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Defenses to DUI in California

There are four ways to challenge a driving under the influence arrest: challenging the driving observation, challenging behavior observation, challenging field sobriety test, and challenging blood alcohol content defenses.

In proving that the motorist drove under the influence, the prosecutor will normally present evidence that the motorist was driving at a very slow speed, uneven speed, weaving from one side of the lane to the other, crossing the center line of the highway, running a red light and hesitation in going through a green light. A normal defense is by showing an independent explanation for driving in such a way that does not have to do with being impaired.

In proving that the motorist drove under the influence, the prosecutor will normally call the arresting officer to testify about the motorist’s appearance and behavior, including: slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, inappropriate jerking or incoherent speech, stumbling or not being able to walk very far, and pupil enlargement. A normal defense is by showing an independent explanation for these appearance and behavior. For example, showing a lack of sleep, allergies, contact lenses, stress due to personal circumstances, medications, food recently ingested, nervousness over being stopped by police, and physical impairments are normal excuses for such behavior and appearances.

In proving that the motorist drove under the influence, the prosecutor will normally call the arresting officer to testify about the motorist’s field sobriety test. A normal test will include walking a straight line, walking backwards, reciting the alphabet, standing on one leg, and the horizontal nystagmus test. The horizontal nystagmus test is when the officer moves a pen or finger back and forth the motorist’s eyes. Under the influence of alcohol, the motorist’s eye should jerk when moving left and right. A common defense is to argue that the physical impairment is due to an independent reason. For example, lack of sleep, physical injuries, old age, and other psychical conditions could cause the motorist to act in such way.

Finally, the prosecutor will normally call the arresting officer to testify about the motorist’s blood alcohol content. The arresting officer will normally use a Breathalyzer test. A normal defense is by showing that the Breathalyzer is inaccurate or not working properly. Furthermore, Breathalyzers can detect alcohol level from food; it cannot determine if the results are from the food or drinking alcohol.


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