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Does pleading guilty get you off the DUI hook?

To plead or not to plead guilty is the dilemma confronting many DUI arrestees. The accused could be too short on resources to hire a high profile lawyer to plead his case, or the circumstances could make it pretty clear that a conviction is around the corner. In that case would it not be wiser to plead guilty and save yourself botheration and expense of hiring a lawyer? Alternatively, if you feel that you stand a good chance of coming through DUI proceedings unscathed, then hiring a lawyer would seem like an attractive option.

Situations that make conviction inevitable

There are some situations where the likelihood of getting convicted for the DUI offense would seem pretty high. Such circumstances are:

A higher than average BAC reading

  • Regardless of what the police officer might have written in his case narrative describing your behavior or what other tests (FSTs) revealed, the BAC reading could cook your goose if it is above the normal level. A BAC reading exceeding .08 places you at great risk of getting convicted if a trial looms on the horizon. If the reading hovers between .08 and .11 you stand a 90% chance of getting a DUI conviction. Needless to say, if your BAC reading is .15 you can give up hope that the verdict will save you from punishment. The punishment gets worse for readings above .20.

There is unassailable proof of drunk driving

  • If the police officer’s narrative describes that you were driving inebriated and that you failed the FSTs (Field Sobriety Tests) and the same has been video recorded, such evidence could be hard to dispute, especially if the officer’s narrative is backed up by the blood alcohol test showing readings above .08.

In such situations you may assume that pleading guilty could be the easier option saving you the expense of hiring a lawyer. But all said and done, hiring an attorney could prove to be the turning point that saves you from getting convicted for an offense that could otherwise destroy your career and life.


Situations that could gift you the survivors luck of emerging unhurt

The advantage of hiring a trained and experienced hand as your attorney is that he might notice small but legally significant loopholes in the officer’s testimony or violations of the laid down law that compromise the defendant’s rights, or inconsistencies in the police report that are at variance with the chemical tests. For example the experienced attorney will zero in on the fact that the blood alcohol reading is above .08 but the defendant performed all the FSTs successfully. The attorney could convince the court that the defendant was very much within his senses and since there are no collateral damages or claims, a trial is unnecessary.

Occasions when it is possible to convince a judge that you are innocent

  • You were arrested for DUI when you were not driving the vehicle: You realized that you couldn’t drive the car so you parked it by the roadside and started walking your way to the nearest taxi or public transport stand, or it could be that you locked the ignition and slept off in the rear seat of the car. In either situation you may have been inebriated but, more important, you were not controlling the car AND you were certainly not behind the steering wheel when the police officer accosted you. Even if it is proved that you were inebriated it can’t be proved that you were “driving” under the influence of liquor.
  • There are conflicting narratives regarding the FSTs: When two or more officers have written their narratives describing the arrest scenario, and small but significant inconsistencies appear in the statements, these could be exposed by a skilled lawyer to diminish the credibility of the prosecution’s case. For example, one report might state that the defendant staggered when he walked, but the blood and urine reports (also mentioned in the same narrative) may not indicate signs of inebriation that could lead to such impairment. Another report may indicate that there was a wide gap between the timing of arrest and the moment when chemical tests were actually conducted. Urine tests could be questioned if the BAC readings are within .11.
  • Witness testimony corroborates that you didn’t drink before driving: Reliable and independent witnesses corroborate the fact that you had not indulged in drinking before you took the wheel. It is possible that you are driving back from a medical conference where alcohol wasn’t served and witnesses can testify to that and confirm that you left the premises fully sober. If you are Terry stopped minutes after the event, it should be possible for the attorney to convince the court that charges are frivolous and misleading and be dismissed.

When the defendant is arrested for DUI, he should not assume the worst and fall into the trap of admitting guilt, especially to the officer recording the Terry stop. Admission of guilt creates serious consequences that are difficult to undo. The canny defendant would be better served by maintaining pin drop silence till his attorney arrives to take on the cops.

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