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How to Beat a DUI?

8 min read
Francesca Toledo, J.D.

by Francesca Toledo, J.D.

A DUI charge and the subsequent consequences could have a significant impact on your life and future. Therefore, it’s important to begin working on your case as quickly as possible with the help of a DUI lawyer.

You can beat a DUI charge by poking holes in the state’s case and presenting a viable defense. If you would like help to defend yourself against a DUI charge. a lawyer can assist you.

What is a DUI?

Driving Under the Influence, or a DUI, is a criminal charge for operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In some states, DUI is also referred to by other names, including Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Operating While Intoxicated (OWI).

In most cases, a person faces charges for DUI if they are found to be driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit, which is .08 in most states. Depending on the state, the potential punishment for DUIs may vary depending on the offender’s BAC. For example, “enhanced penalty” BACs of .10 to .20 could result in more severe punishment. 

Many states also have “zero tolerance” BACs referring to the level of intoxication the state considers illegal for drivers under 21. This ranges from .00 to .02. 

Being charged with a DUI does not automatically mean you’ll receive punishment or face consequences. There are ways to beat DUI charges, and the way to go about that depends on the details of your case.

Elements of a DUI

Getting charged with a DUI and being convicted are two different things. For a conviction, the state must establish and prove the necessary elements of DUI. While the definition of a DUI varies by state, in most cases, it requires being under the influence and driving or operating a vehicle.

Without sufficient evidence of both elements, the state would have a difficult time proving you were driving under the influence. 

Under the Influence

Many states base their findings of a driver being under the influence on the driver’s blood alcohol concentrate or breath alcohol concentrate. 

Figuring out whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be determined using several methods. Law enforcement officers can administer field sobriety tests, including:

  • Walk and turn
  • One leg stand
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
  • Reciting the alphabet backward
  • Closing the eyes and touching the nose with a finger

These and other tests conducted roadside can help officers determine whether a driver is impaired. Additionally, officers can administer a breathalyzer test, which consists of breathing into a device that provides the driver’s BAC.

Depending on the situation, blood and urine samples may also be collected for further testing. Officers can provide their account of the driver’s appearance or demeanor during the stop, including disheveled clothing and slurred speech, to further attempt to prove the driver was impaired during the stop.

While there are several methods to prove this essential element for a DUI, just about everyone can be attacked by a criminal defense lawyer, as many are faulty and inadequate.

Driving or Being in Control of a Vehicle

States differ on what constitutes a DUI. In some states, including California, the offender must be “driving” while impaired to be charged with a DUI. In other words, the vehicle needed to be in motion at the time of the stop.

In most other states, not only is driving a vehicle while intoxicated illegal but also simply being in physical control of the car. Being in control can simply mean sitting in the driver’s seat without actually moving the vehicle. 

The laws of the state dictate whether a person qualified for a DUI charge, depending on what they were doing in the vehicle. 

What Kind of Crime is a DUI?

Crimes can either be misdemeanors or felonies

A misdemeanor crime is less serious than a felony, with penalties typically involving a maximum of one year in jail and fines of $1,000 or less. 

Felonies are considered more severe crimes. Depending on the crime and severity, felonies can result in one year to life in prison, and several thousands of dollars in fines.

In many states, DUIs are misdemeanor crimes, particularly for first offenses. Depending on state law, some factors can increase the charge to a felony, including:

  • Repeat DUI offenses
  • Injury or death of a victim
  • Elevated BAC
  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Violating other laws
  • Child endangerment

Penalties for a DUI

Consequences for a DUI highly rely on the details of the case, including whether the defendant faces other charges, whether it is a first offense or repeat offense, or the type of charge.

Penalties could include jail time, prison time, or hefty fines. Some offenders may be eligible for probation instead of jail time, specifically if it is the first offense. Some states also offer treatment and education regarding drugs and alcohol.

Certain states also suspend licenses, either automatically upon a DUI arrest or as part of a punishment. The length of time for suspension varies by state. Repeat offenders usually face license revocation. 

Even if a state suspends offenders’ licenses, some provide special restricted licenses, allowing travel to and from home, school, or work. In these cases, the offender is often required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) that tests their BAC every time they start their vehicle. If they have an elevated BAC they cannot drive the car, and the results are submitted to the court.

Aside from legal consequences, offenders also face canceled car insurance policies or higher-than-normal rates. 

What Does Beating a DUI Entail?

“Beating” a DUI charge essentially means avoiding conviction. 

The exact legal procedure after being charged with a DUI depends on the state, but in any state, a defendant is indeed innocent until proven guilty. The state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was indeed under the influence and in control of a vehicle.

To beat a DUI, a criminal defense lawyer can help craft a defense strategy aimed at weakening the state’s argument and making it less likely they can successfully convict you of a DUI. 

Ways to Fight DUI Charges

A multitude of DUI defenses exist. Not every defense is available in every case, as defenses are unique to the defendant’s situation and the details of their charge.

However, the defenses below are some of the most common defenses used to beat DUI charges.

Illegal Stop

Under the Constitution, law enforcement must have probable cause to perform searches and seizures. To stop or detain you temporarily, officers must have probable cause. Probable cause is simply reasonable suspicion, for example, speeding, swerving, or running stop signs. 

Without probable cause, it would be considered an illegal stop.

Faulty Breathalyzer Results

Breathalyzers, while commonly used to determine BAC, are not always as reliable as they may seem. These devices must undergo maintenance and be recalibrated periodically. Breathalyzers can give misleading results if they are faulty or not calibrated correctly. 

Inaccurate Blood Test Results

Blood testing to check for BAC must be done following strict protocols to ensure proper results.

For example, if blood is not stored correctly, it could ferment, producing alcohol. Blood could also be mishandled, resulting in inaccurate readings.

Unreliable Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are notoriously known for being unreliable and producing inaccurate results. Many of the most used tests, including perfectly reciting the alphabet backward, can be difficult to do even completely sober. 

You Were Not Operating the Vehicle

One of the essential elements of a DUI conviction is driving or operating a vehicle. If law enforcement and prosecutors cannot definitively prove you were driving or in control of the vehicle, it could be exponentially difficult to get a conviction. 

Involuntary Intoxication

Unknowingly being drugged, like someone slipping a drug into someone’s drink, is common. While it can be a bit challenging to prove, involuntary intoxication is a valid defense in many cases. 

Bad Driving

Bad driving does not automatically mean a person is driving while impaired. For example, some individuals have a tough time driving at night if they suffer from astigmatism. Someone can drive poorly without being under the influence. 

Law Enforcement Failed to Follow Proper Procedure

Stopping a person and making an arrest must all be done by following proper procedures. For instance, forgetting to recite Miranda rights while arresting an individual is a common example of failing to follow proper procedures. 

Additionally, officers must record their roadside encounters with accuracy. If officers leave out certain information or fabricate details, this could reflect negatively on the state and result in dropped charges. 

It is possible to beat DUI charges. However, it is challenging to do so without the legal assistance of a criminal defense attorney.

An DUI lawyer can be with you from start to finish – from explaining your charges and the law to creating a defense strategy on your behalf. When you’re ready to begin working on your DUI case, ask for a free consultation with a lawyer in your area

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