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Alabama DUI Defense: Tips on Winning a Drunk Driving Case

Posted by Steven Eversole | Mar 27, 2008 | 0 Comments

Don't think for a moment that a DUI arrest will automatically result in a conviction, fines or jail time. I'll say right now as a professional Alabama DUI Attorney that the situation is never hopeless or inevitable.  Time and time again, I am asked by potential clients about the how practical it really is to fight against an Alabama DUI charge.  I always respond one way: Clients retain my firm, and pay me very well, for one reason, to fight Alabama DUI charges and win.  Pleading guilty to a DUI charge is, in most instances, not the answer. 

Prosecutors in charge of DUI cases will point out several factors to try and prove you were operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol:  the odor of alcohol on the breath, driving erratically, you appeared disheveled and acted as if intoxicated, exhibited poor field sobriety test (FST) performance, plus the results of a breath or blood alcohol (BAC) test.  What the prosecution will not mention or point out, and what you must rely on an experienced Alabama DUI defense lawyer and attorney to call attention to, is that each of these "evidence" types are each ambiguous, subject to a variety of interpretation, often unreliable, and result in faulty assumptions.  Over the next few posts I detail and explain 20 possible DUI defenses a good Alabama driving under the influence of alcohol attorney or lawyer can use to win a not guilty verdict in your DUI trial. 

  1. Factors Other Than Alcohol Can Cause Poor Performance On DUI Field Sobriety Tests

    Even if you performed less than perfectly on the DUI field sobriety tests, this may be attributable to unfair test conditions such as:

    • The tests occurring on uneven surfaces or slippery terrain
    • The distraction of flashing lights and traffic whizzing by
    • The test area being too dark or amidst glaring lights
    • Cold temperatures, rain or wind
    • Unsuitable footwear—such as boots, high heels or dress shoes
    • Nervousness, anxiety and/or frustration

    Most people who had nothing to drink would still struggle with the FSTs under these conditions. The upshot is this: even if you struggled on the roadside tests, this may well be attributable to the setting and circumstances rather than attributable to you being intoxicated.  If you do not believe me, simply try the standardized field sobriety test at home, in a comfortable setting, on a steady floor, without any nervousness or anxiety.  This is often enough, when combined with a skilled DUI defense litigator to raise reasonable doubt in jurors minds as to whether or not you were indeed intoxicated.

  2. There Are Often Innocent Explanations For The Symptoms Of Intoxication

    Police officers almost always claim to have observed certain “objective symptoms of intoxication” in the DUI suspect. The standard list includes:

    • Bloodshot and watery eyes
    • Slurred speech
    • A flushed face and
    • An unsteady gait

    DUI police reports feature pre-printed boxes for these symptoms that officers merely check off. Of course, the officers almost never photograph, videotape or audiotape the DUI suspect so that jurors can later judge for themselves whether and to what extent these symptoms were present.

    In any event, non-alcohol causes often explain these observations. For example, fatigue, allergies and eye strain cause bloodshot eyes. Nervousness, embarrassment and anger over the DUI traffic stop cause flushing. Intimidation and fluster cause slurred speech.

    The officer rarely takes these innocent explanations into account. The DUI defense attorney must emphasize to the jury that the evidence is just as consistent with non-alcohol explanations as it is with intoxication.

  3. Breath Testing Machines Mistake Other Chemicals for Alcohol

    DUI Breath alcohol testing machines also detect non-alcohol compounds, which they frequently mistake for alcohol. Among the compounds most commonly mistaken for alcohol are ethylene, toluene, nitrous oxide, diethyl ether, acetonitrile and isopropanol.

    The presence of any of these compounds in the DUI suspect's lung tissue will likely cause a false, or falsely high, blood alcohol reading. We find that people frequently ingest these compounds at work or in other environments where the chemicals are present.

  4. The Presence of Mouth Alcohol Can Contaminate The Breath Alcohol Test Results

    Ideally, DUI breath testing devices detect alveolar air of the deep lungs, which is loosely correlated with blood alcohol level. But the breath testing machine can be “tricked” by latent alcohol in the mouth—often caused by burping, belching, or the recent use of cough syrup, cold medicine, mouthwash or breath spray.

    When the breath testing machine picks up mouth alcohol rather than deep lung air, it gives BAC readings greatly higher than the true BAC. This becomes a particular problem for DUI arrestees with dentures, denture adhesives, braces, cavities, food impactions, orthodontic work or who have food particles trapped between their teeth (as all of these conditions tend to produce mouth alcohol).

  5. Field Sobriety Tests Wrongfully Convict 33% of DUI Suspects and Provide A Very Poor Measure Of DUI Impairment

    Even when the standardized field sobriety tests are administered perfectly (which is rare), they still provide a very inaccurate measure of whether a DUI suspect is impaired. According to NHTSA, for example, the one leg stand test has a 65% accuracy rate and the walk-and-turn test a 68% accuracy rate.  Not only do these stats. presume a perfectly administered test, they also assume every person is physically the same, without disability, inner ear problems, or infirmity in any way. 

    This means that if people were convicted based on these roadside tests, one third of them would be innocent and wrongly convicted. Or, viewed another way, when officers arrest DUI suspects based on failing these tests, one in three suspects is wrongfully arrested.

About the Author

Steven Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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