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How to Get Your DUI Dismissed

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a dangerous and all too common choice. Being impaired by drugs or alcohol can lead to poor and impulsive decisions. While making a plan for transportation before becoming intoxicated is a good idea, mistakes happen.

Though a first-offense DUI is typically a misdemeanor, a conviction carries heavy penalties. You face driver's license suspension, considerable fines, and even jail time. Plus, having a DUI conviction on your record can affect your life for years.

If you're confronting a DUI charge, it's normal to wonder how to get your case dismissed. Multiple issues may lead to the dismissal of your DUI case.

Only an attorney can give you legal advice. Every case is different. There are no guarantees. There are a few common reasons for a dismissal that you may want to discuss with your criminal defense attorney.

Was the Traffic Stop Valid?

Before pulling you over for a traffic stop, a law enforcement officer must have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to suspect you committed a crime. Simply stated, the officer must be able to say the reason for stopping your vehicle. If you're arrested, this reason is often listed in your police report. Reasonable suspicion or probable cause can include:

  • Speeding
  • Weaving
  • Erratic driving
  • Broken taillight
  • Running a stop sign or red light

If the arresting officer has no basis for reasonable suspicion, a judge may order any evidence obtained from the traffic stop thrown out under the Fourth Amendment. This includes the results of any chemical and field sobriety tests, as well as your words to the police officer.

For example, if you are driving away from a bar but are not committing any traffic violations, the officer has no valid reason to stop you. Anything after the stop likely isn't allowed into evidence. This includes objective signs of intoxication such as slurred speech, red eyes, or the smell of alcohol. This is the exclusionary rule.

An exception is if you are stopped at a sobriety or DUI checkpoint. An officer does not need probable cause or a reasonable suspicion of an offense to stop you there. But strict rules govern the handling of sobriety checkpoints. Vehicles must be randomly chosen for DUI screening.

Challenging the Field Sobriety Tests

Another possible route to dismissal of a DUI offense is challenging the validity of the field sobriety tests (FSTs). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approves standards for many of these tests. They are generally admissible in court. Many officers use three main tests to help determine if you are too impaired to drive:

Though these tests are generally accurate, they are subject to human error. A few ways your defense attorney may challenge FSTs include:

  • Were the tests given in poorly lit conditions or on uneven pavement?
  • Were you wearing improper shoes, such as high heels or sandals?
  • Did the officer explain the test instructions properly?

Regarding the HGN test, there are several explanations for involuntary eye movement besides alcohol. You may have a medical condition or be taking certain medications that can mimic involuntary eye movement, like those present during alcohol impairment. Medical conditions, injuries, and disabilities may also cause difficulty with the walking and standing tests.

Chemical Test Results

Chemical tests determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or drug intoxication. You may be able to challenge the accuracy of your results. One key area your DUI defense attorney may be able to contest is whether the Breathalyzer or breath testing device was properly maintained and calibrated.

Your lawyer can question the way officers obtained a blood sample. If you submitted to a blood test, was the paramedic trained? Was the blood draw appropriately administered? Could it have gotten contaminated?

These are a few possible ways your blood or breath alcohol results can be thrown out or called into question, weakening the prosecution's case against you.

You Weren't Driving

While this defense is less technical and more fact-specific, in some situations the prosecution may not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were the driver. This argument is common when the police arrive at a solo vehicle accident for which no one saw who was driving, and passengers are in the car. It also helps if you did not make any admissions of driving.

This defense can also come up if law enforcement finds an intoxicated person in a parked vehicle. You don't have to be in motion, but DUI laws vary by state. Typically, you must be driving or at least in a position to drive, should you choose, for a DUI charge. What qualifies as “in control" is up to the judge and is often subjective. A defense attorney can argue you weren't in control of the car or couldn't have driven.

Plea Bargaining and Pretrial Diversion

You could be eligible for a plea bargain. While that's not a dismissal, you could avoid a costly and cumbersome DUI conviction on your record.

Some states don't allow for the pleading down of a DUI case to a lesser criminal charge, such as reckless driving. It may be possible in your state, especially if this is your first DUI, if there are no injuries, and if your blood alcohol content is not excessively high. A defense lawyer can advise you on the law in your state and how it relates to your case.

Another possibility for a first-time DUI charge is pretrial diversion. If it's available in your state, you can complete specific requirements in exchange for having your DUI arrest dismissed. Often, these requirements include:

  • Completing substance abuse education or treatment
  • Installing an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle
  • Performing community service hours
  • Having no new offenses

At the end of a set period, your charges get dismissed if you complete the requirements. However, you have to enter a guilty plea to begin this process. If you don't meet all your requirements, the judge enters a conviction against you.

Get Legal Help With a DUI Dismissal

While it's possible to have a drugged or drunk driving charge dismissed, it's unlikely you can do it on your own. A skilled defense attorney with experience in DUIs can review your case and the evidence against you. While results are never guaranteed, a legal professional can review your case and look for constitutional rights violations or errors by the officer. Consider speaking with an experienced, local DUI attorney to discuss your options.

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Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex DUI situations usually require a lawyer
  • DUI defense attorneys can challenge Breathalyzer/Intoxilyzer or blood test results
  • A lawyer can seek to reduce or eliminate DUI penalties
  • A lawyer can help get your license back

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