If you are being prosecuted in one of the Los Angeles County courts, the prosecutors represent the People of the State of California. In other words, by being arrested for DUI you are thought to have violated a State Law and all of the people of the State of California are the victims; and the Los Angeles County District Attorney, or various city attorneys, represent all the victims.
In prosecuting a DUI case, the prosecutor has an obligation to prove certain elements of the crime:
Did the arresting officer have reasonable cause to stop or contact you?
Can the prosecutor prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were the driver of a vehicle or that you had "functional control" of that vehicle with the present ability to drive?
Did the officer conduct an appropriate investigation to come to the conclusion that you were impaired and therefore affect a lawful arrest?
Were you impaired at the time of driving or, was your alcohol level at .08 or greater at the time of driving (.05 or greater for juveniles/.04 or greater for commercial drivers)?
Properly defending yourself in a Los Angeles County DUI case can entail attacking or manipulating any one or all of these elements. Investigating, preparing, and arguing your case will require the expertise of a Los Angeles County DUI attorney. With decades of criminal defense experience, our legal team has mastered the issues of law, science and courtroom procedure that make up a quality DUI defense.
In the vast majority of DUI cases, the defendant was observed driving and the officer witnesses some violation of the law which leads to an "enforcement stop." In some instances the officer is called to the scene of an automobile accident or some other incident which leads to the officer conducting a DUI investigation.
By whichever means the officer initially contacts you, this is the first element of the case which must be carefully scrutinized. Your Los Angeles County DUI Defense Attorney can investigate and prepare a variety of attacks designed to disprove the legality of the initial contact between you and the police.
Some of the most common excuses used by police to affect an "enforcement stop" on drivers are:
- Excessive Speed
- Failure to stop for a red light
- Following too closely
- Failure to use a turn signal
- Failure to stop for a stop sign
- Failure to yield to emergency vehicle
- Pausing too long at a stop light
- Driving too slowly
- Throwing cigarette from car
- No headlights at night
- Erratic driving
- Loud radio
- Failure to yield to pedestrians
Officers will also utilize a variety of mechanical violations as a pretext to pull you over and launch a DUI investigation. Mechanical violations can include:
- Any faulty lighting equipment
- Tinted windows
- Cracked windshield
- Expired tags
- Excessive noise
- No license plates
- Bald tires
- Anything hanging from rearview mirror
- Excessive smoke
- No mud flaps
Essentially whether the stop is legitimate or not, this becomes the first step toward conducting a DUI investigation. Once the officer is standing at your window asking questions things can begin to turn bad very quickly. We have seen and heard every excuse in the book for a police officer to pull you over and are prepared to get to the truth.
Many times a DUI arrest is the result of a police officer's response to the scene of an automobile accident. Although a police officer may never see you actually drive a car, California law permits certain "assumptions" to be made about the element of driving based on circumstantial evidence. Some of the issues that may be used to establish driving are:
- Location of driver when police arrive
- Statements of other witnesses
- Possession of ignition key
- Injuries sustained by driver
- Statements made by the driver
- Vehicle registered to the driver
- Position of driver's seat
- Physical evidence establishing driver
Automobile accidents that are not witnessed may provide several defendable issues such as who was actually driving and what was the driver's alcohol level at the time of driving? Here again, a complete investigation of the facts surrounding the accident may provide a quality Los Angeles County DUI attorney just the facts she needs to create a vibrant defense.
We may examine the validity of the stop/contact by examining dash-cam video or video from other sources. Also, independent witnesses may help to establish if the officer's probable cause was valid.
Other Reasons for Contact
In some instances, police officers may stop or contact a person while involved in an entirely separate investigation. We have seen police officers arrest citizens for DUI who are asleep in their cars. Police will sometimes stop and arrest people leaving the scene of a domestic dispute or an argument with a neighbor. Sometimes police officers will stop citizens because a completely anonymous caller reports that the person may be a drunk driver.
Each of these issues present interesting questions and could potentially lead to a successful defense by attacking the accuracy and trustworthiness of the stop or contact.
Lawfullness of Arrest
The next case element your Los Angeles County DUI Attorney should be examining is the quality of the officer's investigation and ultimately the lawfulness of the arrest.
In this segment, we carefully scrutinize the arresting officer's training and experience. Where were the Field Sobriety Test (FST) conducted and under what set of circumstances. How did the officer administer the FST and how did he record them. Your defense team will be looking to uncover pieces of evidence or witnesses who may shed a light on the quality of the investigation.
We will consider presenting affirmative defenses to explain why medical or physical conditions may make you appear impaired when you are not. She may consider introducing statements or testimony from eye witnesses who may contradict portions of the officer's case. She may consider scene inspections or search for video footage to help reveal the truth.
California law makes it acceptable for the prosecutors and judges to make certain assumptions about the "impairment" of a driver. If a person is legally stopped and if the police officer has evidence that he or she ingested alcohol or any other intoxicating substance; and if that driver performs poorly in Field Sobriety Tests, everyone will assume that the impairment is caused by that alcohol or other substance.
Essentially this means, if you fail a Field Sobriety Test or seem unsteady on your feet, it MUST be as a result of the alcohol you consumed or the drugs you took... Period!
Your Los Angeles County DUI Attorney is trained to look beyond these presumptions and look for "assertive evidence" that brings the truth into focus. We have discovered drivers who suffer with inner ear infections or other medical problems that cause vertigo or dizziness. There have been drivers who suffer with pre-existing medical problems with their feet, ankles, knees, or low back that make balance nearly impossible.
Weather or surface conditions also must be evaluated. We have seen cases where the police will stand on the side of the road in 45 degree weather, wearing warm jackets, all the while expecting the client to perform Field Sobriety Tests flawlessly while they are turning blue and shivering. Police will often expect a driver to perform road-side Field Sobriety Tests on uneven or sloped surfaces. Your attorney should examine all of these issues.
The majority of DUI cases processed by the courts and DMV today are based upon breath analysis. Over the past 50 years, the manufacturers of breath analysis devices have worked hard to find technology that is accurate and is able to detect the presence of ethyl alcohol (ETOH) with great specificity. Today's breath machines are much advanced over the "balloons" that field officers possessed in the 1970's. That being said, however, the invention of a truly reliable and trustworthy breath analysis device remains elusive. Frankly there are several variables when trying to detect an accurate level of alcohol in a person's bloodstream that is determined by a breath sample.
We are experts at reviewing the process followed by police officers when administering the breath test. There are government codes and regulations that control the calibration, maintenance, and performance of any breath testing device. The officer must be certified in the use of the device employed and there are certain regulations that must be followed in how the test is administered.
Additionally, breath machines are subject to corruption. Even a perfectly maintained and calibrated breath device can be corrupted if the driver burps, regurgitates, or vomits within a short period of time prior to testing. Certain medical conditions can create false-positive readings. Certain medical or dental conditions can trap alcohol in the mouth thereby causing a driver to blow straight alcohol into the device.
All possibilities must be carefully scrutinized by your DUI attorney and we are prepared to do just that.
Thought to be the most accurate of all the chemical testing options, the direct testing of one's blood should still be an issue of intense scrutiny. Blood is an organic substance that begins to degrade the moment it leaves the human body. The more a blood sample degrades, the more difficult it becomes to accurately measure and weigh the amount of alcohol present in a sample.
In their zeal to convict and suspend the driver license of accused citizens, the prosecutors and DMV Hearing Officers in any case would love for everyone to assume that a blood test absolutely and unequivocally represents a person's true alcohol level. In many instances, this is not true.
In reviewing your case, an alert Los Angeles DUI attorney will consider the following:
- Was the blood sample drawn within 3 hours of the termination of driving?
- How much actual time passed between time of driving and time of testing?
- Was the blood sample seized in a legally approved manner?
- Was the blood technician or nurse properly certified to take a blood sample?
- What type of solution was used to cleanse the arm before the needle was inserted?
- Was the blood vial properly handled?
- Was the blood sample properly refrigerated?
- Is there a proper chain of custody of the sample?
- What is the certification of the analyst who tests the sample?
- Did the laboratory use proper methods in testing the sample?
- Is there any evidence that the blood sample clotted?
- Is there any evidence that the blood sample fermented?
- Is there a proper amount of preservative/anti-coagulant in the sample?
- Was the preservative/anti-coagulant properly mixed with the sample?
- What is the alcohol level?
- Is it appropriate to have the blood sample independently analyzed?
- Is it appropriate to run a "typing" on the blood?
- Is it appropriate to run a DNA test on the sample?
With years of experience in reviewing blood evidence and, backed by some of the best toxicology experts in the field, we will carefully review and investigate all issues regarding the blood sample.