In California, as it is in other states, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. It is also against the law to drive under the influence of drugs – be it recreational, prescription, or even over-the-counter. Depending on the nature and circumstances of the incident, driving under the influence may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony offense. Regardless of the type of offense you are charged with, a DUI charge and conviction has the potential to change your life.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, it is important that you speak with an experienced DUI defense lawyer who can help fight the charges and erase or at least reduce the penalties. The consequences of driving under the influence could include losing your driver’s license, job loss, and potential jail time or probation.
Burden Of Proof In DUI Cases
In order to convict a defendant of a crime, the law requires that the prosecution prove each element of the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Under the law, even the prosecution fails to prove one element, the defendant must be found not guilty. In order to be convicted of a DUI, the prosecution must prove that the defendant was driving and that he or she was not able to drive as a sober driver would because he or she was intoxicated by alcohol and/or drugs.
This element is usually proven through driving patterns, field sobriety tests, and the result of a blood alcohol chemical test. In addition, the prosecution must also prove that the defendant, while driving, had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. Once again, this is proven through blood alcohol chemical tests and Breathalyzer tests.
Common DUI Defense Strategies
- Improper police stop: The U.S. Constitution prohibits police from stopping private citizens without reasonable suspicion or probable cause. In the context of a DUI, police must actually see the suspect perform an act, which raises the suspicion of driving under the influence. For example, if you were following the speed limit and obeying traffic laws, you may be able to utilize the defense that the police did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over.
- Improper testing: Law enforcement agencies are required to have chemical tests conducted by trained and licensed technicians and ensure that blood samples are properly stored and maintained to avoid contamination or mislabeling. If there are any questions about the integrity of the sample, it could get thrown out as evidence and cannot be used in court. This is also true when field sobriety tests are not conducted properly.
- Medical conditions: If you have a medical condition that could be misinterpreted as intoxication, that is a defense in a DUI case. Fatigue or neurological problems can sometimes cause symptoms consistent with drunkenness such as slurred speech and watery eyes.
- Miranda violations: The U.S. Constitution also requires police to inform a suspect once he or she is formally under arrest and advise them about their rights to remain silent, to retain a lawyer, and the right to court-appointed counsel. This is known as a Miranda warning. If Miranda warnings are not issued, any evidence collected after that must be thrown out.
These are just a sampling of defense strategies that are commonly utilized to fight DUI charges. For more information, contact our experienced Southern California DUI defense lawyers.