In Los Angeles County there are thousands of DUI cases filed every year. One of the biggest factors that prosecutors, judges and juries look at, in deciding a DUI case, is what the person’s breath results were after their arrest.
There are a myriad of ways to challenge the breath results, depending on the facts of your particular case. Your breath results are the starting point in all DUI cases, because they determine the seriousness of the case and how dangerous you are viewed by the prosecutor and judge.
First and foremost, it is universally accept by all experts who testify in DUI cases that the breath machine that is used by the police is not one hundred percent accurate. The machines that are being used across Los Angeles in DUI cases have a .02 error rate. And, in a close case, this can be utilized by the defense to either win the case or negotiate a more favorable deal for our client.
Further, in my experience, the cases that have the best chance of being successful are the ones where the reading is close to the legal limit and the client has passed some of the field sobriety tests.
The cases where the person was way over the legal limit have less chance for success because the breath machine does not have that high of an error rate and the people in this category usually have other signs that they were too intoxicated to drive.
Another area of attack, when it comes to breath results, relates to when the breath was taken, in relation to when the defendant was seen driving the subject motor vehicle. The key to remember here is that it is not what the person’s blood alcohol level was at the time of the test that matters.
It is what the person’s blood alcohol level was at the time of driving that is what is relevant for purposes of finding someone guilty of a DUI.
Hence, unless a potential expert is able to extrapolate backwards from the time of taking the person’s breath, to the time the person was driving, the prosecution’s case is dead in the water. The further away from the time of driving that the breath is taken, the more difficult it will be to figure out what the person’s blood alcohol level was at the time of driving.
Figuring out when a person was driving a car in a DUI case is a common issue that comes up all the time. The more difficult it is for the prosecutors to prove when the subject defendant was driving, the easier the case is to be negotiated or dismissed outright.
The police know that one of the key jobs they have in a DUI cases is to be able to pinpoint when the person was driving the car. The types of strategies I see them employing, in order to establish the time of the driving, are: 1) Asking the person outright when they were driving; 2) They will ask witnesses to figure out when the person was driving (this is especially applicable in an accident related DUI case; and 3) They will also look at the circumstances surrounding them coming into contact with the person in order to establish the time of driving.
Breath results, related to DUI cases in Los Angeles, are certainly not an exact science and are subject to attack by savvy DUI defense attorneys. However, these breath results are relied upon by prosecutors, judges and even juries to convict thousands of people each year for driving under the influence of alcohol related offenses. The best way to test the breath results is to make sure that you have a lawyer by your side at all times!
One thing that I will do with the client, once we know the breath result, is to ask them questions about the night of their arrest that will give me an indication as to what their blood alcohol level was, based on their height and weight for example.
The first questions relate to what they drank and how much. Another area that makes sense to inquire about relates to what food they ate within a few hours of drinking alcohol and driving. Of course the time of the drinking and the time of driving are necessary pieces of the puzzle in order to adequately quantify where their blood alcohol level should be.
One critical piece of information we are usually missing in calculating what a particular person’s blood alcohol level should be at the time of driving relates to how the subject person’s body processes alcohol. Different people process alcohol in different ways and there are many different factors that can influence this calculation. This is where an expert on the defense side can come in handy.
As you can see from the above, there are many different issues that weigh on what will influence what a person’s blood alcohol level truly was at the time they decided to operate a motor vehicle. Some of this is a guessing game on the part of so called experts.
While other aspects of the testing that law enforcement officers do on people they arrest for DUI cases, is based in sound common sense and science. There are always two sides to an argument.
The key for you is to determine if you are going to come out on the winning end of the argument. If you are, then it may be time to go to trial. If, on the other hand, you are going to lose the case, based on available information, then it is time for your criminal defense attorney to negotiate on your behalf.
The best way to make these important determinations is to sit down with someone who has been down the road you are about to travel and knows how to make the right decisions for their clients. When I meet with clients for the first time, I have a goal of getting everything out on the table and making sure that when we leave the meeting we have a plan in place moving forward, based on the information we have and my experience of handling thousands of cases.