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Common Legal Defenses in a California DUI Case

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Aug 16, 2017

Those people arrested for a DUI matter in Los Angeles County are typically looking for some way to get out of the case. No one wants to be charged and convicted of a DUI because of the various consequences that can manifest from such a conviction. The loss of your driver's license, time in jail, and the stigma that comes along with a criminal conviction are not desirable to anyone.

There are defenses in DUI cases that savvy DUI defense attorneys utilize across Los Angeles County to either get cases dismissed or negotiate the best possible deal for the client. Not every defense applies in every case, so be wary when a DUI attorney starts spouting off reasons that do not use to your factual scenario to get you to sign on the dotted line and pay them your hard-earned money.


It is not uncommon that by the time the police get to the scene of an accident or some other occurrence on the freeway or road, the person they ultimately arrested for a DUI is not driving when they arrive. It is a defense to a DUI if the prosecutors can not prove if and when you were going. However, as you might guess, there is more than one way to prove someone was driving.

Many times the police ask the person if and when they were driving and then note their answer in the police report. If the person admits to driving, this would be good enough to meet this requirement.

Another way I see the police and prosecutors proving who was driving is by the witnesses at the scene identifying who the driver was. This is an excellent way to prove who was going if the witnesses are credible and their story makes sense.

The last way I see the prosecutors proving that a DUI defendant was the driver of the subject car is through the circumstances surrounding the person's arrest. In other words, if they are the only person at the scene of an accident and their vehicle is in the middle of the freeway with no passengers, then they were likely the person who drove the car there.

Then the next question will be, when did they drive the car there? For the expert to figure out the person's blood-alcohol level when going, they need all of the time locked in.


Suppose the police took your breath (the most common form of identifying your blood alcohol level). In that case, the defense attorney should check to ensure that the machine used to read your blood alcohol level was calibrated correctly and functioning properly.

There is an error rate of .02 percent in DUI cases related to the breath machines used in police stations across California. If the defense can find a problem with the engine or how the test was performed, there is a solid angle to attacking the prosecution's entire case.

If blood was drawn, there is an argument that the sample was not taken properly or contaminated. The defense is entitled to do a blood split to have their expert verify that the blood alcohol reading is really what is being represented and to check for contamination or any other issues that may be present to defend the case.

Urine is no longer one of the standard tests used in DUI cases in LA County. I typically see the police using a urine test to test a person they suspect of being under the influence of drugs.


If you want to fight your DUI case, you will have to deal with the issue of whether you were safe to drive when the police pulled you over. Juries are not likely to find someone not guilty of a DUI unless they were safe to go. Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a) makes it a misdemeanor crime to drive with alcohol in your system and not drive a motor vehicle safely.

The type of thing that the jury will evaluate is how you were driving at the time of the pullover. If you were weaving or driving in an unsafe manner, this is evidence that you were not safe. If, on the other hand, the police pulled you over for some stupid reason that has nothing to do with impaired driving, then you will have the foundation of showing you were safe and, therefore, should not be convicted of a DUI.

The police will look at other things related to how you were talking (where you slurred your speech), how you were walking (did you stumble or stagger), and whether your pupils were bouncing when they shined their light in them, and whether your breath smelled like alcohol.

Of course, the most basic tests for evaluating safety are the field sobriety tests designed to indicate if you were safe to drive a car specifically.

All of the above tests and observations are subjective and subject to police manipulation. Hence, having a seasoned, savvy DUI defense attorney is essential to achieving the best result possible in your DUI case.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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