How to Best Mitigate DUI Charges

Effective DUI Defense Includes Arguments for Mitigation.

In every DUI case, the stakes are far too high for you simply to plead guilty and deal with the consequences. A DUI conviction will haunt you for at least a decade, raising your insurance rates, limiting your employment opportunities and damaging your public reputation. Retain an experienced attorney who devotes a substantial portion of his practice to DUI cases, and count on your lawyer not only to protect your rights but also to advocate zealously on your behalf.

Mount an aggressive defense.

The majority of DUI cases never go to trial because criminal attorneys win dismissal of the charges on procedural grounds or because law enforcement officers have failed to honor your rights. Judges dismiss many DUI cases in “administrative” or “probable cause” hearings where defense attorneys demonstrate that police officers had no probable cause for stopping suspected drunk drivers. As you know, the Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable search and seizure, and police bear the burden of proving they had cause for stopping you. Skilled DUI defense attorneys often win dismissals on the strength of two common arguments: (1) when police say they stopped a driver because he was “swerving within his lane,” an experienced defense attorney argues that swerving is neither illegal nor automatic grounds for suspicion of DUI. (2) If police allege a driver was driving too slowly and “with excessive caution,” behaviors common among impaired drivers, a veteran DUI lawyer argues that driving conditions warranted the driver’s care. Police often grow careless about advising impaired drivers of their rights. Although officers may administer a field sobriety test if they detect the smell of alcohol or if you slur your speech and fail to answer their questions coherently, they cannot proceed to administration of a breathalyzer or blood test without reminding you of your implied consent and the consequences of refusing the test; they also cannot use their cautions as tools for intimidating you into taking a test. The law entitles you to have an attorney present as police administer chemical tests for blood alcohol content, and you should exercise that right because it affords you time for metabolizing the alcohol in your system. Finally, police must complete the standard “Miranda” advising as they place you under arrest, and they must make certain you understand your rights. In an effort to intimidate you, police may offer commentary on your rights, thus violating the spirit of the laws. Attorneys frequently win dismissals or acquittals by contesting Constitutional issues.

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A plea for mitigation is your last line of defense.

If you face imminent prospect of conviction, your attorney may advise arguing for “mitigation.” In other words, the circumstances of your arrest and indictment strongly suggest that the court should reduce your charges or show leniency in sentencing. Except in cases involving major injuries or extensive property damage, prosecutors typically charge drunk-driving as a misdemeanor, but DUI is a criminal offense, and many of the standards that regulate “sanctions” in more serious crimes also apply to driving while impaired. All fifty states have established strict statutory sentencing guidelines for drunk drivers, and judges feel pressure to comply with the statutes and the community’s expectations. Although drunk driving is relatively common, the public considers it reprehensible; the average citizen sees absolutely no excuse for a motorist under the influence of alcohol or drugs to take the wheel—none. Therefore, your attorney must gather compelling evidence and argue extra forcefully to make the case for reducing the charges against you or mitigating your punishment. Typical of the statutory guidelines in most states, The Utah Sentencing and Release Guidelines establish criteria for mitigation in all criminal cases. Although the statutes specify nearly a dozen different criteria, all the standards rest on one single principle in the law: “Sanctions should be proportionate to the severity of the current offense.” As assistant district attorneys determine the charges against you, and as the criminal court judge determines your “sanctions,” they must consider…

The severity of your offense. Knowing that your blood alcohol continues increasing for approximately an hour after you consume your last cocktail, officers sometimes postpone breathalyzer or blood testing to increase the likelihood of your meeting the legal standard for intoxication. If you tested 0.08 BAC after a long delay, you are considered only “minimally impaired,” and you have a good cause for pleading guilty to a lesser charge or mitigating your punishment. • Your criminal history and your risk to society. If this is your first offense and you have maintained an otherwise satisfactory driving record, you pose only minimal risk to other motorists. Moreover, if credible witnesses testify that you seldom drink and they never have seen you drive while impaired, you probably can make the case for mitigation. • Arrest reports and officers’ field notes indicate your criminal conduct neither caused nor threatened serious harm. If you were driving erratically enough to catch officers’ attention but they concede you posed to imminent threat to other motorists, pedestrians or property, you may plead down your charges or reduce your penalties. • Your driving was otherwise safe at the time of your stop. If arresting officers and witnesses admit your driving was “otherwise safe,” your case should have been dismissed long before it came to trial and sentencing. In fact, you probably never should have been stopped. • Evidence and testimony establish substantial grounds to excuse or justify your criminal behavior, though failing to establish a defense. Most commonly prescribed anti-depressants and pain relievers intensify alcohol’s effects on your behavior, speech and judgment. Sleep deprivation also intensifies and often mimics liquor’s effects. If you were taking properly authorized prescription medications or were functioning with little or no sleep, you may reach a plea agreement or have your penalties reduced. • Your attitude suggests amenability to supervision. Most states allow for “diversion” of first offenders into licensed rehabilitation programs. If you show that you can comply with strict probation requirements, and if you establish your fitness for diversion, then you may have all charges dismissed and your record expunged when you complete a court-approved treatment program. • You have exceptionally good employment and family relationships; high fines or imprisonment would create extreme hardship for your family. Your stable relationships and reliable support system radically reduce the chances of your becoming a repeat offender. As your attorney argues the case for mitigation, he may call a variety of witnesses who will attest to your good character, responsibility and reliability. The more your DUI arrest seems like an anomaly in a history of good citizenship, the more likely you are to prevail.

You may face a civil suit.

If you caused an accident while you drove under the influence, victims may file personal injury suits against you. The judges or juries in those cases will see the same exhibits and hear the same testimony prosecutors present in your criminal trial, but the plaintiffs must satisfy a less demanding standard of proof. They may award damages when “a preponderance of the evidence” supports their claims. If your attorney prepared an airtight case for criminal proceedings, you stand a much better chance of prevailing in civil court too. In fact, the strength of your defense may inspire the plaintiffs to settle out of court. If you settle those suits and agree to pay restitution, your restitution agreements may contribute to your case for mitigation in your criminal case because jail time and large fines inevitably limit your ability to meet your settlement obligations.

Contact an experienced attorney.

Whatever the circumstances surrounding your arrest, and regardless of the details in your case, you absolutely should retain skilled legal counsel. The minimum fees, fines and insurance rate increases always will be higher than an attorney’s fees, and a good attorney’s services can make the difference between preserving a pristine record or paying the high price of a criminal conviction.

Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop are dedicated to serving Nebraska. Their successes defeding the rights of those in the Omaha area are numerous; so contact them if you want the best Omaha car accident Lawyer on your case.

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