5 Common Defenses For DUI and DWI Charges


DUI and DWI charges are serious in nature and can lead to stiff penalties and even jail time. If you’ve been charged with a DUI or DWI, you might feel like you don’t have any legal options available to you. However, you might have a chance at successfully defending yourself. There are several defenses you can discuss with your attorney. While there are some driving-related defenses you can use, the most successful defenses tend to be arrest-related. Here are some options for you as you seek to defend yourself in court.

Driving vs. Arrest Defenses

Before jumping into the bulk of the defenses available to you, it’s worth taking a moment to discuss the difference between driving-related defenses and arrest-related defenses. Driving-related defenses look at your actual driving habits at the time of your arrest and use evidence about them to help bolster your case. For instance, you can’t be charged with a DUI or DWI if you weren’t actually driving the vehicle, so if a passenger was charged with a DUI it would be beneficial for them to utilize a driving-related defense. However, challenging problems with the arrest procedure itself is where you’ll likely find the most successful defenses. Here are five arrest-related defenses that can help you win your case.

Challenge Behavior-Related Testimony

In most DUI and DWI cases, a large portion of the prosecution’s case is made up of the arresting officer’s testimony regarding your behavior. The officer will typically offer up their observation of what you did and how you acted. They might say that you were swerving, or that when you got out of the car your eyes were bloodshot. Challenging this behavior with legitimate and believable responses can poke substantial holes in the prosecution’s case and create doubt in the minds of the jurors. For instance, you could say that you’d just worked a long shift, so you were sleepy, not drunk. Most jurors have likely experienced exhaustion and would understand that bloodshot eyes and slightly swerving while behind the wheel could be attributed to it.

You Weren’t Issued a Miranda Warning

Any time you’re arrested the law requires that your arresting officer read you your Miranda rights. However, this goes well beyond simply telling you that you can have an attorney. The Miranda warning must be read in its entirety and without error. That means that even if you were told you were being arrested and that you could ask for an attorney, if the officer wasn’t exact in his or her recitation of those rights you could still say the arrest was invalid. Whether or not that defense will stick depends largely on the case, the jury, and sometimes even the judge. However, if you can provide evidence, like a dashcam video, to prove that your rights weren’t read correctly you could have a solid case for dismissal. At the very least you could have your charges reduced.

You Were Stopped Without Probable Cause

Before you were arrested you were pulled over, and the officer is required to have had a good reason for doing so. Simply suspecting that someone is driving drunk or having a hunch isn’t a good enough reason to pull someone over. If you were pulled over for another reason, make sure the initial infraction you were charged with falls under a primary law in your state. If an infraction falls under a primary law, the officer is allowed to pull you over for that infraction alone. However, if an infraction falls under secondary law, the officer has to have a reason under primary law to pull you over. In other words, let’s say you were pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt, but seat belt infractions fall under secondary law in your state. You could argue that the officer, barring any other probable cause, pulled you over for a secondary law offense, meaning the arrest is invalid because you shouldn’t have been pulled over in the first place.

Witnesses Disagree With the Officer

If the arresting officer claims that you were swerving all over the road but you can produce a witness who says otherwise, you’ve cast some doubt on the prosecution’s version of events. Try to think of anyone who could corroborate your side of the story and poke holes in the prosecution’s version of events. Doing so is a powerful way to help bolster your side of the case and make the jurors wonder how reliable the officer’s eyewitness testimony really is.

As you can see, you might have more options than you think when it comes to defending yourself against DUI and DWI charges. Beyond driving-related and arrest-related defenses, there are also defenses you can use that challenge the testing procedures done to determine your blood alcohol level. Be sure to find an experienced DUI attorney in your area. Only a DUI lawyer will be able to look at the specifics of your case and help you craft the defense that will be most beneficial to you.


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