Defenses to DUI Charges

Phoenix Lawyer Handling Drunk Driving Cases

Penalties for a DUI vary, but they can be harsh. You should not assume you’ll be convicted, even if you took a chemical test that resulted in a 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC) reading. Like other crimes, drunk driving needs to be established beyond a reasonable doubt. If you were charged with a DUI, you should retain an attorney who understands the available defenses to DUI charges. As a former prosecutor, Phoenix DUI lawyer James E. Novak understands how the criminal justice system works. He brings his experience to help those who have been charged with drunk driving offenses.

DUI Charges and Defenses

In a drunk driving case, a prosecutor will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) you were in actual physical control of a vehicle, (2) while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The prosecutor can show you were under the influence by proving you had a BAC of 0.08%. However, the prosecutor can also show you were under the influence by proving you were impaired to the slightest degree.

There are a range of defenses to DUI charges, whether the DUI involved alcohol or drugs. Some of the most commonly raised defenses are procedural defenses and constitutional violations. Arizona requires the elements of a criminal offense to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a tough standard and, in some cases, it is possible to mount a strong defense by raising reasonable doubt about whether you were in actual physical control of the vehicle or whether you were impaired.

Additionally, the police need to honor your constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The Fourth Amendment provides that you are entitled to be free from illegal searches and seizures. The Fifth Amendment prohibits self-incrimination. These amendments are applied by courts in complex ways. If the police do not abide by one or more of your constitutional protections, it may be possible to defend your case by raising the constitutional violation before the court and getting evidence obtained through the violation suppressed.

Fourth Amendment Protections

For example, in order to pull you over while you’re driving, the police must have a reasonable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing under the Fourth Amendment. A reasonable suspicion is more than a hunch and it must be articulable. If there was no reasonable suspicion to pull you over, it may be possible to get all the evidence obtained during the stop — including field sobriety tests and breath tests — thrown out through a motion to suppress. This is likely to gut the prosecutor’s case.

Similarly, in order to arrest you for a DUI, the police need to have probable cause. In order to establish probable cause, the police must have had reasonably trustworthy or objective information that’s enough to warrant someone believing a particular person perpetrated or is perpetrating an offense. Where there was no probable cause, it may be possible to file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained after the arrest, from verbal admissions to chemical test results.

Challenging Evidence Obtained in Tests

The tests administered during and after a stop may provide evidence with which the prosecutor can establish a DUI. However, if those tests were not properly administered, it may be possible to get them suppressed or discredited. Field sobriety tests, for example, need to be administered according to guidelines promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There are several different types of field sobriety tests, such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus and the one-leg stand, and your defense team can examine whether the police properly administered them. Your lawyer would also look at whether there are other factors that might have influenced the outcome of the test, such as a medication or health condition that caused you to fail the field sobriety test.

Similarly, chemical tests must be administered according to proper procedures. As part of your defense, you will want to look at whether the breathalyzer was properly calibrated. You will also look at whether there were issues in how a lab handled your blood sample. Where there are issues with chemical testing, you may be able to call the outcome of the test into question.

Miranda Warnings

Additionally, you are entitled to receive Miranda warnings before being questioned while in custody. These warnings entitle you to stay silent and let you know that any statements you make can be used against you in a criminal case. If you were not provided these warnings before a custodial interrogation, it may be possible to get your answers to questions suppressed.

Consult a DUI Defense Attorney in Phoenix

If you are charged with a DUI, it’s advisable that you retain an experienced lawyer who understands all the available defenses to DUI charges. Our principal James Novak has accumulated years of experience representing those charged with drunk driving in and around Phoenix including in Scottsdale, Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa, and throughout Maricopa County. Call the Law Office of James Novak at (480) 413-1499 or contact the firm through our online form.

Client Reviews
I was facing criminal charges with three priors in my history. Mr Novak was very helpful and got me a lighter sentence than I probably deserved. He is a great attorney and I would highly recommend him. A. T.
James worked tirelessly behind the scenes with the prosecution, to decrease my son’s charges to a more reasonable penalty. I could not have asked for a better, more professional attorney. He treated my son with the utmost respect and walked him through every step of a very difficult situation. S. G.
Attorney Novak did an outstanding job defending my son. Due to his extensive professional background within the court system, he was successfully able to defend my son during a very difficult time for my family. I highly recommend Attorney James Novak for your legal needs. T. G.