No matter the circumstances of a DUI arrest, an experienced attorney should be your first call. Whether you were driving while impaired or whether you were completely sober, there are options you have that can help reduce the penalties you might face or avoid conviction entirely. While you may be inclined to avoid a trial and just accept the consequences, this is frequently the least ideal thing you could do for a given case.
Without looking into the material realities of how the officers acted around your case, how tests were conducted, and whether paperwork was filed appropriately, you cannot know how much evidence could be inadmissible against you.
One of the most important tools you have for avoiding a conviction is silence. If you are pulled over and effectively exercise your right to remain silent, you are already well on the way to protecting yourself. Police officers frequently tie the core of their case to admissions by a driver that they were drinking. This is particularly true of checkpoint situations, which are presumed to be unconstitutional. Checkpoint stations also have to sort drivers quickly to maintain the flow of traffic, so it is easy for there to be errors in checking if someone is under the influence.
Legal self-defense goes beyond asserting your right to remain silent. If officers want to perform physical field testing (having you walk a line, saying ABCs backward, or testing your balance), you are also within your rights to refuse. If they forced you to perform tests, coerced testimony from you, or performed other investigative actions without a warrant, it can immediately invalidate the charges right there if they have nothing else. Your silence is your first line of defense protection in these situations.
That said, it is important to note that while refusing a physical road sobriety test is allowed, refusing a breathalyzer or blood draw is a different matter in North Carolina. If you refuse those, it will result in your license being suspended for one year, regardless of guilt.
Breathalyzers are handheld alcohol screening devices that require careful monthly calibration for deployment and for law enforcement to have real confidence in their accuracy. However, due to a variety of reasons, such as budget, training, or other factors, this calibration might not take place or could be missed. This can result in inaccurate readings, which can have someone perfectly sober registering as intoxicated — and that creates an opportunity to challenge the validity of a breathalyzer test.
This is one of the first things that should be checked in any DUI case where a breathalyzer was utilized, but law enforcement is unlikely to come forward on their own and admit that they made an arrest in error due to false calibration. Therefore, it is up to you and your attorney to make sure they are held accountable for the equipment they are using to evaluate you.
While blood tests for alcohol levels are much more reliable than breathalyzer calibrations, there are still many places where the test can go awry.
Chain of custody is a particularly easy place for things to go wrong which can invalidate the tests. Blood needs to be stored properly, and too much time on the counter after a draw can give it time to break down in ways that the chemistry of the test is not equipped to compensate for and lead to false results. It’s also possible for paperwork or samples to be misfiled, leading to the wrong blood being tested and submitted as your blood. While these can be innocent operator errors, they are the difference between the right and the wrong person being charged with a crime.
There have also been several cases where police or testing personnel have intentionally mishandled samples to produce a false result in favor of conviction. Without looking into the chain of custody paperwork properly and questioning those involved, these types of cases can be impossible to detect.
There are only three field sobriety tests currently in use that are approved by the National Highway Travel and Safety Administration on scientific grounds. The tests in question are the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn test, and the one-leg stand. However, these tests have to be conducted precisely for them to have any validity at all in the evaluation of someone’s driving ability. Also, not all people can even complete these tests. For instance, people with disabilities or severe injuries may be fine to drive but unable to walk and turn or stand on one leg.
Further, the officer may conduct other tests that are not sufficient to establish whether someone is impaired or not but may establish probable cause. These tests vary greatly in quality, and depending on how they were documented, the tests can be misrepresented as fulfilling a requirement that they didn’t.
Occasionally the problems with a Bessemer, NC arrest may be more egregious or nuanced.
Issues of whether the arrest paperwork was filed properly or at all can pose a problem for the prosecution. While this may seem like a small matter, depending on the nature of improperly filed paperwork, some or all of the evidence may be completely inadmissible.
It may also be the case that an officer violated the defendant’s rights during an arrest or that an officer arrested a defendant who wasn’t driving. These are much more severe violations of conduct and could even result in damages being paid out to the defendant in the long term. It is especially critical that you contact an attorney immediately if you suspect that this applies to your case, as these cases can be especially difficult.
A great deal is going to depend on the specific details of your arrest. Depending on how you were arrested, there may be a lot of different issues that can be utilized to lessen or invalidate the case against you, such as procedural regulations, how tests were performed, or the calibration of breathalyzer equipment. First-time offenders are more likely to be able to get leniency from the court than second or third-time offenders, but no matter the case, it is extremely useful to talk with your DUI attorney to avoid consequences and preserve your driving privileges.
This depends on your circumstances and the needs of your case. The overall court fee can range from $100 to upwards of $4,000. If you are eligible for and need a limited driving privilege, it will cost you an additional $200 ($100 to the court and $100 for the privilege). If your license is suspended, license restoration costs around $100. The DWI fine is between $1,000 to $10,000 if you’re found guilty, and an interlock device, if required, costs $150 plus maintenance fees. However, to have a successful case, you will also likely need to have a substance abuse assessment which will cost about $100, and drug education traffic school costs between $150 to $200.
Getting a DUI lawyer is extremely advisable if you are facing a drunk driving charge. Without representation to introduce evidence and frame your case correctly, you could be looking at a complete loss of driving privileges, jail time, classes, probation, and increased insurance fees, which will add up to immense costs over the course of your life. If you represent yourself, it’s much more likely the court will simply take the word of the sworn officers. Then, you will face much higher penalties than you could have with a DUI lawyer on your side.
A fairly normal attorney’s fee is around $2,500, which is very reasonable considering that costs between court fees, fines, and ancillary court-ordered costs can easily total around $14,000 before broaching increased insurance, lost wages due to jail time, or probation costs.
With over more than 25 years of experience in criminal defense and traffic law cases, we have represented both simple first-time offenses and extremely complex third DWI offenses. Over the history of our practice, we have kept many clients out of jail, made sure that they avoided unnecessary penalties, and worked to keep their overall court costs low. Whether you are a citizen of North Carolina or whether you are an out-of-state client charged while you were visiting, we have the experience to serve your case.
Our law firm dives deep into a technical understanding of the equipment that is used to assess whether someone is intoxicated, as well as the ins and outs of physical roadside assessments. The material realities of each case determine the approach, not preconceptions about how a case should go.
If you or someone you know is facing a drunk driving case in or around Bessemer, NC, time is of the essence to ensure an optimal outcome for them. Contact us for a consultation, and we will get started right away on your case.