Since the late 1990s, thousands of people have asked this question. Before then, DUI was little more than a traffic ticket. Then, under pressure from advocacy groups, the laws started getting tougher, especially in the south. Today, Georgia has one of the harshest DUI laws in the nation.
As legislative and judicial authorities strengthened the DUI law, mostly through legal changes and enforcement methods, they added additional moving parts to the law. DUI checkpoints are a good example. Authorities approved these roadblocks hoping to reduce the number of DUI motorists. Instead, all the rules associated with these checkpoints simply made them easier to defend in court.
Ancillary matters are important as well. Jail release and the ALR hearing are good illustrations. Prompt jail release basically unlocks some advanced DUI defenses. Defendants who are in jail understandably don’t want to wait weeks for a pretrial hearing or months for a trial. They want to get out as quickly as possible. Administrative License Revocation hearings give attorneys a critical leg up in the defense process.
All these opportunities are simply missed opportunities without a good Marietta criminal defense lawyer. An attorney quickly evaluates a DUI or other criminal case and identifies the chinks in the state’s armor. Some possible weaknesses are outlined below. Then, once the case goes to court, a Marietta criminal defense attorney uses these defenses at trial or during plea bargaining sessions. Our professional team is never satisfied with anything less than the best possible result under the circumstances. That’s what you expect and deserve.
We mentioned possible issues with DUI roadblocks above. Some specific requirements include supervisor authorization for the checkpoint, detailed physical requirements, and a neutral formula for stopping motorists. Mostly because of increased operating expenses, DUI roadblocks usually only pop up around New Years Eve, Memorial Day Weekend, and other such holidays.
Most DUI arrests begin with traffic stops. Officers pull over motorists for a moving or non-moving violation. Then, a preliminary investigation, which usually focuses on physical symptoms of alcohol consumption, prompts a more thorough investigation. At least, that’s the way these stops are supposed to proceed, according to Georgia law.
Sometimes, officers take shortcuts. Perhaps a motorist leaves a bar late at night or a driver gets nervous when a squad car appears. It’s completely illegal to detain motorists based solely on these hunches. It’s borderline illegal to tail these motorists until they commit traffic violations. Many Cobb County jurors view such activity as profiling.
The DIC warning is another possible issue. Don’t ask us what DIC stands for because we don’t know. We do know that officers must read this warning before they ask suspects for chemical samples. The warning must be current, because the law changes frequently. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, officers must read the warning in a language the suspect understands. This requirement also means that, for example, an officer who reads a Spanish warning must speak the language, or at least be able to pronounce the words properly.
Intoxication, or the lack of intoxication, is frequently the only issue in a DUI case. However, the matter could involve some non-intoxication defenses. A less experienced attorney may overlook items like:
- Disabled Vehicle: Georgia law broadly defines the “driving” element of a DUI. Defendants who are sitting in parked vehicles, even if they are passed-out drunk, could be charged with this offense. However, such charges only hold up in court if the car had gas in the tank, had four inflated tires, and was otherwise operable.
- Vehicle Operation: On a related note, Cobb County prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was behind the wheel in an intoxicated state. This element is often difficult to prove in DUI collision cases. Usually, by the time an emergency responder arrives at the scene, the defendant has already exited the vehicle.
- Incorrect County: Cobb County judges only have authority over criminal matters that take place inside Cobb County. Many communities are partially in one county and partially in another one. When the state files charges in the wrong county, prosecutors are normally entitled to a do-over. But they’d often rather cut a deal than put forth all that effort.
In some jurisdictions, a favorable deal in a DUI case could mean a reduction to reckless driving. This offense is also a misdemeanor. But it doesn’t have the same collateral consequences, such as drivers’ license suspension, as a DUI.
Defendants are intoxicated in Georgia if they have lost the normal use of their physical or mental faculties, or they have a BAC above the legal limit. Let’s look at these items individually.
The approved field sobriety tests, such as the one-leg stand, supposedly determine loss of physical or mental ability. But there are two major problems with these tests.
First, there are almost no peer-reviewed studies which validate these tests. As a result, a Marietta criminal defense attorney, often when partnering with a degreed chemist or another expert witness, can highlight some test flaws for jurors.
Second, field sobriety tests don’t establish cause and effect. There are a number of reasons a person may not be able to walk a straight line heel to toe. Intoxication is one reason. Others include fatigue, nervousness, and clumsiness. It’s not illegal to drive while sleepy, clumsy, or nervous.
The modern Breathalyzer is a very sophisticated device. It uses a fuel cell to trigger an electrochemical reaction and measure ethanol products in the breath.
That’s the standard line police Breathalyzer technicians use to validate these test results. These technicians don’t mention the fact that the Breathalyzer uses the same underlying technology as a 1920s Drunk-O-Meter. Both devices measure breath alcohol level to estimate blood alcohol level. Much like the field sobriety tests, once jurors understand how a Breathalyzer really works, they are often willing to question the results, especially in a .08, .09 or other borderline BAC case.
Admittedly, blood tests are harder to attack than breath tests. But blood tests are not bulletproof. Possible flaws include equipment failure, operator error, and chain of custody issues. A Marietta criminal defense lawyer doesn’t have to “prove” the breath test was invalid. Creating reasonable doubt is enough.
A number of DUI defenses are available in Cobb County. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Convenient payment plans are available.