DUI Defense Strategies in California
One of the first strategies that I look at when I'm evaluating a DUI case and what happened, is I start to talk to my client about what the reason was that the police pulled them over.
In other words, I would say a good 80% of DUI pull overs are simple random pull overs that are cloaked by the police claiming some sort of a traffic violation. They're looking at people on the weekends and/or late at night who they perceive on the road having probably gone out and had some dinner and drinks, gone to a bar, gone to a club and are coming home in the wee hours of the night. So, they figure they must have been drinking so they drum-up an excuse to pull them over.
Probably the most common excuse that I see is that they were weaving or swerving on the road because that's kind of a tough one to refute unless you can get dash cam video that counters it — where you're looking at the dash cam and you don't see the person weaving or swerving on the road — so obviously, we always try to get that dash cam video. That's certainly one defense strategy that can be utilized in a DUI case.
Unlawful Police Stop
When we start to talk about the reason for the pull over, the reason that's important is because if they illegally pull you over in a DUI case, that illegal pull over can be used to suppress or block all of the evidence related to the case. In other words, if it's an unlawful police stop, the fact that they got your breath based on that legal pull over won't be able to be used against you.
Any statements that you make can't be used against you. Any of the field sobriety tests that they have you do can't be used against you because all of that is the fruit of the illegal pull over, and therefore, can be suppressed and the case will be dismissed if the prosecutor doesn't have anymore evidence left after the motion is granted by the court.
That's the first thing we look at when we try to figure out if there's a defense to the DUI — why did the police pull you over.
A lot of times the police come upon you. In other words, your car stalls in the middle of the freeway and you're on the side of the road.
There's really not much you can do about that because they're entitled to come up and investigate and see why you're stopped on the freeway and what's going on.
They can even say they're trying to help you, figuring you're disabled. And if they smell alcohol or see that you're intoxicated, that's going to give them probable cause to be able to test you and see if you're driving under the influence of alcohol.
No Driving Defense
If you get passed whether or not it's a lawful stop by the police, the next defense that I see coming up is that the defendant wasn't driving the car. In other words, a lot of times — take our scenario where the person is on the side of the freeway stopped and they're not driving — the police have to be able to figure out when you were driving in order to use a breath or blood result against you because their expert is going to need that information to be able to figure out what your blood alcohol level was at the time of driving.
So, if you're pulled over on the side of the freeway and you're the only one there, there's a good argument that you're probably the one that drove the car there. Their next step is going to be them asking you, why did you stop the car here? If you tell them, they can use that evidence against you.
There are some scenarios that I see where you can't tell who was driving the car. Maybe there's multiple people involved in an accident. There's multiple people in a particular car. How do they figure out which one of those people was driving the car for purposes of trying to get them for a DUI?
Of course, that is another defense strategy that could be used in a DUI and the type of evidence they try to get is obviously, the person admitting they were driving. One of the passengers saying that person was the one that drove the car. They were the one involved in the subject accident.
Other witnesses — for example, people who were on the road that see the person get out of the driver's door of the car. Other people who might be involved in the accident identifying who they perceived was the driver, are a way to try to refute that defense in a DUI case.
Attack Blood Alcohol Level
Beyond that, the type of stuff that you're going to obviously attack is the alcohol level. In other words, how do they prove that you were a .08 or greater? Are they using breath? Are they using blood? We're obviously going to attack the validity of the machine if they're using breath to determine that your blood alcohol level is above the legal limit. We would get the calibration records for the machine at or near the time that the person was pulled over and the machine was used against them.
If it's a blood case, we're obviously going to request a blood split if we think there's issues with the blood. That's something we talk to the client about. We figure out how high they're claiming the blood result is.
We figure out whether the client had any alcohol first of all, and if they did have any alcohol, how much did they have, and then we usually have a good idea what their blood alcohol level might be — or at least a range — and if it's well-beyond that range, then that would smack that there's something wrong with the blood result.
We could get our own expert to do a blood split and see if there's any contamination or if the blood result is simply wrong by the prosecutor's expert related to the case.
So, these are some issues that come up in DUI cases and some defense strategies that could be utilized to try to defend a DUI case. There's a whole plethora of other defenses that can be used, but they're going to apply to a particular case. In other words, you look at the case.
You talk to the client. You look at the totality of the circumstances and then you decide what defense might apply. Below are some common defense strategies if you been charged with driving under the influence in Los Angeles, or anywhere in the state of California.
- Challenge PAS Test Results
- Challenge Field Sobriety Tests Evidence
- Challenge Blood Sample Results
- No Driving Defense
- Probable Cause Defense
It's not the same defense every single time. The facts have to be there to support that defense and that's why it's so important when you get arrested for a DUI to get your DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. Sit down and meet with them. Give them all of your information so they can begin the process of defending you and seeing what strategies might work in your DUI case.