The Most Common DUI Defenses
A drunk driving conviction can set your life off course. With mandatory jail sentences and driver’s license suspensions, even a first time DUI is a big deal. Find out what you can do to fight back against claims that you were driving drunk, and see whether some of the most common DUI defenses in Georgia could help your case.
DUI Defense Starts with the Traffic Stop
Almost all DUI arrests start with a traffic stop. A police officer will pull you over for some other traffic violation and the officer will form his opinion that cause exists to arrest you for drinking too much and driving. However, unless you are stopped at a properly performed checkpoint, the police have to have a specific reason to pull you over. That traffic stop can be the start of many DUI defenses. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your DUI defense attorney may be able to show:
- That there was no reasonable suspicion to pull you over;
- That the reason you were pulled over isn’t an actual violation of the law;
- That the stop was based on an anonymous tip, or your location; or
- That the officer made a mistake and stopped the wrong vehicle.
If the police didn’t have a proper reason to pull you over in the first place, anything they learned after the stop (like the fact that you had alcohol on your breath) can’t be used to prove your guilt.
Drunk Driving Convictions Require You to Actually Be Driving
It may seem strange, but every year, some Georgia residents are charged with driving under the influence simply for being drunk inside a car. If you were found sleeping in a parking lot or were simply a passenger, the prosecution’s case for DUI could fall apart. While the police do not have to actually see an individual driving to make a DUI case, the police do have to prove that the accused drove or had control of a moving motor vehicle and the accused was impaired or over the “limit” of alcohol or drugs consumed before the driving ended.
Arrested But Not Impaired
Before police officers can arrest you they need to have “probable cause” to believe you were impaired by alcohol or drugs, making you a less safe driver. If you didn’t seem drunk, the officer’s report doesn’t include any observations about your behavior or driving safety, or the video demonstrates that the field evaluations were not performed correctly, the arrest and everything that comes after it could be thrown out of your case.
Field Sobriety Tests Leave Gaps for DUI Defense
Often, the prosecution’s single best evidence of drunk driving is the field sobriety tests the officers use during the traffic stop. Those tests require proper training, conditions, and application to be done correctly. Even then, other circumstances completely unrelated to drugs or alcohol can throw off the results, including your age, weight, physical health, or other medications. In addition, when the police use an alco-sensor to issue a roadside breath test to determine your blood alcohol content, the number they receive can’t be used in court, only whether there was a positive or negative result. Problems with the device can create a strong DUI defense, even when you “blew” above the legal limit. Finally, you are never required to participate in field sobriety testing. If the officer made you feel like you couldn’t say no, the results of those tests may potentially be excluded from evidence.
Illegal Searches of Your Body, Car, and Passengers
There are many complicated rules police officers must follow when they search your body, your car, or the people you are riding with. Your DUI defense attorney will review the entire process carefully to see whether the police did everything they were supposed to do, and only searched where they were allowed to look. When the police don’t follow the rules, any drugs, paraphernalia, alcohol, or open containers they find won’t be part of your case.
Interrogation After Your Arrest
Once the police take you into custody, there are another set of rules that apply to what they can ask you, when, and what they have to tell you first. This includes informing you of your right to remain silent and that you may have an attorney to help you throughout their questioning. What happens after the arrest can often form a defense in your case. Your criminal defense lawyer will be on the lookout for these errors and can use them to help defend your case.
DUI Breath, Urine and Blood Tests Depend on Good Science
Once you are in custody, the police often obtain a breath, blood, or urine test to demonstrate impairment. In addition to challenging the seizure of the sample, Georgia law requires these tests to be done properly, by a person qualified to do them. There are many scientific defenses that can come up depending on whether your DUI is for alcohol or drugs, and the quality of the test and its results. You are also entitled to your own independent tests by a professional of your choice after the state test is done. How quickly this will need to occur will depend on the substance involved. Make sure you hire a DUI attorney who understands the science, and your rights to independent testing, so you can get the best defense possible.
If you are facing drunk or drugged driving charges, you need an experienced attorney who knows how to use all the most common DUI defenses. Lance McCoy of The McCoy Law Firm, LLC, is a criminal and DUI defense attorney with 25 years of experience. From his family-owned law firm in Cartersville, Georgia, he represents defendants facing prescription drug DUI charges throughout northwest Georgia. If you are facing Georgia DUI charges, please contact Criminal & DUI Law of Georgia so we can begin working on your case right away.