Busted - Survive Your DUI
You've been stopped, tested, arrested and cited for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. You may have had your license confiscated, car impounded, and spent the night in lock-up. You may face more jail time, the loss of your driver’s license, fines, mandatory DUI school, the tribulations of a trial, more problems and humiliations. You’re dispirited, depressed, anxious and overwhelmed looking for answers to solve the many questions and myth-information you may have received from friends and family.
The only truly qualified person to answer your questions is an experienced and skilled attorney. Counselors can be by your side through the entire process, explaining the details of a DUI offense and the intricacies of your defense. But first let us answer some of your very basic concerns.
Information you need to know
Was I stopped legally?
A motorist can be stopped for a variety of reasons, including improperly working equipment on your car, erratic driving or if an officer has a reasonable and explainable basis to believe that a traffic law or other law has been violated.
What is a DUI?
Driving Under the Influence (of alcohol and /or drugs). There is an alphabet soup of similar acronyms including: DWI, DUII, DPS, DWAI, BMV, OUI, OWI, OUIL, OVI, OMVI, DUID). It is defined as the act of operating a vehicle, animal or watercraft under the impaired influence of alcohol (and/or other drugs, including over the counter drugs such as Nyquil or Benadryl, for example.) What does "under the influence" mean? The most common understanding of the term is when an intoxicated person’s judgment and motor skills are impaired or will interfere with the safe and prudent operation of a vehicle. Driving under the influence can be determined via a ‘breath test’, urine or blood sample. A DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs) is a different and more complicated matter.
What is .08 BAC?
In every state the Blood Alcohol Content which determines a DUI is .08%. However, other factors may apply, such as driving with a commercial license, ‘zero tolerance’ for underage drivers who may be arrested for just having alcohol on their breath. The American Medical Association says that a person can become impaired when the blood alcohol level hits 0.05%. If a person's BAC measures 0.08, it means that there are 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliter (ml) of blood. In fact, a police officer may make a judgment call and arrest anyone for being impaired even if their BAC is lower than .08%.
It is a general rule of thumb that the consumption one standard drink (or one ounce of alcohol per hour) will increase the average person's BAC to roughly 0.05%. Consequently, two drinks in one hour is enough to put you over the legal limit. However, this is not a really good gauge largely because of variation in physiology and individual tolerance according to weight, gender, and body fat.
What is a ‘breathalyzer’ test?
A breathalyzer is a device for estimating blood alcohol content from a breath sample. "Breathalyzer" is a brand name. Other names include, breathalyser, Intoxilyzer, Intoximeter, AlcoScan, Alcotest, AlcoSensor, Alcolizer, and Datamaster.
Because the alcohol concentration in the breath is related to that in the blood, you can figure BAC by measuring alcohol on the breath. The ratio of breath alcohol to blood alcohol is 2,100:1. This means that 2,100 ml of alveolar (lung) air will contain the same amount of alcohol as 1 ml of blood.
Every state has penalties for refusing a lawful request for a DUI test most states allow evidence of that fact to be introduced. And a jury may be instructed that they can draw a permissible inference of "consciousness of guilt" for anyone refusing a test. Many states also operate under an "implied consent" statute, meaning anyone issued a driver's license agrees to submit to a test of breath, blood, or urine when lawfully requested by a law enforcement officer.
Although generally accepted as a form of proof, breathalysers aren’t always accurate. The validity of the testing equipment, the operator, methods and mathematical relationships for the measurement of breath and blood alcohol have been rigorously criticized. Plus, many everyday items contain forms of alcohol (asthma spray, cough drops and syrup, paints, even fingernail polish) which may cause a ‘false positive’ reading.
However, failure to submit to such a test may result in automatic suspension of a driver's license even if not convicted of drunk driving. Failure to submit to such a test may also serve to enhance the penalties for a DUI conviction.
What is a field sobriety test (FST)?
An officer may administer one or more standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs). The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) is a battery of three observational and physical response tests administered to indicate impairment and establish probable cause for arrest. However, this is based on the arresting officer's subjective opinion of impairment, which often can be inept and open to cross examination. Because of medical, physical or emotional reasons, many people should not nor cannot be validly judged by these tests. Unfortunately, in some states failure to take a SFST may also infer a “consciousness of guilt”.
What kind of crime is a DUI?
Driving while intoxicated represents the single largest category of criminal infractions of all reported cases in the U.S. and is considered the most serious misdemeanor offense. In several states, repeat offenders are considered felons. A DUI conviction has the potential to remain on your record for life.
Generally, a first offense is considered a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor DUI means that the charge involved no injury or property damage. A felony means that a serious injury to a person or property occurred, or multiple DUI’s are involved.
What is my defense going to cost?
One of the biggest concerns for people charged with DUI is what a defense will cost. Each case is different and there are many factors shaping each defense, so as cases vary so does the fee. Most people don’t realize that money spent now on a skillful DUI attorney might save them thousands in the years to come. Jobs, credit ratings, and insurance costs can all be impacted by a criminal record. So, it’s important that you discuss the issues with a competent DUI attorney. Can you put a price tag on your freedom, your criminal record and your peace of mind?
What happens in court?
You will have to appear in court more than once - First for an arraignment, then for a defense if you go to trial and for sentencing if convicted. Your attorney will offer a timeline and overview of the court proceedings.
Will the Department of Motor Vehicles get involved?
When charged with a DUI you also face a possible revocation or suspension of driving privileges, even if charged while driving out of state. The administrative (DMV charge) and will be handled separately and differently from the criminal offense. In most states there are ways to retain your driving privilege for work and emergencies.
What about my auto insurance?
After being charged most states will demand a SR-22 (high risk and therefore costly insurance policy).
What is my defense going to cost?
Each case is different and there are many factors shaping each defense. So, it’s important that you discuss the issues with a competent DUI attorney. But always consider the cost of your freedom, your criminal record and your peace of mind.
Can I win my case?
Your best bet is to have one of our attorneys discuss, examine and review your case and make the best evaluation possible. There are a myriad of circumstances and challenges of evidence to consider: the reason you were stopped, testimony of the arresting officer to the viability of the sobriety tests among others. No one can promise you an acquittal, but your chances are enhanced with the aid an attorney who understands the law, the system, the procedures and will fight for you.
Every defendant in every criminal case is entitled to reasonable doubt and to compel the prosecution to make its case that either defendant's guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, or the defendant is entitled to be found not guilty.
The issues in a DUI case are wide ranging from scientific, to medical to fine legal points. There are also many myths about a DUI defense and numerous ways in which evidence can be challenged. When seeking answers to serious questions it’s always best to secure the advice and treatment of a qualified specialist.
“The term "win" is in quotation marks here because winning may mean having the charge reduced to a different offense or otherwise obtaining a plea bargain that avoids a conviction. The availability of alternative plea arrangements for offenders varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Where jury trials are available, success rates for acquittal are surprisingly good. The national average for acquittals is about 50 percent for those accused of drunk driving if their cases are heard by juries. In some jurisdictions, only about 20 percent to 30 percent of all drunk driving arrests lead to a conviction, while other states have an 80 percent to 90 percent conviction rate”.
Your attorney will examine:
- How and why you were stopped.
- Examine the arresting police officer’s observations made at the scene of the traffic stop. Did he smell the odor of alcohol? Did he note that your eyes were bloodshot and watery? Did you perform the Standardized Field Sobriety Test okay?
- Field sobriety tests are aggressively challenged due to age, physical impairments and propriety of the field tests.
- If you submitted to a Breathalyzer, was it working properly, was the officer operating the machine certified to do so.
- Was the machine working properly?
- These are only some of the many ways to challenge a DUI charge.”
Your best bet is to have one of our attorneys discuss, examine and review your case and make the best evaluation possible. There are a myriad of circumstances and challenges of evidence to consider. No one can promise you an acquittal, but your chances are enhanced with the aid an attorney who understands the law, the system, the procedures and will fight for you.
What can happen if I am convicted?
Across the country DUI laws have much in common, but every state has laws and penalties which differ. That’s why it is important and in your best interests to be referred to an attorney is who familiar with each state’s statute.
Generally, a first offense amounts to having a permanent DUI record, fine, probation, loss of driver’s license for a time, points against your driving record, attending substance abuse meetings (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) paying for and attending a DUI school (especially to regain ones driver’s license).
What if I am a multiple offender?
“Multiple DUI” is a term that refers to a 2 or more offenses and for this you really need to consult with a reputable DUI Defense Attorney. The consequences associated with multiple DUI convictions can be severe, including large fines, extended incarceration and lengthy substance abuse therapy.
After the DUI—what happens to my record and my license?
Clearing or “expungement” of one’s record generally refers to delete, seal and/or destroy an arrest and/or conviction information. Expungement, when properly done, can remove hurdles to gainful employment, save professional licenses, and bring closure to the DUI ordeal. This varies from state to state. Consequently, it is important to consult with a lawyer in the state where the conviction occurred.
Regardless of what you have heard, drunk driving cases are not impossible to win if you have a good case and the right DUI attorney to help you - your DUI attorney must be experienced with all facets of the DUI arrest process - your DUI lawyer must understand and be ready to cross-examine the state's expert about the science of field sobriety testing, laws of arrest and probable cause, and blood, breath, and urine testing.