How do you know when to go trial or not for your DUI case? DUI charges are not as simple as some would think. The specific requirements of California Penal Code 23152 leave many opportunities to mount effective defenses at trial. Keep in mind, a guilty plea may be tempting but the punishment will likely be the same or similar to the sentence given by a judge if you are found guilty at trial without the benefit of having a chance to win. Here are some situations in which you should seriously consider fighting your case at trial.
You were not pulled over by a police officer
The strongest DUI case is one in which the prosecution cannot establish a last time the defendant was driving their vehicle. For example, John drives off the road and his vehicle becomes stuck in a gully. He passes out in the drivers seat with the vehicle running. Officer Joe is on patrol and as he is passing through the area, he spots John's vehicle off the road. John has a strong odor of alcohol and is unconscious. He is arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence and his BAC is later discovered to be 0.25 percent at the hospital. Most people would assume this case is hopeless. An experienced attorney sees a strong trial case.
It must be proven that the defendant's BAC was .08 percent or more at the time of driving. After consuming an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol slowly absorbs into the blood until full absorption is reached and then the alcohol slowly dissipates in the blood after full absorption is reached. This means your BAC after your arrest is not the same as your BAC at the time of driving and cannot be used alone to convict you. In order to determine your BAC at the time of driving, the prosecution typically uses a formula known as "retrograde extrapolation" to calculate backward from when your BAC was taken to the time of driving. This formula has a fatal flaw, it requires a last time of driving to estimate the BAC at the time of driving. In the above example, Officer Joe knows the time he discovered the vehicle but did not witness any driving and may not speculate as to when the defendant might have been driving. There is no way to prove the BAC at the time of driving in this example and a jury should find you not guilty.
You refused to take a chemical test at the scene and your BAC results were low
John is pulled over by a police officer. During the stop, the officer suspects John is under the influence of alcohol and Officer Joe places John under arrest. John refuses to take a breathalyzer at the scene and is transported to the detention center an hour and a half later, where his blood is drawn. The results come back as 0.12 percent.
Just like before, the prosecution must prove that the defendant had a BAC of .08 percent at the time of driving. Unlike before, the prosecution has a last known time of driving and may apply the retrograde extrapolation formula to this case. The only available BAC is the results taken at the detention center. Using this BAC and time with retrograde extrapolation we find the results are .075 percent at the last known time of driving. In the example, John refused a chemical test at the scene so the jury will not know John's BAC immediately after the stop and must rely on the results obtained at the detention center. That one and a half hours made a huge difference in this case, and John should be found not guilty by a jury at trial.
Why you should go to trail for your DUI case
The difficulty of proving a DUI case should be evident by now. There are numerous valid defenses that can be made to a jury that cannot be made to the prosecutor or a judge. Keep in mind, in the American criminal system a guilty verdict must be unanimous. If one juror of twelve votes not guilty, the defense has won and you can avoid serious penalties. A DUI conviction will be on your criminal record for life and you will likely have to explain the situation every time you apply to a new job. Not to mention, a DUI remains on your driving record for ten years increasing your car insurance by 97% on average. It most cases it is worth going to trial to avoid these long lasting consequences.