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DUI Defenses in Virginia

Before one is arrested for DUI/DWI they will have been stopped by an officer. There are several different types of observations which will be brought as evidence in court, these observations are broken down into driving observations and behavior observations. Some driving observations which may cause an officer to stop one for suspected DUI/DWI are high speeds, very slow speeds, extreme variations in speeds, running a red light, hesitations at a green light, weaving and swerving within lane and between lanes. All of these observations will be used as evidence in a judicial proceeding for DUI/DWI. To defend this evidence in court one’s attorney must have an alternative explanation for the officer’s observations. These behaviors can be explained by any number of things, such as: distraction, phone call, stress, preoccupation with passengers.

Anytime there is someone else in the vehicle there is a chance that they may distract the driver, this is especially true for children. A parent with children in the backseat may be breaking up a fight, handing the child a pacifier or stuffed animal, attempting to calm a temper tantrum. Any of these things could cause one to swerve, change speeds rapidly or run a red light. But, children are not the only distracting passengers; this is true for anyone, other than the driver, in the vehicle. The driver may be distracted by a conversation with a passenger(s) or the passenger(s) could be yelling which could have scared the driver. Both of which would explain a hesitation at a green light, change in speeds or swerving. A driver need not have a passenger in the car to be distracted; a driver on the phone can be just as distracted as if someone else were in the car with them.

Once an officer has taken notice of these driving observations and has stopped the accused the officer may notice certain behavior observations which may solidify their original thoughts that the driver is guilty of DUI/DWI. These observations include: pupil enlargement, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, stumbling or inappropriate joking. Again, one’s attorney will want to provide the court with other reasons a persons may manifest these observations. Some reasons for these observations could be stress, allergies, contact lenses, medications or food.

Someone under extreme an amount of stress is likely to be losing sleep; which is known to cause bloodshot eyes and could even cause slurred speech when there has been enough lack of sleep. Also, certain medications, contact lenses and allergies are also well known for causing bloodshot eyes as well as pupil enlargement. One observed making inappropriate jokes or even stumbling may introduce defend against this evidence simply by being scared. Many people become terrified when stopped by the police and everyone deals with fear in a different manner, this situation is certainly no different.

The next step after being stopped by an officer will be a field sobriety test. During a field sobriety test one will be asked to perform certain tasks, such as; standing on one leg, saying the alphabet forwards and backwards, walking a straight line one foot in front of the other. One’s lawyer will want to point out that many of these tasks can be difficult under the best of circumstances, let alone under the stress of being stopped by an officer and asked to perform these tasks on the side of the road. Further, one with physical impairments may be unable to perform such tasks at all. One’s attorney should be sure and ask the officer making the stop if he or she questioned the accused about any physical impairments. Other defenses to a field sobriety test are similar to the defenses to the officer’s observations.

The final piece of evidence that will definitely be used at trial is a chemical sample, which is likely to be a breath test if given at the scene. The best defense to a breath test is a faulty breathalyzer or a breathalyzer not properly maintained. At trial one’s attorney should ask about the maintenance and calibration procedures of such machines.


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