Common DUI Mistakes

The 5 Biggest Mistakes People Make After Being Arrested for Drunk Driving:

If you, or someone you know, are charged with drunk or drugged driving, you should know the 5 biggest mistakes people make.  Every one of these is a big mistake that can form a vital link between you and a conviction.

Mistake No. 1: I blew over the limit. I might as well plead guilty.

People incorrectly believe that “because I blew over the limit (or my blood tested over the limit), I can’t win so I might as well plead guilty and get it over with.”

This leads the list because it makes a lot of sense.  OVI sounds like a very cut-and-dried case.  If you are over 0.08% you are going to be found guilty, right?  Wrong.  Depending on the situation, the test might be inadmissible.  If it is inadmissible it cannot be used against you.  If it cannot be used against you then, for criminal law purposes, it is like it never happened.

More good news – there are a variety of ways in which a test can become inadmissible:

  • When you are pulled-over, if the officer did not have the appropriate grounds upon which to stop you, all the evidence collected after the stop, including the test, is excluded.
  • If, once you are stopped, the officer asked you take a field sobriety test without the proper grounds for doing so, this may render the field test and subsequent chemical test inadmissible.
  •  If the officer did not administer the field test properly, this may invalidate the field test which would likely render the subsequent chemical test inadmissible.
  • If the officer administered the field test properly, but improperly concluded that you failed, and a “dashcam” video or other evidence proves you passed, the subsequent chemical test will likely be inadmissible.
  •  If the officer did not administer a field test, but arrested you based on other evidence that you were “impaired” but the “dashcam” footage or other information reveals that the other evidence was insufficient to form probable cause, the chemical test will be inadmissible.
  • Even if the officer did everything properly at the scene but the chemical test itself was improperly administered, the test result will be unreliable and hence inadmissible.
  • If the chemical test was properly administered, but the test equipment was not properly maintained and calibrated, the test will be unreliable and hence inadmissible.

This is not an exclusive list.  Each case, even OVI cases, has unique facts and for this reason, there are literally an endless supply of reasons why the chemical test in your (or your friend’s case) may not be considered as evidence.  A good lawyer can investigate your case and determine if you have a good argument that the test in your case should not be used against you.

Mistake No. 2: DUI Attorneys are all the same.

“I’ll just hire someone cheap or get my family attorney to handle it.  DUI Defense Attorneys are all the same right?  And DUI cases are pretty easy, right?”

First, attorneys are not all the same.  We probably do not help this particular stereotype by dressing in the same boring suit, but underneath the suit we are as different in skill, expertise, and experience as anyone else in any other profession.  This leads to the next point, DUI cases are relatively short cases but that does not mean that they are easy or that any lawyer can do them well.  A doctor might be a great brain surgeon but you would not go to him if you needed knee surgery.  Sure, they’re both medicine.  They’re even both surgery.  And yes, the brain surgeon knows about operating on brains, which are much more complicated than knees.  But just because he knows about brains doesn’t mean he knows about knees.

The truth is, the best way to figure out if a lawyer is good at trying OVI cases is (1) whether he is trained to do them, (2) whether he does them regularly, and (3) how good his results are.  Besides these three factors, a good pick to try a OVI case is an attorney who has specialized training in the administration of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) used by nearly all police officers.  You should also consider whether he knows the area of law involved:  Is he aware of the several ways in which a OVI may be charged in Ohio?  Is he aware of the number of ways in which a chemical test may be challenged?  Does he understand the absolute importance of securing video of the encounter to check compliance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s guidelines for roadside tests?  Also, consider whether he is prepared to address the full range of consequences that come with a DUI:  Will he, for instance, challenge your administrative license suspension while the trial is ongoing?  Will he attempt to secure driving privileges?  Will he ensure your car is returned so you do not face huge impound fees?

For an OVI charge, the best choice is a Columbus OVI attorney who makes it his business to know about OVI law and knows how to try OVI cases.

Mistake No. 3:  I have time before the trial. I can wait to get an attorney.

“The trial is not for a while.  I’ll save money and get an attorney just before trial to do the talking for me.”

Once you are convinced that you have found a good attorney, do not wait one instant longer that you need to before hiring that attorney.  Success at trial and good plea deals happen because, more than any other reason, an attorney prepared well and thoroughly.  If you wait to get an attorney, you are crippling your defense.

To properly defend your rights, certain demands (like for a jury trial) should be made at the arraignment, your first court appearance.  At the arraignment, a prepared attorney should also serve a demand for discovery upon the prosecutor.  A diligent attorney will want to review discovery, independently investigate, determine if there are grounds for a suppression motion, and if so, file one and have oral argument regarding it.  An alert attorney may wish to hire an expert to review test results or obtain independent testing.  If  you wait before hiring an attorney, and certainly if you wait until just before trial, none of this will have time to occur.  Many of your rights will have been waived.  Your opportunity to suppress the evidence may have passed.  Moreover, though it is, perhaps common sense, even a great attorney cannot present a competent defense at trial without knowing anything about the case.

Mistake No. 4: I’ll just ask ______________, they’ll know what to do.

Everyone has someone – an uncle, a police officer buddy, a friend who drinks a lot and has about three DUI’s.  Everyone has someone who thinks they know the law and is ready to offer some free advice.  Do not listen.

As science has advanced and the law has changed with it, OVI has become an increasingly complex area in which to litigate.  Advice from anyone other than a lawyer with a significant record of success in OVI cases will almost always be wrong.  Even advice that would have been accurate a few years ago, may now lead one astray.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is often defined as proof that you would accept if making one of the most important decisions of your life.  The reason that definition is used is because criminal cases are serious, the outcomes are serious and have life-long consequences.  You should not accept advice on something so important that is not grounded in experience and a deep knowledge of the topic.  How to handle a criminal charge may be one of the most important decisions in your life.  Do not accept advice from anyone other than an experienced professional.

Mistake No. 5: I can talk my way out of it.

“If I just go talk to the prosecutor/police I can probably talk my way out of this.”

If you are accused of an OVI, particularly where no one was injured and no property was damaged,  you may be thinking that this is not such a big deal.  You may also think that you are very persuasive.  You may actually be very persuasive.  But for whatever the reason, many people seem to think that it is a good idea to talk to the police or prosecutor.  They think they can “straighten everything out.”  This never works.

Talking to the police or prosecutor without an attorney present can cause horrendous damage to your case.  In movies people have “off the record” conversations with prosecutors and police and beneficial deals are reached.  In real life, “everything you say can and will be used against you.”  You should not discuss your case, ever, with anyone except the attorney you hire to represent you.