What do I do if I got arrested for Driving Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol?
DO NOT PANIC! Receiving a ticket for DUI does not mean you are guilty. To be truly guilty of a DUI, you must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Most people do not realize the many defenses that exists for DUI charges. A few common defenses and options are listed below:
- Probable Cause:
To properly issue a DUI ticket, the prosecution must prove that probable cause existed for the DUI investigation. If law enforcement did not have an articulable reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed or being committed, then they cannot pull you over. The reason for the stop may be speeding, careless driving, improper equipment, etc. Once you are pulled over, a valid reason to begin and continue a DUI investigation must be established by probable cause. Probable cause is usually established by the officer testifying that they smelled the “strong odor of intoxicating beverage coming from the defendant as they talked at the window.” Probable cause may be established by slurred speech or an admission by the driver that “I had a couple beers earlier today.” If the prosecution cannot overcome the probable cause hurdles up front, then your DUI is not valid.
- Improper Investigation:
Some DUI's can be challenged because law enforcement failed to properly perform field sobriety tests. There are standard field sobriety tests (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand). If an officer did not give proper instructions for the test, or did not properly demonstrate the test, then an issue arises. Likewise, if the officer did a test that is not part of the accepted standard tests, then the results cannot be used as evidence. For example, math questions or reciting the alphabet backwards are not admissible tests (although some officers still do these gimmick tests). There are some other tests that are used when the driver is suspected of drug use instead of alcohol, but very few officers are properly trained to recognize true and reliable signs of drug use.
The law enforcement officer conducting the investigation is required to have an observation time before administering an intoxilizer test. If the time is not long enough, then the test results are disputable. There are many small factors that can be challenged (and enough small factors combined equals reasonable doubt).
- No proof of impairment:
Surprisingly enough, many DUI tickets are issued without proper proof of actual impairment. I have successfully handled DUI cases where symptoms from a stroke or from prescription medications were mistaken for impairment from alcohol or drugs. The prosecution must prove that you were under the influence of an intoxicating beverage or drugs, and that the influence actually impaired your ability to operate the vehicle.
A DUI can be non-adjudicated for many first time offenders (which keeps the DUI off your record, allows you to drive with an interlock device in your car, and avoid jail). Non-adjudication requires the defendant to plead guilty to the DUI, pay the fines, attend the Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program (MASEP) and Victim Impact Panel (VIP) classes, complete a six month probation, and suffer a 120 day driver license suspension (or get an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle and have a restricted license for 120 days). After successfully completing the terms of non-adjudication, the DUI is dismissed as if the DUI never happened. Non-adjudication is a gift from the court. The prosecutor and judge are not required to give all eligible candidates a non-adjudication. Come visit me to discuss whether this option may be of benefit to you.
There are several other reasons why a DUI can be challenged. If you've been arrested for a DUI, schedule a free consultation to see what options may exist for you!