There are thousands of arrests for DUI every year. It is an unfortunate situation that many people find themselves in that can end up causing serious damage to their lives and reputations. For such a ubiquitous crime, it is surprising that so many people do not know more about the nature of the charge. Many people do not know the difference between different types of DUI and the resulting need for a different legal strategy to combat each type. Knowing the difference between different types of DUI is critical for individuals who need to fight the charge and mount the best defense possible against the charge.
The DUI Arrest
Any individual who is arrested for DUI needs to take the same steps. First, they need to focus on getting out of jail and posting bail. Getting out of jail allows them to craft their legal defense and meet with lawyers. Then, those lawyers need to be procured. Individuals who are charged with DUI need to try as hard as they can to find confident, experienced lawyers who will help them craft the best possible defense. A lawyer will help an individual with discovery, interviewing witnesses, and building an evidence base.
At an individual’s arraignment, they can begin the process of discovering what type of DUI they are being charged with. Impairment DUIs often have a legal strategy that is focused on witnesses, the state of mind of the individuals involved, and the decision-making skills of the arresting officer. A defense on a per se DUI charge requires a focus on evidence as well as an effort to look at the actions and ideas of an arresting officer.
Either way, individuals should definitely consult legal counsel before the interview with police or accept a plea deal. The maxim that whatever you say can be used against you in a court of law is definitely true. Poorly thought-out words and phrases can be twisted against you and used against you in a court of law relatively quickly. Having competent legal counsel from the very beginning of proceedings can help ensure that you are able to receive the best defense possible and have the highest chance of either an acquittal or a minor sentence.
A DUI is sometimes forgiven to a certain degree on a first offense that does not directly pose harm to the general public. Individuals who are convicted of this first offense may receive probation and a suspended license. The chance of only a minor conviction increases greatly with legal counsel. Without legal counsel, an individual may have to spend significant time in jail even with a first offense.
Types of DUI arrests
The most common form of DUI that occurs in the vast majority of instances is a per se DUI. The term per se refers to the kind of evidence that is used for the arrest. In a per se DUI, the person is arrested because they have scored over a .08 on a blood alcohol content test. Such a high score means that it is scientifically extremely likely that a person is too impaired to drive. In the case of a per se DUI arrest, an officer has some sort of reasonable suspicion that a person is driving impaired. They may be swerving across the road or asleep behind the wheel.
In that case, an officer stops the individual’s vehicle and collects their registration. At some point, the arresting officer applies the blood alcohol content test usually through a breathalyzer test. If the individual scores above a .08, they can then be arrested and charged with DUI. The level is lower for people driving commercial vehicles and minors or other individuals under the age of 21.
The other common form of a DUI arrest is an impairment arrest. This type of arrest for DUI relies upon a different evidence base than a per se DUI arrest. In this case, the arrest begins in the same way that it does in a per se case. An officer has some reason to pull over an individual and suspect that they are driving while impaired. Then, the officer performs a series of field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests help tell an officer whether or not a person is impaired because they consist of tasks that an impaired person cannot easily do. An officer then uses their own judgment to decide whether or not a person has failed or passed the test and arrests them if they fail it.
The evidence base is the key difference between the two types of DUI arrests. In any sort of arrest, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular crime occurred. This proof is much more difficult if it comes from the simple judgment and opinion of an arresting officer. An officer’s judgment and memory may be questioned in one way or another. Police officers are often trusted because of their skills, training, and assumed impartiality. However, the opinion of one individual can always be challenged and fought against by a competent legal team. This is the inherent difficulty with an impairment DUI conviction.
The idea of an individual not performing a field sobriety test well is often subjective. This assumption is even more questionable when a field sobriety test is not properly captured by a dashcam on a police cruiser. In that case, a large number of DUI convictions would not occur. The per se arrest is different. Per se DUIs rely upon a drug test that is much more difficult to argue against. An objective machine determines the amount of blood alcohol content in a person and it is scientifically provable that the vast majority of people will be impaired at that BAC level.
Therefore, almost every officer arresting someone for a DUI will submit the individual being arrested to a blood alcohol content test. BAC tests are so routine and necessary that individuals can be arrested for refusing to submit to them. An individual who refuses to submit to a BAC test must prove themselves that they should not have taken the test. Such a defense is rarely successful.
DUI Defense strategies
The per se DUI is much more difficult to defend than an impairment DUI in a court of law. However, that does not mean that such a defense is impossible. It does not mean that an individual should simply accept the charges and the sentence of the prosecutor and the judge. Instead, an individual needs to secure adequate council that will provide the strongest defense possible. A per se DUI arrest results from a test that involves an individual’s breath and other possible bodily fluids. The presence of evidence that is so key to such a case needs to be handled properly. Such evidence must be tracked and every individual who puts their hands on the evidence must be documented.
Any sort of breakdown in this chain of custody for blood alcohol content evidence in a DUI case can be analyzed and scrutinized by a competent defense attorney. Even a time span of a few hours where evidence is not properly being tracked can result in an individual winning their case. A per se DUI case is also subject to many of the same constraints as other cases. Prosecutors and judges both take into consideration numerous factors when determining guilt and sentencing surrounding a DUI case. They may take into consideration the age of an individual and their history with the law. Other extenuating circumstances may include the way in which they treated their arresting officer and the ways in which their driving was a danger to others.
People who are arrested of DUI must act quickly to preserve their future. They need to take concrete, active steps in order to preserve their ability to fight the charge and possibly avoid jail time. Knowing the difference between per se and impairment DUI is a critical first step. The next step is to bring in sufficient legal counsel and work with that legal counsel. This is the best possible way for an individual charged with a serious crime to win their case.