Defending Charges of Drunk Driving
There are many actions that can be taken to provide those accused of DUI to successfully challenge a charge. Following your arrest, the first step you should take is to contact an attorney to file a DMV Hearing request, which must be done within 10 days after your arrest. Floyd, Skeren & Kelly, LLP have helped residents in the Greater Los Angeles area since 1987 in fighting their DUI charges. Failing to take this first important step can lead to automatic suspension of your license. By contacting our firm quickly, we can have the time needed before your DMV Hearing to review your case and investigate the facts surrounding your police stop and arrest. This will all help to prepare for your hearing as well as for your criminal case to follow.
Prosecutors rely greatly on the results of your blood alcohol content (BAC) tests administered by law enforcement to prove their case. We have found a great many of these readings taken are unreliable due to various factors such as the improper training for the person conducting the test, improper maintenance or calibration of the machine or even a medical condition you may suffer from that could affect the results. This opens the door to possible defense that can be used on your behalf.
DUI Court Process
The DUI legal process goes through many stages beginning with your arrest. If you are pulled over by law enforcement or stopped at a sobriety checkpoint because it is suspected that you are driving under the influence, you will be given some form of DUI test. This can include field sobriety testing, breath test or blood test. If you blood alcohol content (BAC) is above 0.08% or higher, you will be arrested for DUI. You can also be arrested if you are on probation for a DUI conviction and your BAC is 0.01% or higher, or if you are under 21 and your BAC is 0.01% or greater.
You will have 10 days from the date of your arrest to schedule a DMV hearing. This is an administrative hearing that will determine if your license will be suspended or revoked. In most cases, you will have the opportunity to post bail after your arrest. Your arraignment will be scheduled for the following day, at which time you will get copies of the evidence against you. After the arraignment, a pre-trial hearing will be held where all of the evidence is reviewed. Charges can be reduced or the case dismissed at a pre-trial hearing depending on the circumstances of the case and the skill of your attorney.
If the case isn't settled at your pre-trial hearing, it will go to trial for a final adjudication in the matter. You will need competent legal advice for an attorney well-versed in DUI laws when fighting the charges against you. DUI laws can be extremely confusing and the legal process can involve many steps before your case is resolved. A conviction in a DUI case can result in penalties that can range from mandatory installation of the Ignition Interlock Device, as well as imprisonment and even monetary fines.
Criminal Defense Against Charges
It is against the law to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. If you are pulled over by police who suspect you are driving while intoxicated, various DUI tests will be administered, such as a field sobriety test, breath test and/or blood test. If the test results show you have been driving under the influence, you will be arrested for either misdemeanor or felony DUI, depending on the circumstances of your case. A DUI arrest is extremely serious, especially if this is your 2nd or 3rd DUI offense, you were driving with a minor in the car, there was an accident, someone was injured or killed or you were driving with a revoked or suspended license.
You will need qualified legal representation from a capable lawyer to fight the charges against you. Floyd, Skeren & Kelly, LLP is a highly experienced DUI defense firm that has successfully represented many clients accused of DUI. Our top-notch Criminal Defense department is compromise of skilled litigators who are intimately familiar with prosecution tactics and strategies. We know how to dispute testing procedures and results, and can be relied on to confidently defend you in court.
After an Arrest
An arrest for DUI can cause many hardships. You will need to appear at a DMV hearing within 10 days of your arrest, where a decision will be made regarding the status of your driving privileges. You will also be facing various legal proceedings before your case is concluded. If you are found guilty of DUI, penalties can include probation, jail time, fines, mandatory drug / alcohol counseling, community service and license suspension. Having a qualified attorney by your side will be critical to the outcome of your case. We are tough litigators that will protect your rights and tenaciously challenge the evidence against you.
Cross-Examination of the Arresting Officer
In a DUI case, the testimony of the officer that made the arrest will likely play a lead role in the prosecuting attorney's case against a defendant. The arresting officer may testify regarding driving behavior, statements made by the defendant, performance on field sobriety tests and various other factors that may make it seem as though there is no hope of avoiding a conviction. In spite of all of this, your lawyer will have the opportunity to cross-examine the officer to challenge and possibly disprove his or her testimony.
Cross-examination is the part of criminal proceedings where the attorney has the opportunity to question a "hostile witness" (the witness that the other attorney has brought in) in order to discredit what they have already said during the initial examination. Cross-examination can also be used to help the judge and/or jury see initial testimony in a new light. In a DUI case, the arresting officer will most likely be the key witness for the prosecution. After the prosecuting attorney has questioned the officer on the stand, the defense lawyer will be able to cross-examine the arresting officer. This may prove to be the turning point in a trial.
It is important to take a strategic approach. A full frontal assault may not work on every witness, particularly a seasoned police officer who has been on the stand hundreds of times before. A lawyer should know the officer's background and should have a thorough understanding of what went on at the initial police stop and during field sobriety testing and the arrest. By carefully observing the examination and by using any information garnered from physical evidence, the police report and from the defendant him or herself, the defense lawyer may be able to identify potential weaknesses in the officer's testimony.
Asking the right questions and recognizing opportunity when it presents itself may enable the DUI defense attorney to ensure the arresting officer's testimony does not support the prosecution's claims of guilt.
The Arresting Officer's Testimony is a Powerful Weapon
The arresting officer's testimony is likely to be the most powerful weapon in the prosecution's case against you. The officer may testify regarding:
- Your driving behavior – what made the officer pull you over in the first place (for example, speeding, running a red light or swerving in and out of a lane).
- Statements you made after you were pulled over – the officer may testify that you said you had a "few drinks" or that you admitted to the fact that you had just left a bar.
- Your behavior after the stop and other relevant observations – the officer may make a note of slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, the smell of alcohol on your breath, an open container of alcohol in the vehicle or various other signs that may indicate intoxication.
- Your performance on field sobriety tests – if the officer administered field sobriety tests, he or she may testify regarding your performance on these.
Virtually every point listed above may be analyzed and brought into question during a skilled cross-examination. Our Los Angeles DUI law firm has been serving clients throughout this area since 1987. We know what it takes to carry out an effective cross-examination of the arresting officer in a DUI trial and are ready to put our experience to work for you.
Challenging DUI Evidence
Evidence may be described as certain information, including witness testimony, documents, physical objects or records, provided to the court or jury in legal proceedings as proof of the matter at hand. In a criminal case, both the prosecution and the defense may present evidence in an attempt to prove their side of the story. Along with opening and closing statements, the presentation of evidence (including the examination and cross-examination of witnesses) makes up the main part of a criminal trial. After all evidence is heard in a case, the judge or jury will make a ruling on the matter and the judge will determine the sentence, if any, to be imposed.
In a criminal case involving an alleged DUI (driving under the influence) offense, the evidence presented against a defendant will primarily include the testimony of the arresting officer, the result of a breath test or blood test administered after the defendant's arrest and any other relevant physical evidence, such as an open container of alcohol recovered from the vehicle. By challenging this evidence from every possible angle, an experienced DUI defense attorney may be able to successfully assist a defendant in avoiding a conviction – or even securing a dismissal of all charges.
Evidence Used Against a Defendant?
Physical evidence and witness testimony are the two main types of evidence that will be used in a DUI case. Physical evidence may include the outcome of a breath or blood test that showed a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or greater, above the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle in California. It may also include any physical objects relevant to the case at hand, such as an open container of alcohol that was discovered in the vehicle, photographs of an accident that was allegedly caused by a drunk driver or police reports. Witness testimony will usually include the testimony of the officer that made the arrest. He or she may testify regarding the behavior that caused the initial police stop, statements made by the driver after the stop, performance on field sobriety tests and any other observations.
Though the odds may seem stacked against you when the prosecuting attorney has physical evidence and the testimony of a law enforcement officer to try to secure a conviction, there is much that a competent lawyer may be able to do to challenge this evidence. With physical evidence, a mistake or violation of procedure or your rights may give your attorney grounds to file a motion to suppress said evidence from the trial. With the officer's testimony, a strategic cross-examination may reveal that the officer was mistaken or violated procedure, violated your rights in an illegal search and seizure, or that his or her testimony should not be relied upon as proof of guilt. There are various ways to approach these matters, when looking to fight allegations of driving under the influence.
Appealing a DUI
There are ways to fight against a DUI sentencing prior during the trial process and even after the fact. A DUI case can be appealed if you believe you were wrongly convicted due to mistakes or misconduct during your trial. Consult a lawyer at once to discuss your case and how best to proceed with an appeal. You have sixty days to file an appeal after judgment in your case has been rendered. A qualified DUI defense lawyer can prepare the paperwork that will be necessary, and ensure the appeal is properly filed.
If your driver's license was suspended following your DMV hearing, you also have the right to appeal the decision. A case review request will need to be submitted to the Driver Safety Office within 14 days after the DMV decided to suspend or revoke your license. Contact Floyd, Skeren & Kelly, LLP at once for valuable legal guidance regarding the DUI and DMV appeals process. We are an experienced criminal defense firm with a strong background in DUI cases. Attorneys at our office can provide the skilled representation needed when appealing a DUI conviction or a fighting a license suspension.
Grounds to Appeal
If you believe your DUI conviction was unjust, you have a right to appeal the ruling. Appeals are typically made when:
- You were found guilty even though there was a lack of evidence;
- The prosecution withheld evidence from your attorney;
- A juror was abusing drugs or alcohol during your trial;
- You were represented by an ineffective lawyer;
- Your constitutional rights were violated;
- Vital evidence in support of your defense was omitted; and
- Evidence against you that should not have been used was admitted
A DUI guilty verdict can have many serious consequences, including jail time, fines, restitution, drug and/or alcohol treatment, community service and the loss of your driver's license. Our firm can review your case and compile the critical documentation needed for your appeal.
Illegal Search & Seizure
If you were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may feel as though your case is hopeless. However, with a skilled lawyer on your side, there could be numerous ways to challenge the evidence that is against you. Under the Fourth Amendment, citizens have the right to privacy both in their homes, property, and person. If a law enforcement officer violated any of these rights during the traffic stop or subsequent procedures, all of the evidence against you could be thrown out of court.
In order for a traffic stop to be legal, the law enforcement officer either has to have an arrest warrant for you or have probable cause that you committed a crime. Examples of probable cause in regards to DUIcases include swerving, braking and accelerating, driving with no lights on, or any other form of erratic behavior. However, if you can prove that they did not have probable cause to pull you over, the traffic stop could be deemed illegal and any evidence gathered in the process could be invalidated.
Challenging Your DUI Charges
Besides your rights regarding illegal search and seizures, you also have what is known as the Miranda Rights. Under the Fifth Amendment, anyone who is brought into police custody must be told four things. First, they have the right to remain silent. Second is that anything they say could be used against them should their case go to court. Thirdly, they have the right to an attorney, and fourth that they have the right to be appointed an attorney if they cannot afford one. Again, if the officer violated your rights by failing to let you know these four things, anything incriminating that you say could not be held against you.