Can A Technicality Save You From A DUI Conviction?

If you've been charged with a DUI, it's normal to hope for a miracle that will make the whole problem go away. You made a mistake and learned from it. Now, you're probably scared half to death of the long-term consequences. Many people hope that a technicality will help them get the charges dismissed. It might -- but you should understand what kinds of technicalities can do that and what kinds can't.

Errors and missing information on the ticket usually aren't enough to do it.

A lot of people spot small errors on their ticket and mistakenly believe that they've found the answer to their troubles. There's a fairly pervasive myth that something like a misspelled name, a missing signature, the wrong date, or a transposed license plate number on the ticket will be enough of a legal technicality to get a DUI dismissed.

It won't. A ticket by any other name is a citation or summons that puts you on notice that you've violated the law and have to appear in court to answer the charges. It's usually not considered evidence, so don't expect it to get the whole case dismissed.

Point the error out to your attorney anyway. He or she may decide to use it as part of a systematic challenge on the officer's memory or events and credibility if that's the best tactic to take.

A challenge to the officer's memory or credibility might be the way to proceed.

It's entirely reasonable to hope that the officer who arrested you forgets to show up to court, but it isn't likely to happen. Instead, hope that your attorney is able to successfully challenge the officer's judgment when pulling you over.

An officer can't just pull you over and administer a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test for no reason at all. There has to be a reasonable suspicion (also known as "probable cause") that you are driving under the influence. If the officer can't show that you were driving erratically or can't exactly remember what led to his or her belief that you might be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, that's a technicality that could get your case dismissed.

It's very common for attorneys to try to prove that there was a lack of reasonable suspicion for your traffic stop. Today, dash cameras and police body cameras are often relied on to show whether or not you violated any traffic laws or were acting erratically when questioned. That's why many attorneys recommend against taking field sobriety tests -- they're difficult for anyone to perform and can make you look impaired on camera in front of a jury even if you weren't.

A challenge directed at missing or mishandled evidence can often be productive.

Another effective way of directing a DUI defense toward a technicality is to focus on missing or mishandled evidence.

For example, Ted Vick, a member of the House of Representatives, was able to get a DUI charge dismissed because the officers didn't film themselves reading him his Miranda rights when they put him under arrest. The laws in his state provide for the use of a police affidavit that those rights were read to the defendant off camera, but only when there's no working video camera available. In this case, the officers had a working camera on their cruiser. They were just out of range when they read Rep. Vick his legal rights.

Challenging the technical accuracy of the tests used during the arrest is also effective. For example, hundreds (or thousands) of drunk driving convictions in San Francisco were called into question when it was determined that calibration tests for accuracy hadn't been performed in at least six years on police breathalyzers. In Massachusetts, an investigation into an overeager crime lab chemist showed the improper handling of thousands of drug tests.

Technicalities can play an important part in any DUI defense. However, don't rely on misinformation or luck and hope that it will be enough to get your charges dismissed. For more information, contact Malcolm Stewart Douglas Atty or a similar legal professional.