With the holidays come and gone, thousands of Americans are facing an unwanted byproduct of the festive season – a drunk driving charge. Driving under the influence (DUI) is a lot more common than you might think. According to the website DrinkingandDriving.org, nearly a million Americans are arrested for DUI each year. In some states, one out of every 100 people will face a DUI arrest this year.
DUI cases are often cut and dry – a police officer stops a driver who has been driving erratically and, upon closer observation, determines the driver is clearly intoxicated and not fit for the road. But many DUI cases are not that clear. "There are many factors involved in most drunk driving arrests, and a driver who has been charged with DUI should know that he can fight those charges," says attorney Martin Sweet of legal information website THELAW.TV .
There are two main tests that police officers administer in a possible drunk driving situation, and both can be problematic:
Breathalyzer test – Police will usually ask a driver to submit to this test. Most states set the legal limit for blood alcohol content at .08 percent. But if you blow a .081, isn't it possible the Breathalyzer wasn't perfectly accurate? The accuracy of these tests has been successfully challenged in court time and time again.
Field sobriety test – In this test, the driver is asked to perform simple acts designed to test his balance, coordination, and motor skills. But every such test contains conditions that could alter the outcome. For example, it might be raining. Perhaps the driver is wearing high heels at the time or the sobriety test is being conducted on a gravel road. If the driver slips, was it really because she was drunk?
You can actually refuse to take either of these tests if you've been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving. But you should know that doing so might not be the best course of action. In some states, refusing a Breathalyzer test is actually a crime punishable by jail time.
Once you're charged with DUI, the best thing you can do is consult an attorney who specializes in drunk driving cases.
"Don't assume that you will necessarily be convicted of DUI once you are charged," says Tampa, Florida criminal defense lawyer Melissa Sharpsteen of Sharpsteen Law . "If you hire a DUI lawyer, you might be surprised at all the different outcomes that could be available including a dismissal or reduction depending upon the circumstances of the case."