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Top DUI Defenses: Part 1


Getting arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a frightening and overwhelming experience. From spending the night in jail and getting your licensed suspended to experiencing the court process and DMV hearing, you will need experienced and skilled legal representation on your side to either reduce your charges or get your case dismissed entirely.

Our Santa Barbara DUI attorneys understand that an arrest does not necessarily mean a conviction. With a strong and effective defense strategy, you can avoid life-changing penalties.

The following is the first section of a three-part series about the top 10 DUI defenses:

#1: Bad Driving Doesn’t Result in a DUI

You can fight DUI charges by using the argument of driving poorly or erratically, but not driving under the influence. Often, the first thing the prosecution focuses on during a DUI case is driving pattern, often having the arresting officer testify that the defendant was driving in a manner consistent with someone who was intoxicated behind the wheel.

However, an experienced DUI attorney disproves this evidence by having the officer testify about all of the ways the defendant drove in a proper, safe manner. The defense will hope to elicit testimony which determines that the majority of traffic violations are committed by sober individuals and driving pattern is not a reliable predictor of driving under the influence.

#2: Symptoms of Intoxication Are Not the Same Thing as DUI

Physical appearance plays a huge factor in DUI investigations in California. However, another way to contest DUI charges is to challenge the prosecutor’s use of physical symptoms of intoxication to argue that you were “under the influence.”

The arresting officer may testify that the defendant had one of the following symptoms prior to their arrest:

  • Slurred speech
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Flushed face
  • An “unsteady gait”

A skilled DUI defense attorney can suggest “innocent” explanations that could result in those symptoms. For instance, having red eyes and a flushed face could be from having allergies or a cold.

#3: Field Sobriety Tests Are Not Accurate

If you are charged with a California DUI, and the prosecutor’s evidence includes Field Sobriety Test (FST) results, your criminal defense attorney could challenge those results.

The three standardized field sobriety tests include:

  • The Walk-and-Turn Test
  • The Horizontal Nystagmus Test
  • The One-Leg Stand

FSTs are often one of the most important pieces of evidence for the prosecution and the arresting officer. In most cases, they will claim that you performed poorly on these tests, which led to your arrest for drunk driving.

However, a skilled DUI defense lawyer will explain how balance and coordination can by affected by the following conditions during FSTs:

  • Your natural physical coordination
  • Nervousness
  • Disability
  • Your clothing
  • Having flat feet

Furthermore, the testing conditions could be unreliable. Perhaps, the officer did not administer the test in a proper manner or the test conditions are flawed, such as perform the One-Leg Stand Test on a hill or incline. All of these factors can vary widely, making the unreliability of FST results a crucial DUI legal defense.

If you have been recently arrested and charged with a DUI in Santa Barbara, schedule a free criminal consultation with Appel & Morse today.

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