It is understandable to think that someone who has been charged with drunk driving is going to get what is coming to him or her; that the charges are simply unbeatable, and that the accused individual will feel the consequences of those charges for a long time. While this is often the fate of people accused of DUI, there are also plenty of cases where the charges against the accused individual are dropped or dismissed, or where the accused individual beats the charges.
There are a number of reasons that this can happen, and we'd like to outline a few of them today.
Some of the legitimate defense strategies that an accused person can use revolve around illegal police tactics, such as entrapment or an improper traffic stop. Entrapment could entail a police officer allowing someone to drive under the influence -- and alerting the person to that fact -- before arresting them for that very offense. An improper stop entails a police officer failing to have probable cause for the stop.
Police improprieties can also extend into the actual testing of evidence. For example, breath test results or blood alcohol tests could prove to be tainted or improperly administered. This could invalidate evidence that the prosecution hoped to use against the accused individual.
There are also situations that are outside of an individual's control that forced them into a potential DUI. For example, what if the individual is intoxicated in a remote location with a friend, and the friend has a medical emergency? That person would have to drive the friend to a hospital to save the friend's life. This defense is called "necessity," and it aligns with some other similar "affirmative defenses":
- "Duress" is when someone makes you drive while intoxicated under the threat of force.
- "Involuntary intoxication" is when someone becomes drunk due to an outside (and unknown) factor. An example of this would be drink that is spiked with alcohol without the individual's knowledge.
- "Mistake of fact" is when someone truly believes they are not intoxicated. This doesn't apply to the person who had five drinks and tells his or her friends they are "okay to drive." Instead, this applies to someone who may be on medications and they operate a vehicle outside of the window that the medication's effects are supposed to apply -- and yet, the medication is still in their system.
Source: FindLaw, "Defenses to Drunk Driving," Accessed July 13, 2015