Drunk driving represents a significant part of our criminal defense practice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Most people believe that the defense of a DUI is simply focused on attacking a chemical test such as the blood or breathalyzer test. It’s important to keep in mind that your attorney should discuss with you what occurred prior to your arrest because this may form a basis for a motion to suppress evidence and or possibly support defense arguments at trial with regards to the prosecution’s ability to establish impairment beyond a reasonable doubt.
Probable Cause and DUI/DWI
Police must have probable cause to stop your car in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for suspicion of DUI but there are some cases which indicate that police do not necessarily need probable cause but reasonable suspicion, which is a lower form of probable cause. Police can establish probable cause through a vehicle violation such as failure to maintain lane, speeding, or some other vehicle code issue such as a bad taillight. In the case of a DUI, if police don’t stop the car because of some operation issue, your attorney should make a note of it. While your attorney may not be able to use this as a basis for a motion to suppress based on a lack of probable cause to stop, he can use it later on to establish a lack of probable cause to arrest for DUI/DWI.
Field Sobriety Testing & DUI/DWI
Your attorney should talk to you about what occurred after police stopped your car and what, if anything, they instructed you to do. This would include field sobriety tests and any questions you may have answered. I always advise clients never to answer police questions other than providing basic information. Never discuss where you were coming from, as all of these statements are admissible and potentially harmful to your case. If police do make you perform a field sobriety test your attorney should talk to you about the test which you performed and whether or not the officer provided any instruction or demonstration of those tests prior to administration. Read my article on the Standard Field Sobriety Test and watch my video on it.
Chemical Testing and DUI/DWI
If you’ re administered a chemical test such as blood or breathalyzer you more than likely don’t know your results during your initial consultation but you want to be honest with your attorney with regards to what you had to drink and any medication or drugs which could be found in your system. Please remember never refuse a chemical test as it will never help your drunk driving case.
Criminal History Drunk Driving
Finally your attorney should ask you about any prior DUI’s and about your criminal history in general. This will directly affect possible sentences if you’ re convicted. Drunk driving is a tiered offense in Pennsylvania and New Jersey which means the penalties increase (jail and driver license suspension) for each subsequent offense. For more information on drunk driving I encourage you to visit my website and check out my blog and books, especially those on DUI and DWI.