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In California, the top legal defenses related to driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs (or DUI) all fall within three broader categories. If you or someone you know has been charged with this crime, you should first be aware that it constitutes a serious offense. The consequences of that crime can include jail time, losing your license, and mandatory fines.
While facing a DUI case can be overwhelming, that doesn’t mean you have zero options. Having a qualified, experienced attorney on your side can help. It can also help to understand your options, which we’re going to talk more about below.
There are a few defenses that rely on the fact that you weren’t actually intoxicated. The first is that while you may have been driving poorly or erratically, you were not under the influence. The reason this is a reasonable defense is because most California DUI cases focus on your pattern of driving.
The arresting officer may note you were driving in a manner consistent with someone who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, DUI attorneys can tell you that most traffic violations occur when someone is sober, and your driving pattern is not a reliable indicator of DUI.
You can also challenge the use of physical symptoms of intoxication that might lead one to believe you were under the influence. This can be things like watery, red eyes, facial flushing, slurred speech, an unsteady gait, or the presence of an alcohol odor on your breath.
An attorney can defend you against these charges if there is an innocent explanation for the physical symptom like having a cold, suffering from allergies, experiencing eye irritation, or being fatigued. Each of these things can lead to red, watery eyes and has nothing to do with alcohol or drug intoxication.
A third defense that falls under this category is the fact that many field sobriety tests (FST) do not accurately measure whether you are impaired. In fact, the results of an FST can often be challenged and not included in the case at all. The reason is because your coordination and balance can be affected by many things including your nerves, your clothing, or your level of fatigue.
Another category of defense relates to whether you were actually impaired while you were driving. It isn’t illegal to have a drink before you drive. What’s unlawful is actually being impaired at the exact time you are driving. When you drink, the blood alcohol content (BAC) in your body will rise at a steady, rapid rate until it reaches the maximum level. During this time, the BAC is on the rise. It typically talks around 50 minutes for peak levels to occur, but in some cases, it can take as long as two or three hours.
Assuming you had a rising blood alcohol at the time when you were pulled over, it can continue to become elevated during the investigation. In fact, it could be much higher when you are tested than when you were actually driving. When it comes to your case, what matters is the level of alcohol when you were driving, which offers a defense against DUI charges.
You can also use the defense that there is a considerable difference between mental impairment and physical impairment. This is another of the most common of effective DUI defenses in California. An officer, as mentioned earlier, can testify that you had physical signs of impairment but that doesn’t mean you were also mentally impaired at the time.
Toxicologists in DUI cases know that those who are actually drunk are most commonly both mentally and physically impaired. A great DUI lawyer and a knowledgeable witness can make the case that you were not showing signs of mental impairment and that there was some other reason for physical symptoms similar to DUI.
If you have a medical condition like diabetes or are on certain types of diets, this can also be the start of a successful defense. As you may know, the body uses dietary carbohydrates to create fuel. However, there are certain situations where the body breaks down fat for fuel instead. This can occur when someone has diabetes, if they were on a high-protein and low-carb diet like Atkins or Paleo, or if they are fasting.
When fat is being burned, the liver creates a byproduct known as ketones. These are similar to the alcohol found in products like acetone and may be excreted through the breath. Sometimes ketones can trick breath testing devices and make it appear as if you are impaired when you are not.
There are specific regulations when it comes to blood and breath testing in California. These include:
In DUI cases and other cases, if an arresting officer does not follow proper procedures, it can lead to the case being tossed out. In fact, drunk driving investigations in California are safeguarded by several systems meant to protect you from misconduct, including:
In a situation where your protections have been violated, a suppression hearing can be requested. This works to exclude any evidence that was obtained improperly. It also offers a chance for your lawyer to find holes in the case of the prosecution and convince them to reduce or drop the charges altogether.
If you have been accused or charged with a DUI or know someone who has been, there are ways to defend yourself from the accusations. Having a knowledgeable, reliable DUI attorney who is aware of these defenses is crucial to getting the outcome you want. However, being aware of your options can also give you insight into the case for yourself.
If you’ve been arrested for DUI and are in need of legal assistance, call (888) 250-2865 or fill out the form on this page to request a free consultation for your case.