase Your Chances of Winning Your Case
If you want to increase your odds of winning your DUI case, you need a plan. This plan begins with hiring a competent and experienced attorney who can help you formulate a strategic defense that brings the charge into question and introduces reasonable doubt into the case.
Work with your attorney to thoroughly scrutinize all evidence associated with the case. This includes the calibration and maintenance records of breathalyzer machines, the conditions under which field sobriety tests were conducted, and the procedures followed during your arrest. Any discrepancies or violations can be used to challenge the evidence against you.
If you have any witnesses who can vouch for your sobriety or bring the arresting officer’s claims into question, their testimonies can be added to your defense. In fact, any evidence you have that refutes the charge should be collected and brought to your attorney so that it can be used in your defense.
Give Yourself a Fighting Chance
If you’ve been charged with a DUI, you face an uphill battle. That being said, there is still hope, says Nolo. With the right approach, a competent and experienced attorney, and a willingness to be proactive, you can give yourself a fighting chance. Use this article as a resource to get started!
Last Updated: June 6, 2023