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Poking holes in the prosecution’s DUI case

Authorities have been trying to figure out how to handle the dangers of intoxicated drivers since the dawn of the automobile. In 1910, New York became one of the first states to enact laws outlawing drinking and driving. And yet, the authorities still have trouble with the most basic aspect of enforcement of these laws: identifying drivers who are intoxicated.

Police officers are trained to recognize the behaviors and driving habits of intoxicated persons. The obvious signs of intoxication include: straddling the center lane or failing to stay in a single lane; making jerky or very wide turns; following the vehicle ahead too closely; remaining at a green light too long; and taking risks, such as passing where oncoming traffic cannot be easily seen.

Behaviors such as these can provide the police with legal justification for pulling over a driver. Once they pull over the driver, they look for tell-tale signs of intoxication, such as swaying and slurred speech. Police may then administer a sobriety test, using such means as a gaze test. The police hold a small light in front of the driver’s eyes. A sober person’s eyes will move slowly; the eyes of an intoxicated person will move in a jerky manner. Police may also administer a breath test to determine the driver’s blood alcohol content.

All of these methods of determining intoxication have their problems. Police may not have adequate records of conducting the tests, or they may have administered them improperly. Breath tests and other tests may be inconclusive due to faulty equipment or human error.

Experienced attorneys often help defend their clients against drunk driving charges by focusing on the circumstances of the arrest. If they can show that the police acted inappropriately, or that the prosecution’s case isn’t as strong as prosecutors seem to think it is, defense attorneys can help their clients to minimize the damage that these charges can bring to one’s personal and professional lives.

Source: Lohud.com, “Crime Scene: How drunken drivers get caught,” Thane Grauel, June 10, 2015