Fighting a DUI in Virginia
If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI in Virginia, you may have rights and defenses you are unaware of. Below we discuss two common defenses to DUI charges. This is not an exhaustive list, and the facts of your case may be better suited for other defense strategies. Nevertheless these defenses are common for a reason as they target some of the most frequent mistakes and abuses of law enforcement.
Insufficient Evidence to Justify Arrest
This defense is a way of disposing of a case without even addressing the question of guilt or innocence. Due to the procedurally focused nature of such a defense, it is most effective when brought by an attorney, as many individuals may not understand all of the nuances and recent developments in the law. Because DUIs are generally warrantless arrests, police officers must have “probable cause to suspect [the arrestee] of driving or operating a motor vehicle…while intoxicated.”
Driver Was Not in Fact Intoxicated
This defense requires a fact-intensive demonstration that the person arrested was not in fact intoxicated. In many cases, this involves the use of scientific expert testimony to demonstrate flaws in the collection, storage, handling, or testing of a biological specimen (blood or breath sample). These witnesses can then present reasons weighing in favor of a lower blood alcohol concentration. In some rare cases, procedural violations may be so egregious as to exclude the results altogether. But this in itself does not get a defendant off the hook.
Sometimes the prosecution will still pursue charges, arguing that other factors such as erratic driving or poor performance on the field sobriety tests show intoxication. The law allows a jury to convict a defendant without a clear finding of blood alcohol concentration reaching the per se limit (.08%) if the jury determines based on the evidence that the defendant was nevertheless under the influence. But proving intoxication in these cases requires the state to provide good alternative evidence. Most often, that evidence comes in the form of the arresting officer’s testimony. While many jurors may be inclined to accept a police officer’s word as final, a good attorney knows exactly how to cast doubt on their testimony by cross-examination. In these cases police dash cam footage of the incident (or its mysterious absence) can be very useful in challenging the police officer’s claims that the suspect was intoxicated. It can be used to point out errors in administering field sobriety tests (FSTs), as well as to contradict or impeach the officer’s account of the defendant’s performance on the tests. The availability of this sort of video evidence will depend on what agency arrested you, but the Virginia State Police have been using dash cameras for over 20 years, and some local agencies use them as well. However, if there is video of the incident, the government is required to make it available to the defendant upon request. Sometimes this footage can also be useful for challenging the basis of the initial stop.
Contact a Virginia DUI Criminal Defense Attorney today
If you have been arrested for DUI, don’t try to face the criminal justice system on your own. You may not even know what defenses are available to you, and you may be tricked into accepting an unfavorable plea deal. Don’t trust the mercy of the court or the prosecutors. Trust the effective advocacy of the Loudoun, Fairfax, and Prince William County attorneys at Simms Showers. Call us today in Leesburg, and let us fight for your rights.