Many people are surprised by the number and variety of defenses that may be availing to them. While the following list is by no means exhaustive, it is a good starting point in beginning to consider successful defense strategies.
Was There Reasonable Suspicion To Pull You Over To Begin With?
In order for a police officer to pull you over in the first place he/she must have reasonable suspicion that you may be violating a law. Although North Carolina courts usually give police officer’s wide discretion (ie – reports of swerved driving, etc are usually sufficient), successful defenses have been made in DUI cases, by showing that a police officer is merely stopping certain people leaving a bar after closing time, rather than having some concrete reason to believe that they may be driving while intoxicated. Likewise, a police officer has no right to stop you simply because you happen to be driving through a high-crime area late at night.
Was There Probable Cause To Make An Arrest?
Even if a police officer had reasonable suspicion to pull you over, he must then find probable cause that you have actually broken a law in order to make an arrest. An officer often administers what are known as field-sobriety tests to determine if there is probable cause to make an arrest. There are various forms of field sobriety tests, but the most common are the (i) walk and turn test, (ii) eye nystagmus test, and (iii) one-leg stand test. These field sobriety tests may also include various so-called mental ability tests such as reciting the alphabet or counting backwards. If a police officer makes an arrest for DUI he or she will undoubtedly report that he administered the field sobriety tests and the subject failed. Successful defenses, however, are often crafted from questioning whether the police officer administered the sobriety tests properly and in accordance with the proper guidelines. For instance, did the officer actually demonstrate to the driver how to perform the walk and turn test? Does the officer actually know what he is testing when he performs the eye nystagmus test. If the answer to these questions is “no”, the court may find that the officer had no probable cause to arrest the driver in the first place.
Are The Results Of The Breathalyzer Accurate?
Many people erroneously believe that the results of a breathalyzer test definitely determine guilt or innocence in a DUI case. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the Intoxilyzer 5000 — the breathalyzer used by law enforcement officers in Raleigh, Durham, and Cary — is far from reliable in every instance and is even more problematic when not used properly. For example, was the breath machine properly calibrate pursuant to the manufacturer’s instructions in order to insure accuracy? Did the law enforcement officer adhere to the 20-minute rule, mandating that the driver be observed (and not consuming any alcohol) for at least 20 minutes prior to administering the breathalyzer? If the answer to these questions is “no” an erroneously the breathalyzer likely registered an erroneously high blood-alcohol level, and the court may exclude the results of the breath test from evidence or even dismiss the case entirely.
As previously discussed, even if the officer administers the test flawlessly, the results of a breathalzyer test may still be disputeable. You can read about limitations on blood-breath ratios, biases against women, and exposure to paint or other industrial compounds here.
Was The Sobriety Checkpoint (IF Any) Conducted According To Supreme Court Guidelines?
Many times a DUI arrest is made at a sobriety checkpoint, and although sobriety checkpoints are permitted by law, they must comply with certain standards articulated by the United States Supreme Court.
If you register a .08% on a breathalyzer test or refuse to take a breathalyzer test, your driver’s license will be immediately suspended for a period of thirty (30) days. If you are a first-time offender, you maybe eligible for limited driving privileges after ten (10) days. These limited driving privileges will include the privilege to drive your car to and from work. In order to be eligible for limited driving privileges, you will also have to undergo a substance abuse assessments and submit the results to the Court. The court may also require you to install an interlock device in your vehicle (which you will have to blow into in order to start the motor). Limited driving privileges are generally not permitted for repeat offenders (ie – two or more DUI convictions within a 7 year period).
If you are subsequently convicted of DUI and have no prior convictions for that offense, your driver’s license will be suspended for 6 months – 1 year. Limited driving privileges may still be issued, however, at the discretion of the court.
If you are convicted of a second DUI offense, your driver’s license will be suspended for four (4) years — and no limited driving privileges are available.
If you are convicted of a third or subsequent DUI offense, your driver’s license will be revoked — and no limited driving privileges are available.