If you ever find yourself facing a DUI (driving under the influence), you may start to feel a lot of stress. Even when you did not think you were breaking the law after those two glasses of wine you had at dinner, you were pulled over and the breathalyzer showed your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was over the legal limit. A large part of a DUI/DWI conviction is the police report or arresting officer’s testimony. When you think of it as the police officer’s word against yours, and it may seem to be hopeless. However, there are strategic legal defenses that can help protect your rights and ensure that the court hears your side of the story. Keep reading to learn about potential defenses against a DUI/DWI charge in Virginia.
Protecting Your Rights
It is very common for individuals facing a DUI/DWI charge to be unaware of their rights. And in some cases, arrests are made that do not properly follow Virginia guidelines. If an arrest is made by police that does not properly follow Virginia law, it can be disputed. A knowledgeable DUI lawyer can analyze the the factors in your case, including all aspects of your arrest.
A police officer cannot stop you for no reason. Furthermore, they are required to provide a valid reason for the police stop if you are being cited for a traffic or criminal offense. It is important to remember that any traffic violation can be a good enough reason to pull you over initially. In some instances, you may be able to defend against the stop as unconstitutional if the police officer cannot tell the court a reasonable explanation that you did something to validate the stop. If the judge decides the stop was unlawful, then the DUI may be dismissed.
Sobriety Test Circumstances
If the circumstances of the test could have been for another reason other than a DUI, then the DUI could be determined to be invalid. For example, if the road was icy and you were asked to do a heel-toe touch test, it could be argued that the reason you did not pass the heel-toe touch test was because of the conditions of the road, and not because you were under the influence. It may be possible to defend against the DUI if you dispute the validity of the test due to the conditions under which the test was given.
In other situations, a medical issue can also be an argument against a DUI’s field sobriety test. For example, if you have a sprained ankle, and you are asked to do the heel-toe touch, it may prove to be more difficult than if you were completely healthy. If it can be proven that you did not pass the test because you were in pain and not because you were intoxicated, the court may consider the test to be invalid.
Breathalyzer tests aren’t always accurate and sometimes the results can be distorted by outside factors and are not always a great indicator of how inebriated you were. For example, because it can sometimes take time for alcohol to enter your bloodstream, you may not have been inebriated while you were driving, but at the time that the police officer gave you the breathalyzer at the police station, your blood alcohol level may be higher.
If a breathalyzer test is given too closely after certain bodily functions such as burping or vomiting, the test can also cause inaccurate results. If you just had a drink a moment before the breathalyzer test, then the results could also result in inaccurate results. This is because the test reads the results based on the alcohol levels being measured from your lungs. With any of these situations, the alcohol vapors present in your breath may be higher than your actual BAC level.
Moving past the circumstances of the breathalyzer test, there could be simple problems with the machine that cause inaccurate test results. An experienced DUI defense lawyer will be able to assess all aspects of the breathalyzer test in order to determine if any of these factors are affecting your case.
Determining “Probable Cause” and Implied Consent
The act of obtaining a driver’s license in the Commonwealth of Virginia results in you granting your implied consent to undergo sobriety testing when reasonable suspected of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. You have the ability to deny a request to submit to this testing, thereby revoking your implied consent.As has been discussed, you must receive certain advisements before submitting to a Breathalyzer or other type of examination to ascertain your sobriety. Part of the advisement process includes notification of the implied consent provision of Virginia DUI law.
In addition, and was discussed previously, a law enforcement official must have probable cause to stop your vehicle in the first instance. This means the police officer must have reasonably believed that you committed a traffic infraction or a crime before the stop (including driving while intoxicated).
The Prosecution’s Obligation
Ultimately, the prosecutor in a Virginia DUI case must prove that you are guilty of driving over the legal limit of .08% blood to alcohol content, that you were driving while impaired as defined by law. If the prosecutor fails to meet this burden, you are entitled to a judgment of acquittal, of being deemed not guilty of the DUI charge.
It may be possible to stop a blood or breath test from being used as evidence in court if you can prove that there were mistakes made in the process of taking the test. Some of these mistakes could include:
- If you were never advised of your right to observe the analysis and to witness the blood test reading on the machine.
- If the person who analyzed the test was not properly trained or licensed to perform breath tests.
- The test wasn’t performed during the three hours following your alleged infraction.
- The test wasn’t properly labeled or sealed against any interference.
We Are Ready to Represent You
Although these strategic defenses are possible, successfully presenting a legal argument to the court requires professional legal assistance. The Brown Firm PLLC has extensive experience defending Virginia drivers in court. Our DUI defense attorneys will be able to assess all of the details of your case in order to create an effective legal defense. Our goal is to achieve the best end result possible for your case. If there are grounds, we are prepared to aggressively assert that your charges should be dismissed. If having your charges are unable to be dropped, we are able to negotiate with the court and prosecuting attorney so that you receive a less severe penalty.
If you are facing a DUI/DWI charge, contact The Brown Law Firm by phone or send us a message online to discuss your options.