With a wink and a hat tip to a recent discussion on our FindLaw Answers DUI & DWI Forum, it may be helpful to know that DUI charges don't always stick.
For a variety of reasons particular to each drunken or drugged driving arrest, there may be legal routes available to get DUI charges dismissed.
Here are five ways that can potentially happen:
1. No Probable Cause for the Traffic Stop
A traffic stop made without probable cause is almost never legal. This happened to ex-FAA Chief Randy Babbitt. A judge tossed his DWI charge when a police video showed him making a perfectly legal left turn into a parking lot. The judge determined the officer had no "legitimate reason" for a traffic stop. This is because an officer can't stop you on a "hunch" that you're drunk. There needs to be something objectively incriminating.
2. Faulty Breathalyzer Tests
Police often use breath tests to determine the blood-alcohol level of a DUI suspect. Generally, Breathalyzer tests are reliable -- but they're not foolproof. Sometimes, breath-test machines are miscalibrated. When a Breathalyzer isn't adjusted properly, a driver's blood-alcohol level can appear higher than it actually is.
3. Issues With Blood Tests
Not too long ago, we explained why it might be a bad idea to refuse a blood test. But the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that in most drunken driving cases, officers need a warrant for forced blood draws on DUI suspects. A warrantless blood draw without consent generally violates the Fourth Amendment.
Though police don't need a warrant during exigent circumstances, a DUI charge can be dismissed if a driver's blood was drawn without a warrant or consent.
In one DUI case, a man got drunk at a concert, and -- doing the responsible thing -- tried to sleep it off in his car. But police told him he had to drive home so they could close the parking lot. Soon after he drove off, they arrested him for DUI. The court held that he could argue entrapment in his defense.
5. Not Legally Drunk
If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it actually doesn't always mean it's a duck. In some cases, officers make a note in their reports of "objective symptoms of intoxication" like bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and a whiff of alcohol. But those signs don't always mean a driver has the BAC level needed for a DUI conviction.
Remember, blood tests and breath tests are not fullproof, and you are within your rights to challenge faulty lab tests.