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What is the Process for Fighting a DUI Charge?

Posted on: October 25, 2021

Depending on where you live, the consequences for a first-time charge of driving under the influence (DUI) can include significant fines, jail time, loss of license, and much higher insurance rates. Naturally, the severity of the offense will also dictate how these things play out. Being faced with a DUI charge can be frightening and overwhelming, but people who are faced with this situation are still entitled to certain rights by law. Instead of a simple guilty plea, with proper legal representation there may be ways to beat the charges.

It is possible to get a DUI for operating a vehicle when under the influence of alcohol as well as legal and illegal drugs. In every state, a driver who has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher will be charged with a DUI or driving while intoxicated (DWI). If the driver is under age 21, most every state has a lower legal limit, .01 or .02 percent. Law enforcement officers frequently administer BAC tests to determine these levels. So how can someone fight a DUI charge, whether they have taken BAC tests?

What Should I Do When Pulled Over for a DUI?

Being pulled over by a police officer is always alarming, no matter what the reason. Drivers who attempt to be polite, calm, and cooperative may be able to make things easier for themselves, and the first step is to slowly pull over into a safe place, turn off the car, and put on the hazard lights. The officer will be watching your every move, so keep your hands on the steering wheel and avoid making suspicious, unexpected movements. You must provide the officer with your license, registration, and insurance, but you do not have to let them know if you had a drink. The worst thing to do is to act angry, rude, or too talkative. If you are unsure, you can state that you are sorry, but you were advised not to respond to any more questions.

If you are 100 percent sure that you are not intoxicated, it may be advisable to refuse to take a breathalyzer or field sobriety test. Depending on the state, this could lead to sanctions such as a license suspension; it may also be considered as a misdemeanor that is punishable by fines or a license suspension. In both New Jersey and New York, state laws specify that drivers must take lawfully requested breathalyzer tests, or they will be fined and have their licenses revoked.  

If you do refuse these tests, it is likely that you will then be arrested and brought to the police station. In most states, laws obligate people to take these tests at this point.  There will also be a blood test, which is very difficult to challenge in court. It is advisable to contact your lawyer before taking these tests at the station. Unless the DUI charge is very serious, you may be released and sent home once you are able to post bail. Afterwards, record as much information about the event as you can. Write down how much you drank or what drugs you took, your actions afterward, and when and where you were pulled over. Also note how the officer acted, what they said, and how you cooperated. Were you read your Miranda rights? Write that down as well, and do not forget to include details about any tests you took when stopped and at the police station.

What Strategies are Used in DUI Defenses?

Once someone is charged or convicted with a DUI, they will most likely have to appear in court to plead guilty or not guilty. A lawyer experienced in criminal defense can work to find flaws in evidence that could lead to reasonable doubt, and this kind of legal guidance can be crucial in DUI cases. The overall strategy will be based on whether the DUI is a misdemeanor or a felony. Most standard first DUI offenses are misdemeanors unless the offender seriously injures or kills someone else. Having prior DUI convictions, being under the influence while driving children, or having a high BAC can all lead to felony DUIs, with much stiffer penalties.

These cases generally last from two to six months, depending on the court’s schedule and other factors. Defense lawyers can use different strategies to fight the charges; one of the more common ones is asserting that the defendant was stopped without probable cause. They may also focus on showing that the field sobriety tests were inaccurate, or that mistakes were made with the breathalyzer device. It is also not unusual to discover that the person administering the test was not certified to do so.

Some people charged with DUIs were not drinking or taking drugs at all but had medical conditions or isopropyl alcohols in their systems produced by the foods they ate. That last explanation may sound unusual, but this strategy is legitimate. Conditions such as low-carb diets, hypoglycemia, and diabetes can cause ketosis, often a symptom of not having enough insulin in the body. Ketosis produces ketones, which convert into alcohol when eliminated by the body through urine and breath.

How Else can I Fight a DUI Charge?

Breathalyzer tests are caused into question because they are often not administered correctly, but since they are sensitive electronic devices, they can also be affected by electromagnetic interference and radio frequency interference. This can all come from police radars, police radios, security cameras, cell phones, microwaves, and car radios. If the DUI was made at a sobriety test checkpoint, the officers may have not followed the specified protocols for stopping drivers; for example, the checkpoint should be in a reasonable location, and police need to take the proper safety precautions.

It may also be possible to prove that a DUI defendant was not actually driving at all. If the person was in an alcohol-related accident, that does not necessarily mean that they were behind the wheel. They could even have been in a parked car when found by an officer. Citing police misconduct and report errors is another kind of defense strategy. As officers of the law, they are required to follow rules for pulling over drivers; many have also been known to fabricate evidence, manipulate evidence, leave out important information, and make mistakes in their reports. Others may even provide false testimony when in court. It is also not uncommon for officers to mistake a driver’s medical condition for DUI. For example, a driver who is recovering from a leg injury may have some balance impairment, or someone with a speech impediment could be harder to understand when they are talking.

What about Legal and Illegal Drugs?

In states where marijuana is legal, there are laws that make it illegal to drive if there are certain concentrations of THC in the person’s system. These kinds of laws are called per se drugged driving laws but determining the amount of illegal drugs in someone’s blood can be more of a gray area. Police may have specially trained officers who can complete testing once the driver is brought in.

Fighting a prescription drug DUI charge could be easier, especially if the driver shows evidence of a physical or emotional disability. Information about their condition, prescriptions, and a doctor’s report may also be of some value for the defense. The lawyer may be able to prove that there were mitigating circumstances, and the penalties might be more lenient in the end.

Monmouth County Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law Will Help You Challenge a DUI Charge

DUI charges are serious business, and you need trusted legal guidance to help protect your rights. The Monmouth County criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law are highly experienced with DUI cases. We will examine the details of your case and provide the assistance you need. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.

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