Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is illegal in California. This is because intoxicated drivers are not in the right state to make decisions that affect both their safety and that of other road users. If you have been charged with DUI, it is in your best interest to seek legal representation from a criminal defense lawyer.
Drivers who are stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence may be asked to perform various tests that are used to help law enforcement officers determine whether or not the driver is intoxicated. It’s important to understand your rights when it comes to these sobriety tests.
DEALING WITH POLICE STOPS
Getting flagged down by the police can be a traumatizing experience. Many drivers have reported anxiety at the moment when they were pulled over. However, whether you have been driving under the influence or not, there is a need for you to stay calm and ensure that you remain polite with the police officer.
When approached, it is recommended that you keep your hands on the steering wheel where the police officer can see them and avoid making any sudden moves. In addition, the police officer, by law, is entitled to request important information like your driver’s license and vehicle registration.
You are required to provide these documents to the police officer. However, you are not required to answer other questions that the officer may ask, including whether or not you have been drinking.
Keep the conversation as short as possible to reduce the chance of appearing intoxicated to the police officer. Try to remember the details of the events leading to the traffic stop as this may prove important for your defense, especially if you end up getting arrested for driving under the influence.
CAN YOU REFUSE A SOBRIETY TEST?
In many cases, drivers are pulled over for committing other offenses, such as running a red light, speeding, swerving on the road, or failing to use the proper turn signals. After pulling the driver off the road, the officer may suspect that the driver is intoxicated due to their slurred speech, inability to speak coherently, and other signs of intoxication.
If an officer believes you are intoxicated, they may ask you to perform field sobriety tests. The field sobriety tests are designed to measure your balance, concentration, ability to follow directions, and other skills. However, these tests are not reliable. In fact, many people who are completely sober struggle to perform these tests.
Fortunately, the field sobriety tests are not mandatory. There are no consequences for refusing to perform these tests.
If the police officer has probable cause to believe you are intoxicated, they may place you under arrest for DUI. The police officer may then ask you to complete a breath test using a breathalyzer device. The breathalyzer measures the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). In California, 0.08% is the legal BAC limit for non-commercial drivers, whereas 0.04% is the legal BAC limit for commercial drivers.
You can refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, however, there will be consequences for this decision. If you refuse a breathalyzer test, you may face legal penalties such as the suspension of your driving privileges.
Many drivers assume that refusing the breathalyzer test can help them avoid DUI charges, but that’s not the case. You can still be charged and convicted even if you have refused to submit to a chemical test.
If you have been arrested for DUI, the prosecutor may try to prove that the traffic stop was legal due to the way you were driving. The prosecutor may say you were swerving, straying outside the lines, jerking, or violating other traffic laws that justified the traffic stop.
However, a good criminal defense attorney will be able to review the details of your case to determine whether the traffic stop was legal. If the officer did not have a reason to pull you over, the traffic stop was not legal. This means your entire DUI case could be thrown out since the officer failed to follow proper protocol.
Officers may also rely on physical indicators of intoxication to prove the defendant’s guilt. In some cases, indicators like slurred speech, red eyes, unsteady gait, flushed face and the odor of alcohol may be used against the driver.
However, a good defense lawyer can come up with several defenses to counter these claims as an individual can exhibit one or more of these indicators even in the absence of drugs and alcohol. The defense attorney may push that the driver at the time of arrest suffered conditions like cold, eye strain, fatigue, or irritation.
If you agreed to perform the field sobriety tests, your attorney can challenge these results. Your attorney may call into question the credibility of the result, and may also note that skills such as balance and coordination may have been affected by factors like the athletic ability of the driver, fatigue, clothing, and nervousness. Nervousness makes for a good defense as many people have been reported to be extremely nervous when encountering the police.
The results of breath and blood tests can be challenged, too. Law enforcement officers must follow specific rules and procedures when conducting breath and blood tests on DUI suspects. Failing to follow these rules could impact the results of the test.
For example, breathalyzer devices must be calibrated on a regular basis. If these devices are not properly calibrated, they will produce inaccurate results.
Your attorney will carefully analyze your case to determine if authorities followed the proper rules and procedures. Even a single error could give your attorney an opportunity to fight your DUI charges.
DUI defense attorneys can defend clients who are facing DUI charges in California. From the start to the finish of your case, an attorney can make sure that your best interests are protected.