The penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) can be very severe in Virginia. But with the right legal representation, a DUI charge does not have to follow you forever. By mounting a compelling defense, your attorney can negotiate with the prosecution to drop or even reduce the charge. He or she can help protect you from losing your license and shield you from a criminal record and damaged reputation.
Arguing DUI Cases
In DUI cases, there are two things the prosecution must be able to prove:
- The defendant was operating the vehicle
- At the same time, the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
An effective DUI defense is one that blocks the prosecution from being able to prove one or both of these elements. How your attorney argues your case is predicated on the circumstances surrounding the arrest itself. What follows is a brief look at the more common DUI defenses available in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The Defendant Was Not Operating the Vehicle
If you were not the one operating the vehicle, you obviously cannot be convicted of DUI. Since most DUI cases originate with the defendant being pulled over, there is usually very little argument, if any, whether or not the defendant was actually driving. The vehicle does not need to be in motion, either; Virginia’s highest court has decided that sitting in the driver’s seat with one’s keys in the vehicle ignition is enough to give a person “control” of a vehicle and therefore to be convicted of drunk driving if he or she is measurably intoxicated.
The Defendant Was Not Under the Influence
If the officer did not have legal justification to pull you over, detain or arrest you or failed to follow established protocols during the arrest, any evidence gathered from the traffic stop or arrest could be declared inadmissible. When this happens, that evidence cannot be used against you. Since the case originates with the traffic stop, suppression of evidence at the scene could stop the prosecution's case in its tracks.
The officer needs to be able to show reasonable articulable suspicion (legal justification to pull you over in the first place). If your attorney can show evidence that there was none, or show evidence of profiling, the evidence gathered during the traffic stop could be suppressed.
If the arresting officer fails to issue Miranda warnings (“You have the right to remain silent…”) or fails to recite them properly and clearly while you are in custody, this is yet another way your drunk driving attorney could get evidence gathered against you suppressed. Failure to read your Miranda rights does not automatically mean your case will be dropped, but it may force the prosecution to disregard evidence against you that was obtained as a result of that failure.
Your attorney could also choose to challenge the testimony of the arresting officer. A significant percentage of the evidence used against you comes from the recorded observations by the officer at the time of the arrest. He or she might include any of these things in the official report:
- The way you were driving (weaving, ignoring traffic control devices, etc.)
- Your appearance (bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, vomiting or hiccuping, etc.)
- Poor performance on a Field Sobriety Test
Issuing a successful challenge to the officer's findings can virtually cripple the prosecution's case.
If you have credible witnesses who observed your actions near the time of the arrest, they can help disprove the prosecution's case. The most valuable testimony comes from people who can tell a judge or jury:
- You were with them for an extended period of time beforehand and did not drink or take any drugs before getting in the car
- You appeared sober when you got in the car
- They were in the car with you and were distracting you, causing you to run a light or stop sign
Other Legitimate Explanations
Your attorney might also be able to provide other legitimate explanations for why an officer might have erroneously perceived probable cause. Among them:
- You failed the Field Sobriety test due to physical limitations
- Your eyes were bloodshot due to seasonal allergies
- Your slurred speech was the unexpected side effect of medication
- The officer did not clearly convey instructions during the Field Sobriety test
Fauquier County DUI Lawyer
If you have been charged with DUI and wish to build a strong defense, you need a Fauquier County DUI lawyer that is experienced in drunk driving cases and fully understands how the laws work in Fauquier County. Nicole Naum has a successful track record in drunk driving cases throughout the Commonwealth and is ready to go over all the details to determine how best to answer your DUI charge. Call today for a free initial consultation. If you are looking for a criminal defense attorney to help with other criminal matters, learn more about the services Nicole Naum provides in Fauquier County.