Of course, if you were completely sober or you weren't in actual physical control of a vehicle, you're probably not guilty of driving under the influence. (And, of course, if either of those are the case, you're probably not going to be charged with a DUI in the first place.) But most DUIs aren't black and white cases of guilt or innocence. You may feel like the officer pulled you over for no reason, improperly obtained a blood or breath sample, or lied about your performance on the roadside sobriety tests.
There are many reasons to feel like drunk driving charges are unjust or unfair, but when are those reasons good enough to plead not guilty and challenge a DUI charge?
By pleading not guilty or refusing a plea bargain from prosecutors, you are moving on the path towards a criminal trial. But that doesn't mean that a trial is inevitable. DUI charges get dismissed all the time and for a variety of reasons. Procedural problems with the traffic stop, evidence gathering, or arrest can all raise enough red flags for prosecutors that they won't want to proceed, knowing those flaws will become fatal at trial. (While not entirely ethical, some prosecutors may push harder for plea deals if they recognize such issues.)
So it is possible to beat a DUI charge on technicality, before a criminal trial ever begins. And the only way to do that is to refuse a plea bargain and be prepared to challenge the charge in court.
Maintaining your innocence throughout a criminal trial can work as well, depending on the circumstances. There are several ways to win a DUI case, most of which involve attacking the evidence or the traffic stop itself. If you can't prove that you were pulled over without justification, you will have to prove that the evidence against was either obtained illegally or tainted. You can:
- Challenge the field sobriety tests;
- Challenge the breathalyzer test; or
- Challenge the blood alcohol test.
If none of that works, you can try some rare, long-shot DUI defenses. Just know that if you plead guilty to a DUI, the burden is on the police and prosecutor to prove that you were driving drunk beyond a reasonable doubt, and that battling a DUI charge is often easier and more effective with a good attorney on your side.