You were driving drunk, and you got caught. The police pulled you over, you blew above the legal limit, and you got arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). Can a DUI defense lawyer help you? Or is it time to accept the consequences of your mistake?
Even if there is no question that you were driving under the influence, there are still many ways an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer can help you. With the severe penalties for a DUI conviction, you need to fight to protect yourself by all means available. Here are seven ways a DUI defense lawyer may be able to help you even if you think you are guilty of DUI:
1. Challenging Your Traffic Stop
Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the police can only stop a vehicle if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the driver has committed (or is committing) a traffic offense or crime. A simple “hunch” is not enough, and the law expressly prohibits police officers from stopping drivers based on their race, color, sex or gender.
If the police stopped you without reasonable suspicion, this violation of your Fourth Amendment rights means that all of the evidence obtained after your traffic stop may be inadmissible in court. Without admissible evidence of guilt, prosecutors will not be able to pursue a successful case against you.
2. Challenging Your Arrest
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution also requires the police to have “probable cause” to make an arrest. This is a higher standard than “reasonable suspicion,” which requires a reasonable basis for believing that a crime has been committed.
Similar to lack of reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop, if the police lacked probable cause to arrest you, then the arrest violated your Fourth Amendment rights. This means that any evidence obtained after your arrest may be inadmissible in your DUI case.
3. Disputing Your Breathalyzer Test Result
In many DUI cases, the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is one of the prosecution’s key pieces of evidence. As a result, disputing the validity of a defendant’s BAC reading can be an effective defense strategy in many cases.
Even if you were legally intoxicated, if your BAC reading is invalid, it cannot legally be used against you. There are several ways to challenge a BAC reading in a New Jersey DUI case, including:
- Arguing that the breathalyzer device was not properly calibrated (or that the prosecution cannot prove that it was calibrated correctly)
- Arguing that the arresting officer did not properly administer the breathalyzer test (or that the prosecution cannot prove that the arresting officer properly administered the test)
- Demonstrating that you have a medical condition that triggered a “false positive” BAC reading
- Demonstrating that you take a medication that triggered a “false positive” BAC reading
- Demonstrating that there is some other explanation for your high BAC
4. Disputing Your Field Sobriety Test Results
While you are not required to submit to the field sobriety tests (FSTs) during a DUI traffic stop in New Jersey, many people are unaware of this fact. If you submitted to the FSTs, the prosecution could use your test results against you—but you may also be able to challenge your test results on various grounds.
The grounds for challenging your FST results include improper test administration, improper interpretation of your performance on the FSTs, and alternate explanations (other than alcohol impairment) for “failing” the tests. Even if you were drunk, if your FST results are unreliable, then prosecutors should not be able to use them as evidence of guilt.
5. Keeping Your Statements Out of Court
When the police arrest you, they must read your Miranda rights prior to interrogating you in custody. If you admitted to driving drunk in response to police questioning without having been read your rights, then your admission may be inadmissible in court. If prosecutors do not have other evidence, they can use to convict you, then you may be able to avoid a conviction even if you were driving drunk at the time of your arrest.
6. Raising Other Issues with the Prosecution’s Case
In DUI cases, the prosecution has the burden of proof. If prosecutors cannot meet their burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then you are entitled to walk free regardless of the facts at hand.
In addition to the issues discussed above, an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer may be able to challenge the prosecution’s case against you in various other ways as well. This includes asserting both substantive challenges (i.e., challenges to the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence) and procedural challenges (i.e., challenges to the way prosecutors have handled your case). All it takes is one issue to prevent prosecutors from meeting their burden of proof. Your attorney can examine all potential issues and determine if you have any opportunities to avoid a conviction.
7. Mitigating Your Sentence (If Necessary)
Finally, if the circumstances of your case are such that avoiding a conviction is not an option, a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney can work to reduce your sentence. While pre-trial intervention (PTI) is not an option in New Jersey DUI cases, there are various other ways to mitigate the consequences of a DUI arrest.
Your attorney can use the facts of your case to argue that you do not deserve the maximum penalties that judges can impose for driving under the influence under New Jersey law. Your attorney can also help you take steps to show the judge that you made a one-time mistake that will not happen again.
Talk to an Experienced New Jersey DUI Lawyer About Your DUI Case
Are you facing a DUI charge in New Jersey? If so, we strongly recommend that you speak with a New Jersey DUI lawyer about your case. To schedule a confidential initial consultation at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. as soon as possible, call 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can reach you online now.
Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive experience in defending DUI cases as they were former assistant prosecutors and/or police officers for a combined total of over 600 years of law enforcement experience. You can find out more about them on our site, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.