If you’ve been charged with a DUI (Driving while Under the Influence) or a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), the first thing you should do is remain calm. DUI and DWI cases are among the most common brought by prosecutors and among the top issues brought to the attention of criminal defense attorneys.
Most DUI or DWI cases contain at least one problematic element — that is, one “thing” that can make a DUI or DWI arrest problematic for the police or prosecution. It could be something as simple as a malfunctioning breathalyzer, an arresting officer not following procedure, or something else.
Fighting a DUI or DWI is always an option. You’re no more or less likely to lose your case simply because you were arrested, charged and/or spent a night in the jail’s drunk tank. In fact, there may be certain mitigating circumstances that can help you win your case and beat a DUI or DWI charge. One of the best ways to know for sure is to sit down with an experience criminal defense attorney and go over each and every step of what happened.
What is DUI?
A DUI is a charge of driving while under the influence, typically of alcohol.
Everyone who carries a driver’s license in California and operates a motor vehicle is subject to a blood alcohol content, or BAC, test if an officer pulls you over and suspects you of driving while under the influence of alcohol. In California, a person is legally intoxicated if their BAC is above .08, but you can be arrested and charged with a DUI if your driving is impaired because of a BAC above anything more than 0.
Sometimes, the officer may administer a test, commonly known as a field sobriety test. This test may include asking you to:
- Balance on one leg;
- Recite the alphabet backwards;
- Look in a specific direction to test your eye movements;
- Walk an invisible line near your car, turn, then walk the other direction;
- Count backwards from 10, or forwards in multiples of a certain number;
- Recall specific information about the city you work or live in, like the name of a professional sports team.
Field sobriety tests conducted by police officers are typically ones endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests contain standardized measurements to gauge for sobriety or intoxication and are backed by some reliable study or other indicator with a basis in science.
Some of the tests in the bullet list above are endorsed by the NHTSA. Others are not. Can you tell the difference? If you were asked to perform any of these tests, and you were later arrested and/or charged with a DUI, contact criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel today.
In other cases, an officer will use a breathalyzer or blood test to determine if a person is intoxicated. This might be administered in combination with a field sobriety test, or when a person is successful at a field sobriety test but an officer still suspects a driver of being at or above the legal BAC limit. A positive test does not necessarily mean a driver was impaired. These machines do occasionally produce false positives, and it’s not uncommon for a case to be tossed out after an attorney scrutinizes the validity of a test and the accuracy of a machine. If you tested positive after being given a breathalyzer or blood test, contact criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel today.
What is DWI?
A DWI is a charge of driving while intoxicated, typically of drugs.
The first thing that might come to mind is illicit drugs and narcotics, and you’re right — driving after ingesting or consuming these drugs can earn you a DWI charge. But other types of drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, can also earn you a DWI charge if these drugs are believed to have impaired your driving.
One of the murkiest areas of this law happened shortly after voters passed Proposition 64 in California, making recreational use of marijuana legal within the state. While existing state law made it a crime to “drive while high” or having an “open container” of marijuana in a car, the law was silent on people smoking marijuana while driving.
That loophole was closed in recent years, and smoking marijuana while operating a motor vehicle is now against the law.
Tests administered to drivers who are suspected of DWI can mirror those administered to drivers suspected of DUI. Some of these aren’t intended to screen for certain type of drugs, including marijuana, and their effectiveness can be called into question by an experienced criminal defense attorney based on certain elements of a case.
If you were pulled over and later arrested and/or charged with a DWI, contact criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel today.
Can I be charged with DUI/DWI even if I’m not driving?
Can you be charged with a DUI or DWI if you’re not driving but doing something else in your car — say, eating a meal, sleeping or listening to the radio while parked?
The answer is yes, though how likely a charge is to “stick” depends on a number of things. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help uncover elements specific to your case and assist you in fighting your charge.
Can I be charged with DUI/DWI even if the keys aren’t in the ignition?
Whether the keys are in the ignition or not, you can be charged with a DUI or a DWI simply by appearing to be under the influence or intoxicated while in a car.
To arrest you, an officer merely needs suspicion of intent to operate a car. Being physically present in a parked car is often considered by an officer to be enough to justify a DUI or DWI charge, though an officer typically administers some kind of sobriety test before making an actual arrest.
That alone might make you feel like your case is hopeless — but it isn’t! There are other elements that could result in a prosecutor rescinding a charge or a judge tossing it out of court, including the kind of sobriety tests administered, the accuracy of any machines used to gauge your sobriety and your rights as an individual before, during and after the arrest, among other things.
I’ve been charged with a DUI or DWI. Now what?
DUI and DWI charges are the most common imposed against a person. Every day, ordinary people are arrested on suspicion of DUI and DWI. Sometimes, people are surprised to learn they’re being arrested on suspicion of DUI or DWI because they thought they were okay to drive. It’s a common mistake.
The punishments for a DUI or DWI conviction vary based on certain things. It could be as light as a fine and/or community service, or it could earn you some time in jail. Depending on the circumstances, it could even lead to a court revoking your driving privileges or requiring you to install an alcohol detection lock on the ignition of your car.
DUI and DWI charges are common, but they are serious. A good defense lawyer can help you fight your case. If you have been arrested and/or charged with DUI or DWI, contact criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel right now for a free consultation.
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