A DUI arrest can result in fines, probation, loss of driving privileges, and in some cases jail time. This is without even considering the other negative consequences to your employment, family life, social life, and reputation. Being arrested for a DUI is a serious matter that most people are not equipped to handle or fight on their own. Sometimes there are problems with the arrest that an experienced attorney can use to have the charges significantly reduced or dropped altogether. This post outlines three of the most common legal strategies for fighting a DUI arrest in court.
#1: Lack of Probable Cause for the Traffic Stop
One way you can fight a DUI in court is to challenge the officer’s basis for the initial traffic stop. This requires a showing that the officer did not have probable cause to pull you over. If no probable cause exists, the resulting evidence obtained from the stop is often excluded from court. While in many cases this is very hard to prove due to the wide range of vehicle code offenses at an officer’s disposal, sometimes police in fact make mistakes and pull a person over for violations they did not in fact commit, or that are not violations at all.
This defense is limited and complicated, though, by what is called the “good faith exception.” This means that an officer who pulls a person over under a mistaken belief that they have violated a traffic law is still justified in making the stop so long as his belief was sincere and reasonable. This exception applies even when the charge for which a person is ultimately arrested is totally different than that forming the basis for the stop, and even if the basis for the stop was a pretext to investigate other matters. This difficulty is further compounded by a recent Supreme Court decision, Heien v. North Carolina, in which the court extended the good faith exception to apply to an officer’s mistaken understanding of a traffic law. As it stands now, it is quite difficult to overturn a DUI on the basis of insufficient probable cause in most cases, but with the right facts, a good criminal defense attorney will be able to identify the issues and frame them properly. Having an attorney gives you a fighting chance if there is any problem with the arrest.
#2: Failure to Follow Standard Procedures in Administering FSTs.
Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) refer to a battery of tests administered by police officers to aid them in forming their belief as to whether an individual is under the influence of alcohol or another drug. There are a wide variety of these tests, and they are generally categorized as “standardized,” and “non-standardized.” Standardized FSTs refer to those tests deemed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to be most scientifically reliable. Non-standardized tests have been tested less frequently and generally survive due to their popularity with officers who view them as valuable. An arrest that relies on non-standardized tests can sometimes be challenged on the basis of being procedurally or scientifically unreliable, relying too much on the officer’s subjective beliefs or intuition. Additionally, the extent of the officer’s training, the quality of his instructions, and the extent of his compliance with police procedures are all fair game for cross-examination. A good criminal defense attorney can raise reasonable doubts simply by confronting an officer on the stand with his failure to properly administer the FSTs, and sometimes successfully preclude the officer from even stating his subsequent observations at trial.
#3: Mishandling of the Chemical Sample
Just as the police are required to follow specific procedures in administering the field sobriety tests, so too are they required to follow procedures in the collection and testing of chemical specimens. First, under new precedent, they must obtain either consent or a warrant for any blood draw. Second, regardless of the type of sample drawn, there are medically prescribed laboratory procedures that must be strictly followed. Failure to follow these procedures allows an experienced attorney and his trial expert to raise significant doubts in the minds of the jury as to the accuracy of the results. If the error is bad enough, it may result in the exclusion of the results altogether.
Call a Colorado DUI Defense Lawyer today
If you have been arrested for DUI, don’t make the mistake of trying to navigate the court process alone. Every case is different, and it is possible that in your case defenses available that are not discussed in this post. It takes an experienced attorney to investigate the facts and build the best strategy based on the strengths and weaknesses of your case. The attorneys at Tiftickjian Law Firm have the experience and the expertise to put on the best available defense for you. Call us today.