Getting arrested for a DUI can be a frightening experience, especially the first time. If you’re convicted, your car insurance rates will go up, and you might find it harder to get a job.
Having your license revoked on the spot is unsettling and can make you feel like you’ve lost your freedom and independence. Although a DUI is a serious offense with grave consequences, you can fight a DUI charge.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to do it, however. Here’s how to fight a DUI the right way.
Know your defense options
After being arrested for a DUI, you’ve got options. Believe it or not, there are legitimate ways to defend yourself against a DUI charge.
For instance, the most common DUI defense, according to Raybin & Weissman, is that you shouldn’t have been pulled over in the first place. If the police had no reason to believe you were driving drunk, or they didn’t have probable cause to arrest you, you have a good chance of getting your charges dismissed.
Another defense is to question the validity of any tests you were asked to perform, including blood, urine, and field sobriety tests.
Your plea determines the course of your case
At your preliminary hearing, you’ll be given the opportunity to enter a plea. You can only plead guilty once you’ve been advised of your rights and intentionally waive them.
If you plan to plead guilty, you’ll be given a form to sign that waives your constitutional rights to remain silent, cross-examine witnesses, and request a jury trial. The moment you plead guilty to a DUI charge, you are convicted of the crime just as if a jury found you guilty.
That means any time someone asks if you’ve been convicted of a crime, you must answer in the affirmative. A guilty plea is difficult to withdraw, so make sure to discuss it with your lawyer first.
If you’re being represented by a public defender and you’re under pressure to plead guilty, consult with a private attorney to confirm that a guilty plea is in your best interests.
If you plead not guilty, and the judge doesn’t think there’s sufficient evidence against you, your case will likely be dismissed. Otherwise, it will go to trial.
Don’t count on your test results to be suppressed
If your test results showed your blood alcohol content to be over the legal limit, there are ways to keep those findings from being presented to the jury. Not everyone succeeds in this effort, but it is possible.
Officers must comply with the law; otherwise, your test results could be inadmissible. For example, if the arresting offer failed to warn you that refusing a chemical test would result in automatic license suspension, you might be able to suppress your test results.
Another way to get your results thrown out is if you can prove officers used faulty or improperly calibrated machines. A number of foods and medications can cause a breathalyzer to falsely register the presence of alcohol.
Be careful, however, about challenging the accuracy of chemical tests. It’s not something you can prove on your own by researching the matter on Google. If you go this route, you’ll need an experienced attorney and a forensic chemist to back you up.
It’s possible to beat a DUI charge on the ground that the tests were inaccurate, but don’t count on it happening to you.
Don’t fight a DUI charge without an attorney
Listening to your attorney and taking his or her advice is the only way you stand a chance of successfully fighting a DUI charge. Experienced lawyers know more than you do, and have handled many DUI case outcomes.
If your lawyer says it’s not a good idea to resort to a particular defense, understand and accept that the advice comes out of plenty of experience.
Be prepared to face charges and/or fines
Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Don’t count on getting your charges dismissed completely.
Statistics show the conviction rate for a DUI is generally 90 to 95%. Complete dismissals, when measured, come it at around 1.5%.
If it’s your first DUI offense, you have a reasonable expectation of seeing your sentence and/or fines possibly reduced, rather than having your charges dropped. If you’re facing a DUI, even a reduced sentence qualifies as a victory.