Can DUI Charges Be Dropped?
The penalties for drinking and driving known legally as driving under the influence. (DUI) in many jurisdictions can be steep. Especially if this is your first offense, you probably want to do what you can to fight the charges and get them dismissed. However, prosecutors are often reluctant to drop DUI charges due to the serious threat to public safety posed by drunk driving. If you want to get DUI charges dropped, your best bet is to hire an attorney to help you negotiate with the prosecutor.
Search for a criminal-defense attorney online: Even though you may be eligible to have a public defender appointed, hiring a private attorney may be better for you if you are looking to get DUI charges dropped.
• You may also want to ask friends or family for recommendations unless you don’t want them to know about your arrest.
• If you do look online, the website of your state or local bar association is a good place to start.
• Look for a free attorney referral program that will give you a list of area attorneys tailored to your answers to a few questions.
• Many attorneys who handle DUI cases engage in extensive advertising, which means you, might already know a few relevant names. Keep in mind, however, that the best or most affordable attorney for you won’t necessarily have a great ad.
Make a list of possibilities: Ideally you should be able to find at least four or five attorneys that handle DUI cases in your area. Take an in-depth look at each one’s background and experience to narrow your list.
• If the attorneys on your list have websites, read them in order to evaluate their backgrounds and experience.
• You want an attorney who practices in your area, someone who is familiar with the judges and prosecutors. You’re looking for an attorney who has been practicing in your area for several years.
• You may be able to find information about the types of cases an attorney takes by looking at their website. Look for extensive experience with DUI cases.
• Check an attorney’s reputation by searching for reviews from past clients. You may be able to find these on general review sites or on social media.
Schedule several initial consultations: Generally it’s a good idea to interview at least two or three attorneys so you can find one best suited to your case. Since most criminal defense attorneys offer a free initial consultation, this shouldn’t cost you anything but time.
• You should be able to schedule an initial consultation within a week. If an attorney doesn’t have time to meet with you in the next week (two at the most), they probably are too busy to give your case the attention it deserves.
• If the attorney has an information form for you to fill out, complete and return it as soon as possible. The more information the attorney has about you and your case, the better able they are to tailor the initial consultation to you and your needs.
Ask each attorneylots of questions: Particularly with a free consultation, you can’t always count on an attorney to cover all the information that’s important to you. Make a list of questions ahead of your first scheduled consultation so you can understand everything pertinent to your case.
• The types of questions you ask will depend on what is important to you in an attorney client relationship. If this is your first time hiring an attorney, think about things that would be important to you if you were hiring someone to work for you in any other capacity. The questions you ask here would be similar.
• For example, if you needed a plumber, you might want to know whether the plumber would do all the work herself or have an inexperienced apprentice doing most of the work.
• Similarly, if you’re hiring an attorney, you may want to ask them how much of the work on your case they’ll be doing themselves and how much will be done by a paralegal or new attorney who recently graduated from law school.
Compare the attorneys you interview: After you’ve completed your initial consultations, take some time to evaluate and compare the attorneys. This enables you to identify the one most qualified to represent you.
• Fees are an important consideration, especially if money is tight. Resist the temptation to select an attorney just because they charge the lowest fee. That person might not be your best choice.
• Most attorneys are willing to negotiate if you can’t immediately afford their fee. Some may be willing to create a payment plan or even lower the total cost.
• When choosing an attorney, don’t ignore your gut feeling. If you find one who’s passionate, interested in your case, and who inspires your confidence and trust, they may be your best choice – even if they’re less experienced than others you interviewed.
Sign a written retainer agreement: When you’ve made your decision, let the attorney you want to hire know as soon as possible. He or she typically will meet with you again to have you sign a written retainer agreement (a contract).
• Don’t let the attorney start working on your case until you’ve read and signed a written contract for their services.
• Have the attorney explain the agreement to you. Ask questions if there’s anything about it you don’t understand.
• There may be a part of the agreement with which you disagree or that’s different from what you understood from the initial consultation. Say something about it. Attorneys typically are willing to negotiate, but you have to bring the issue up yourself.
• For example, you might say “This agreement says I’m paying you by the hour, but you told me during the initial consultation that you would take my case for an $800 flat fee. I planned my budget based on that flat fee.”
Building Your Case
Evaluate the evidence against you: Your argument for dropping the DUI charges depends on the type of evidence the prosecution has against you. If the charges are based on field sobriety tests, for example, you may have a stronger case.
• The prosecuting attorney must provide to your attorney all evidence they plan to use against you at trial. Your attorney will discuss this evidence with you.
• DUI charges based on field sobriety tests can be the most difficult for the prosecution to prove, particularly if there is no other evidence of your intoxication.
• The tests are relatively subjective, based on the officer’s observations, and there are a number of conditions that can interfere with the results.
• Breathalyzer tests also have weaknesses but are generally more difficult to challenge than field sobriety tests.
• The specific results of a test make a difference. The prosecutor may be more willing to drop the charges if you were just barely over the legal limit than if tests showed you were significantly intoxicated.
Look at the context of the stop: If the police officer who initially pulled you over did not have probable cause to stop you, that can be used as evidence to get the DUI charges dropped. If you went through a DUI checkpoint, this may not be as helpful to your case as if you were pulled over individually.
• For example, if you were obeying all the rules of the road and were pulled over anyway, you can argue that the officer did not have probable cause to stop you.
• If the officer pulled you over for a non-moving violation such as a broken tail light, you may be able to argue the officer had no probable cause to believe you were intoxicated.
• For that argument, you would need to look at the statements from the officer. Typically the officer will note in the police report that they administered a breathalyzer or field sobriety test because they smelled alcohol on your breath.
Consider any physical or medical conditions: Many physical and medical conditions can interfere with test results. This is so, particularly if the charges are based on the results of a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test.
• For example, certain diets and medications can cause a false breathalyzer result. If you’re currently on a strict Atkins-style diet, for example, your body may produce alcohol that the breathalyzer reads incorrectly. This isn’t the type of alcohol that you can get drunk from, but the breathalyzer can’t tell the difference.
• You may also have registered falsely high blood-alcohol content on a breathalyzer if you have certain medical conditions such as diabetes or acid reflux.
• If your DUI charge is based on a field sobriety test, physical conditions may have caused you to appear drunk, even though your driving ability was not impaired. For example, you may have a recent knee or ankle injury.
Interview witnesses: If anyone was in the car with you, they can testify regarding whether you had been drinking before you were pulled over. If you’re arguing that a medical condition interfered with the test results, your attorney may want to produce expert witnesses.
• For example, if you believe that your acid reflux produced a false result on a breathalyzer test, you might ask a doctor to testify to the severity of your acid reflux disease and your use of medication in response.
• Eyewitnesses can be helpful, especially if they were with you before you were pulled over and can testify that you were not drinking any alcohol. Keep in mind, however, that it will be their word against the word of a police officer. Generally police officers do well in a trial. A prosecutor (or judge) may not be convinced by a friend of yours who is contradicting a member of law enforcement.
Start preparing for trial: Even if this is your first charge, getting a prosecutor to drop DUI charges can be challenging. Your best defense is to work with your attorney to prepare for a trial on the merits of your case.
• Even if you and your attorney are fairly confident that you can get your DUI charges dropped, it’s still important to be well-prepared for trial. If the prosecutor senses that you’re not well-prepared, they may become less willing to negotiate with you.
• On the other hand, the prosecutor will be more willing to strike a deal if you have a strong case and it appears likely that you could win at trial.
• Since both sides are required to exchange information and evidence, the prosecuting attorney generally will have a good idea of how strong your case looks and your odds of beating the charges.
Working with the Prosecutor
Complete any required driving classes: Many jurisdictions have a driving school that those convicted of DUI or other traffic violations are required to complete. If you do so promptly, it sends a signal to the prosecutor that you’re taking steps to be a more responsible driver.
• Your attorney can tell you what classes are required and where you can take them.
• Expect these classes to cost several hundred dollars. You’ll be expected to complete them in spite of the cost. Consider it part of the punishment.
• Taking a driver-responsibility class does not mean that you’re admitting guilt. On the contrary, the prosecutor may be more willing to work with you if you show that you’re being proactive.
Get evaluated by a substance-abuse professional: If you got behind the wheel after drinking, that could be a symptom of a larger problem you are having with alcohol. Speak to a professional and seek out help if you recognize a need to do so.
• As with taking driving classes, getting a professional evaluation does not mean that you are admitting guilt.
• The prosecutor may be more willing to work with you if you show a willingness to admit you have a problem and get help for it.
• Keep in mind, however, that once you start a treatment program, the prosecutor may condition the dropping of DUI charges on continued participation in treatment.
Negotiate with the prosecutor: Your attorney likely will discuss possible plea bargains before your trial begins. The weaker the case against you, the more likely the prosecutor will be to drop charges.
• the prosecutor’s opinion of the case, and what they’re willing to offer you, may change depending on the evidence revealed as part of the pretrial investigation.
• For example, the prosecutor may be unwilling to entertain any thought of dropping your DUI charges. However, upon learning that you have a medical condition that probably interfered with the breathalyzer results; the prosecutor may change their opinion of the case.
• Prosecutors are usually unwilling to drop DUI charges. You may have more of a challenge plea bargaining than you would with another type of case. That’s why having an attorney who understands the law and is familiar with the judge and prosecutor can be instrumental in getting your charges dropped.
Plead guilty to a lesser charge: Even if you’re able to convince the prosecutor to drop the DUI charges, you won’t be able to get away penalty-free. As noted above, a driver-responsibility class can be expensive. However, you may be able to keep from having a DUI on your record by pleading guilty to a lesser offense such as reckless driving.
• This is where it can be to your advantage to have already taken driver safety or responsibility classes. These classes typically would be required for lesser moving violations as well.
• Your attorney will explain to you the consequences of the lesser offense so you can decide whether it is in your best interests to take the deal.
• Keep in mind that while you still may incur negative consequences such as increased car-insurance rates, these consequences typically will be less than they would be if you were convicted of a DUI.
Reasons DUI Criminal Charges May Be Dismissed Before Trial
Driving under the influence (DUI) charges can be dismissed before the actual trial begins. Sometimes, the prosecution may dismiss the case on their own because of known defects in their case. Usually, DUI cases are dismissed because of persuasive criminal defense lawyer arguments and motions. Defendants should regularly plead not guilty to DUI charges because often the police failed to follow proper procedure, the district attorney doesn’t have the evidence needed to prove a conviction, or the prosecution knows there’s a reasonable likelihood of acquittal if the case does go to trial. The prosecutor is the main person who drops or dismisses the charge. Judges can authorize dismissals too. The end result for the client is that he/she is free to continue their life without worrying about a criminal record or a court case. Each criminal case is different. DUI cases generally depend on the police following proper procedures and on the results of any chemical tests.
DUI Lawyer Free Consultation
When you need legal help to fight a DUI in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you with your DUI case.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
itemprop=”addressLocality”>West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506