Critical Mistakes to Avoid if You get a DUI

DUI/DWAI cases are complex and knowledgeable attorneys often consider them to be among the most difficult cases to defend. Because of this same complexity, a great number of attorneys make critical mistakes during DUI/DWAI cases…mistakes which can profoundly harm their clients in terms of losing their license, paying considerable fines, being jailed, having huge increases in their insurance rates, and the effect it could have on their current/future job. Below is a list of the top five most common mistakes made by attorneys defending DUI cases.

  1. Thinking that the case is lost before really looking into the facts:
    Due to the social stigmas associated with drunk driving, many people are under the impression that their case is cut-and-dry and can not be won. This couldn't be farther from the truth, as DUI/DWAI cases can often be won based on technical defenses, such as:

    • The sample was not taken within two hours.
    • The results are under .12 and the retest is below .10.
    • The results are under .12 and the retest is 20% or more off.
    • You burped and the officer did not start the observation period over.
    • You had something in your mouth, such as chewing tobacco.
    • You were on an Adkins diet.
    • You have diabetes.
    • You have dentures.
    • You work with solvents.
    • An alcohol antiseptic was used when blood was drawn.

  2. Accepting that the field sobriety tests were administered properly:
    Many attorneys read the police report and just assume that protocol was followed while administering your field sobriety tests. This shouldn't be the case, as sobriety test results may be deemed invalid based on technical defenses such as:

    • The test operator having a current certification.
    • The machine having a current certification.
    • Calibrating the machine as often as required.
    • Changing the mouthpiece before the test is given.
    • Keeping a record of the temperature of the calibrating solutions in the machine.
    • Keeping a log of the tests run.
    • Counting the number of times the calibration solution has been changed

  3. Putting the defendant on the stand:
    Though it may seem like a good idea to put a defendant on the stand, it can actually make matters worse for your case. Defendants who are not used to public speaking, or feel uncomfortable in front of a crowd may come off as nervous as they are not experienced witnesses. Further, placing the defendant on the stand turns the jury's focus from deciding whether or not the prosecutor's case is strong enough for a conviction, to a judgement of the defendant's character. In fact, the only time where it's advised to put the defendant on the stand is if they are going to contradict a statement the officer made.

  4. Not personally inspecting the arrest location:
    Many lawyers do not take the time to go out and visit the arrest location for themselves. This can prove to be crucial, as entire defenses can be built on where the arrest took place. For instance, a particular location could make the roadside test more difficult (or physically impossible) to perform than others. Or, a winding road prior to the arrest location could explain why there was "erratic driving behavior" prior to the traffic stop.

  5. Not consulting a specialist:
    Firstly, you should always try to hire a DUI/DWAI specialist while dealing with those charges. Though an attorney that's a general practitioner may be good at IP law or divorce litigation, they may not do so well with the intricacies of DUI/DWAI law.


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Revised: May 16, 2022, 6:54 a.m.
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