The top 10 legal defenses to California driving while intoxicated (“DUI”) charges fall into three categories:
You weren’t actually intoxicated,
Your driving wasn’t actually impaired, and/or
The officer who arrested you for DUI didn’t follow proper procedures.
As an experienced California DUI defense attorney can tell you, a DUI arrest does not have to mean a DUI conviction. You can avoid life-changing California DUI penalties, including hefty fines and a driver’s license suspension, by fighting DUI charges with a strong defense strategy.
Bad Driving Does Not Automatically Equal DUI
Objective Symptoms of Intoxication Are Note the Same Thing as DUI
Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) Don’t Accurately Measure Impairment
“Mouth Alcohol” Led to a Falsely High BAC Result
The Office Didn’t Conduct a Proper 15-Minute Observation Period
The Officer Didn’t Comply with California’s Title 17 on Blood and Breath Testing
Your BAC Was “On the Rise”
You Weren’t DUI Because You Were “Mentally Alert”
The Arresting Officer(s) Didn’t Follow Proper Procedure
You can fight DUI charges by arguing that you were merely driving erratically or poorly, but NOT driving under the influence. This top California DUI defense is especially helpful with charges that you were “driving under the influence” under Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC.
One of the first things prosecutors focus on during a California DUI Case is your driving pattern. They routinely have the DUI arresting officer testify that you were driving in a manner “consistent with” someone who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Often, this so-called “pattern” includes allegations that you were speeding or weaving within your lane.
Another effective way to fight California DUI charges is to challenge the prosecution’s use of physical symptoms of intoxication to argue that you were “under the influence”.
Your physical appearance plays a big role in your California DUI investigation. The officer who arrested you for DUI will undoubtedly testify that you were “under the influence” because you had:
Red, watery eyes,
A flushed face,
The strong odor of alcohol on your breath, and/or
An “unsteady gait”.
If you are charged with DUI in California, and the prosecution’s evidence includes the results of Field Sobriety Tests, you and your attorney may be able to challenge those results as part of your DUI defense strategy.
FSTs often are heavily relied on by the DUI prosecution team – the prosecutor, the arresting officer, and the California DUI criminalist. These “experts” almost always testify that you “performed poorly” on these tests. As a result, they conclude that you were guilty of drunk driving.
Falsely high BAC results can also be the grounds for a successful legal defense to DUI charges, particularly charges that the defendant drove with a BAC of 0.08 or above under Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC.
Before giving you a California DUI breath test, an officer must continuously observe you for 15 minutes. This is to make sure that during this time you do not put anything containing alcohol into your mouth.
We mentioned above that the arresting officer is required to observe you for 15 full minutes before your DUI breath test. Questioning whether that observation actually took place is a common DUI defense that our attorneys utilize.
Title 17 violations in the administration of DUI blood tests can be used to fight DUI charges.
California Code of Regulations Title 17 governs how DUI blood and breath tests must be conducted. Requirements include:
A 15-minute observation period,
The proper training of personnel conducting the chemical tests,
Proper administration of the tests,
Regular calibration and maintenance of the testing equipment, and
Proper collection, handling, and storage of blood (or, in rare instances, urine) samples.
“Rising blood alcohol” is another commonly effective DUI defense.
If you had rising blood alcohol when you were pulled over, the results of your DUI chemical test could be wrong. Your BAC could have risen to over the legal limit during the lengthy period of your DUI investigation. Again, the only thing that matters is what your level was at the time you drove – meaning that you have a strong, valid defense to DUI charges.
The difference between physical impairment and mental impairment is the basis of another commonly helpful California DUI defense.
Officers routinely testify that DUI suspects displayed physical signs of impairment. But they don’t always testify that defendants showed signs of mental impairment.
Failure of police to follow proper procedures is a powerful defense against California Vehicle Code 23152 charges, just as it is against charges of many other crimes.
A California drunk driving investigation is supposed to be safeguarded by procedures to protect you from police misconduct. These include:
Title 17 procedures and regulations (discussed above),
A requirement that the officer has a “probable cause” for a California traffic stop, DUI investigation, or DUI arrest, and
A requirement that the officer read you your “Miranda” rights prior to a DUI interrogation.
If any of these protections is violated, your California DUI lawyer will request a “suppression hearing” – otherwise known as a “Penal Code 1538.5 hearing.” The hearing will serve to:
Exclude any evidence that wasn’t properly obtained and
Give your lawyer a pre-trial opportunity to illuminate holes in the prosecution’s case – and possibly persuade them to drop or reduce DUI charges.