At Balestrini, Barnes, Jaber & Wood, PLLC our law firm has handled hundreds of DUI’s in general sessions and criminal courts. A DUI is unlike any other misdemeanor charge. It has a minimum jail sentence and can never be expunged. When you’re facing such a devastating charge you want the most experience in your corner. We’re not going to say we win every DUI case, but if there is an issue to fight, we’ll get you further than anyone else. In some cases, the win is just minimizing the amount of jail time someone is facing. In others, an outright dismissal is appropriate. Regardless, our law firm can help.
After being arrested for DUI, the first thing you need to do is hire a lawyer. Evidence goes aways as time passes. Our law firm begins investigating DUI cases immediately to preserve any favorable evidence. Our positive results prove this strategy is the best one. We get the evidence, we apply our skill and expertise, and we get results. You need that kind of work ethic and expertise behind you to win your DUI case.
What is DUI?
DUI is an abbreviation for driving under the influence and is often called a DWI in other parts of the country.
What are the consequences of a DUI conviction?
For a first time DUI conviction, you may be expected to perform community service and litter pickup, attend an alcohol safety school, spend at least 48 hours in jail, and be on probation for a maximum of 11 months and 28 days. If you plan to drive, a restricted driver’s license will require the installation of an ignition lock device on your car. You will be expected to pay court costs, fines and license reinstatement fees through the DMV. Our attorneys can help limit the consequences of a DUI and may be able to reduce the amount of jail time, number of alcohol classes, and minimize the fines and fees.
Does DUI only relate to alcohol?
No, while DUI typically refers to drunk driving, it can potentially involve driving after consuming illegal drugs or even legally prescribed medication. For alcohol, there is an objective standard of .08 BAC.
What is BAC?
BAC, or Blood Alcohol Content, refers to the measured ratio of alcohol in your blood. A measurement is taken through a breath test with a breathalyzer or through a blood test or chemical test. These tests are not foolproof and their results can be challenged in court.
What are some ways a police officer can legally stop me?
An officer may stop you because of a traffic violation such as speeding, because you are under "suspicion of drunk driving," or simply because you have a broken headlamp, missing license plate, or were not wearing a seat belt. There are many other reasons for a stop, including a sobriety checkpoint, some of which are illegal.
How do police measure drug content for DUI?
Police measure the presence of drugs through a chemical test taken from a blood sample. They can also use a urine test.
Are DUI cases negotiable?
Yes. DUI cases are negotiable. DUI’s are not traffic cases with a fixed fine. Rather, they are criminal cases worth contesting because the consequences of this misdemeanor conviction is a life-long criminal record that will appear on employer background checks, increased insurance rates and the temporary loss of your driver's license. Most DUI cases settle with a plea bargain rather than trial.
Will I go to court more than once?
If you don't hire an attorney you will need to appear. If you do hire an attorney, and you don't throw yourself at the mercy of the court by pleading guilty, you will be asked to attend court at least twice before you receive an offer, and potentially more, especially if you want to go to trial.
Will the police ask me questions now that I'm out on bond?
No. However, if a police officer or investigator ask you about your DUI case or any other matter, you should invoke your right to remain silent. You can say, "I am not making a statement. I am not talking about allegations against me. I am invoking my right to remain silent."
Are you going to fight for me?
Yes. We fight every DUI case because we like to win. However, every DUI case is different. Although we’ve discussed some defenses on this website, we review each DUI case individually with our client’s input and feedback to determine the best course of action. We then meet with the District Attorney at court to hear their opinion of the case. Keep in mind, only about 2% of DUI’s ever make it to trial. Most plead out for the minimum sentence allowable, others are reduced to the lessor charge of reckless driving, or dismissed altogether. In general sessions court, If we do not like the offer, we will conduct a preliminary hearing on your behalf and try to get the case dismissed by a judge. In criminal court, the case will be tried in front of a jury.
What are field sobriety tests?
Field sobriety tests are tests used by police officers to determine whether a suspect is too intoxicated to drive, thus charging them with DUI. Field sobriety tests usually consist of several instructions and physiological tests designed to divide the suspects attention in order to observe any effect of alcohol.
What are standardized field sobriety tests?
Standardized field sobriety tests (SFST’s) are field sobriety tests that have been scientifically proven, if performed correctly, to at least give an officer a certain percent likelihood that the suspect’s BAC is .08. These tests are backed by an influential organization called NHTSA.
How many SFST’s are there?
Three: the HGN, walk and turn, and one leg stand.
What is NHTSA?
NHTSA stands for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA is the government agency behind the standardization of field sobriety tests. NHTSA teaches the SFST’s to police officer to help them determine whether someone is driving under the influence.
Are police officers trained by NHTSA?
Not exactly. Most police academies require officers to be NHTSA qualified. Police cadets take a class lasting several days and then have to perform a proficiency exam along with written exam. Beyond that, very little additional training happens.
What is HGN?
HGN stands for horizontal gaze nystagmus and is the first test given in the standardized field sobriety tests.
What does “nystagmus” mean?
Nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of the eye. It can be induced in a number of ways, including through the consumption of alcohol. Essentially, nystagmus due to alcohol is caused by the buildup of alcohol in the inner ear.
What does the HGN test entail?
The police officer instructs the suspect to keep their head still and follow a stimulus, usually a pin, with their eyes. During the HGN test the officer should make 18 passes for a total of 88 seconds in order to determine whether “clues” exist for intoxication. It is very important that the HGN test is performed to the exact letter of the NHTSA manual or it is invalid.
What are “clues”?
First of all, none of the standardized field sobriety tests are pass/fail. You simply exhibit the requisite number of clues, or mistakes, that the NHTSA manual prescribes in order for a police officer to arrest you for DUI. A police officer would say you “performed poorly,” not failed.
How many clues are there?
Each standardized field sobriety test has its own clues. The HGN has a total of 6 possible clues, 3 for each eye. The walk and turn test has a total of 8 clues and the one leg stand test has a total of 4.
What are the specific clues for HGN?
• Lack of smooth pursuit
• Distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation
• Onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees
Unless you’ve been trained to give this test or are an eye doctor it would be very difficult to understand exactly what these clues really mean. In other words, I can’t explain them in a way that you would understand by reading it here.
Is the HGN accurate?
According to NHTSA, the HGN, if done absolutely perfect, is 88% accurate in determining a suspect's BAC is at least .08. As an attorney who has received the same NHTSA training as police officers administering the test in the field, I can say that the HGN is the most accurate test when performed correctly. I can also say that I have never seen an officer perform every step exactly as the NHTSA prescribes, therefore invalidating the test altogether.
Do you believe the HGN is accurate?
It depends. If performed correctly, under optimal conditions, and the suspect does not have a natural nystagmus, then yes it’s accurate. I have performed the test on both sober and drunk participants, in optimal conditions. In all cases the results matched what the participants had to drink.
What is the walk and turn test?
The walk and turn test is divided into two parts. An instructional phase where the officer tells the suspect to remain in a specific position until they are told to start, and the walking and turning part of the test where the suspect takes 9 heel to toe steps, turns in a proscribed manner, and then 9 heel to toe steps back, counting aloud the whole time.
How accurate is the walk and turn test?
The walk and turn is the least accurate at determining whether a suspects has a .08 BAC. According to NHTSA, when performed correctly it is 79% accurate.
What are the clues for the walk and turn test?
• Fails to maintain balance before the test begins
• Starts too soon
• Stops before the test is over
• Steps off the line
• Does not touch heel to toe
• Raises arms
• Performs turn incorrectly
How many clues for the walk and turn would indicate a BAC of .08?
According to NHTSA, If two or more clues are exhibited there is a 79% likelihood the person’s BAC is .08.
Do you believe the walk and turn is accurate?
No. I have taken the test many times while sober. I have failed as many as I have passed. I have also performed the test on both drunk and sober participants, and there were no consistent results. Some people have good balance even when they are drunk. Some people have poor balance even when they are sober.
What is the one leg stand test?
The one leg stand is exactly how it sounds. The police officer asks the suspect to raise one foot off the ground approximately 6 inches and count out loud. The officer then times the suspect for 30 seconds.
How many clues are there for the one leg stand test?
There are 4 possible clues for the one leg stand test:
• Puts foot down
• Uses arms to balance
How many clues for one leg stand would indicate a BAC of .08?
According to NHTSA, 2 or more clues would indicate a BAC of .08.
What is a DUI arraignment like?
An arraignment is your first court appearance following a DUI arrest, or any arrest for that matter. During the arraignment, the judge will inform you of the charges against you and tell you to hire an attorney. Facing a legal proceeding like an arraignment can be confusing and intimidating, especially if it's your first time. Our DUI attorneys can accompany you to your arraignment to ensure that you understand your rights and the arraignment process.
What are some defenses to a DUI charge?
The police officer’s lack of probable cause to make the initial stop; mistakes in the administration of the standardized field sobriety tests; mistakes in the administration of blood or breath tests; a person appearing not under the influence during field sobriety tests; a Miranda rights violations (rare); an Illegal arrest; lack of evidence.
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