Roanoke VA DUI/DWI Attorney
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) you may believe you have no chance of successfully defending yourself against the charge. However, this is often not the case.
DUI cases are complicated and it is often much more difficult for the prosecution to prove your guilt than you might believe. DUI cases can often be successfully defended. A good Roanoke, VA. DUI defense attorney can often convince a prosecutor to reduce the charge and/or penalties or dismiss it altogether. In other cases, where there are key issues in dispute, it sometimes make sense to take the case to trial and let a jury decide the verdict.
You should not presume that the police did everything properly. Police officers often make mistakes during DUI investigations. A good DUI defense attorney can spot these errors and use them to your advantage. For example, the police must have reasonable suspicion to stop you and to initiate a DUI investigation. They need probable cause, a higher standard than reasonable suspicion, to arrest you for DUI. In appropriate cases, your DUI attorney can make a motion for a hearing on these issues and force the prosecutor to prove that the police met these legal requirements.
Likewise, arresting officers often make mistakes in the way they administer breath test or collect blood for a blood test. They are required to follow required procedures and, if they fail to do so, it can cast doubt on the test results.
The prosecution must also prove that the testing equipment was working accurately at the time of the test and that the forensic toxicologist who performed the test was qualified and performed the test according to the required procedures.
There are numerous other factors that can effect the accuracy of a blood or breath test. A good DUI defense attorney can analyze your case to determine if there are facts which can be used in your defense.
If you are facing a DUI charge, you should not assume that you have no chance. It is always better to let a DUI attorney review your case to determine if you have defenses.
The Prosecution DUI Case
There can be many variations, but the following is a general overview of the prosecution case in most DUIs.
The prosecution witnesses will normally include the police officer who made the initial stop and conducted the DUI investigation. Sometimes, depending on the facts, the prosecution will put on testimony from one or more additional back-up officers and perhaps even civilian witnesses who were present and made observations. These witness will testify about the defendant’s driving and his or her appearance and behavior a the time of the stop. They may also testify about any statements the defendant made at that time.
If a standard field sobriety test (SFST) was performed, the officer who administered the test will testify regarding the administration of the test, and his/her observations and conclusions. The prosecution will also, most likely, have an expert witness, a forensic alcohol toxicologist, testify as to the meaning of the field sobriety test and the various observations made by the witnesses.
DUI cases are complex and technical. Consequently, depending on the facts of each case, there can be many valid defenses. The following are just some examples of the many defenses to DUI charges.
1) There was no driving.
It is not uncommon for a person to be arrested for DUI when no one saw the accused drive. The prosecution must then use circumstantial evidence to prove driving. This can leave ground for a valid defense of no driving.
2) The accused was not under the influence.
Many times the prosecution relies upon the observations of police officers and perhaps, other witnesses for subjective evidence of impairment. These observations include such things as bad driving and physical symptoms of impairment like slurred speech, unsteady on feet and odor of alcohol on breath. Many times this subjective evidence can be explained by factors other than alcohol or drug impairment.
Bad driving is not always caused by alcohol impairment. In fact, it is very common for people who are not impaired to drive poorly, get cited for moving violations and even cause accidents. So called objective signs and symptoms of impairment can be caused by many factors other than use of alcohol or drugs. For example: fatigue, allergies, the flu or diseases like diabetes, epilepsy and other neurological illnesses can cause physical symptoms that mimic drug and/or alcohol impairment. Similarly, having the odor of alcohol on one’s person or breath does not prove the person is impaired from the use of the alcohol. One small glass of wine might cause the odor of alcohol but would not be enough to cause a person to be impaired.
A skilled Roanoke, VA. defense attorney can often explain much or even all of the subjective evidence offered by the prosecution by presenting reasonable alternatives.
3) The accused was under .08% BAC.
Chemical test results can be inaccurate. Therefore, if a person has a chemical test result of .08% or even higher it does not necessarily mean the person is guilty. The accuracy of these test can be successfully challenged for many reasons. For example, sometimes the police will cut corners and fail to follow the required procedures when they administer breath test or collect blood for testing. Sometime the testing equipment has not been properly maintained or tested for accuracy. Even if everything is done properly, the testing is not 100% accurate.
Just because a person had a BAC of .08% or even higher at the time of the breath test or at the time blood was drawn, it does not prove that was his BAC at the time of driving. When a person consumes alcohol it takes a period of time for that alcohol to get into the person’s blood. Therefore, a person could drink alcohol and then immediately drive before the alcohol has time to get into his blood. During that period the person would be less than .08% BAC. The amount of time it takes for alcohol to get fully absorbed into a person’s blood varies according to the person and the circumstances. For example: a person could be stopped and arrested for DUI when their BAC was only .05% but by the time they get to the police station and blood is drawn or a breath test is administered they could be .10% BAC.
4) The Stop was illegal.
Police must have reasonable suspicion of unlawfully activity before they can make a stop. Therefore, if an officer stops a person without reasonable suspicion, any evidence obtained as a result of the stop would be deemed inadmissible. For example, it is not uncommon for police to stop drivers for extremely minor weaving, which they suspect is evidence of DUI. In these cases, a court may not agree with the police and rule that the stop was illegal.
5) The Field Sobriety Test are often inaccurate.
The arresting officer will almost always conduct a Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST). Following the test the officer will, most often, conclude that the suspect was under the influence. However, these test are extremely subjective and open to incorrect interpretation. Therefore, it is not surprising that officers often use them merely to confirm what they already believe. The test will have suspects stand on one leg and perform physical and mental stunts that many sober people can’t do. In addition, one of the primary test is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test which checks for certain eye movements. This test is useless because a portion of the population has this condition naturally.
In many cases, a good Roanoke, VA. criminal defense attorney well trained and experienced in DUIs, can discredit these test through effective cross examination.
6) Failure to follow procedures.
It is quite common for police officers to fail to follow standard procedures in collecting and preserving evidence. A skilled defense attorney can use these procedural violations to attack the credibility of the evidence.
7) Police misconduct.
On occasion, police may engage in excessive force or other misconduct which cast doubt on their credibility.
Contact Attorney Wayne Bibee.
Roanoke DUI defense attorney Wayne Bibee has extensive experience with DUI cases. As a prosecutor he handled thousands of DUI cases including numerous DUI trials. Consequently, he knows the details and nuances of DUI law and understands how DUI cases can best be handled and defended.
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