DUI Defenses in North Carolina
While it may seem overwhelming when presented with the evidence against you in a DUI trial and you may feel as though there is no way to “beat” the prosecutor and arresting officer, DUI attorneys can find the weak spots in the prosecutor’s case and attack those weak points to help protect the defendant’s rights.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys who have background dealing with DUI cases will attempt to challenge a DUI on a variety of grounds. First, the charge may be challenged based on the idea that there was no reasonable suspicion for the orginial traffic stop. This will involve cross examination of the officer making the stop to determine the reason or reasons that he stopped the defendant. If the defendant was stopped at a DUI or license checkpoint, the attorney may inquire into the procedures used at the checkpoint to ensure its legality. Though police can generally set up a check point at any time and place, they must comply with certain procedural requirements.
An attorney will likely also attempt to challenge whether the officer had probable cause to arrest the driver for an impaired driving offense. This generally involves direct or cross examination of the arresting officer. The officer should be asked about his observations leading to the stop of a vehicle, his observations of the driver, including the driver’s speech, appearance, and overall demeanor, and the events that took place after arrest. The officer may have observed behavior of the driver before the stop or during field sobriety tests that he believes was evidence of impairment but in reality has a simple explanation.
The charge may also be attacked on procedural grounds. North Carolina has strict procedures required during implied consent offenses, especially during testing. One small departure from these procedures can leave any evidence gathered during or as a result of a physical test or chemical analysis inadmissible in a case against the defendant. However, without objection from the defendant or his counsel, it is possible that the prosecutor may try to offer this evidence against the defendant. The best chance of having inadmissible evidence suppressed is through a pretrial motion and hearing.
Finally, a defendant may challenge a charge on the basis that there is simply not enough evidence to support a conviction on the charge. To be convicted in a criminal case, the prosecution must prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the highest standard which is required in any court. If the driver was tested and his or her BAC did not put them in the pro se (at law) DUI level of 0.08%, the prosecutor will need to prove intoxication by providing other evidence of impairment. As previously stated, the observations of an officer, which is usually the best evidence of impairment other than chemical test results, can usually be rebutted and additional evidence offered to prove that it was possible the observations of the officer were not of impairment, but something else.
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