The Dothan Eagle recently reported that fewer fatalities were reported on Alabama roads during the Fourth of July holiday weekend and yet troopers arrested more than 100 people for DUI.
Law enforcement love to boast about arrest numbers, but while some in the public may be fooled, Alabama DUI Defense Lawyers know that arrest numbers mean little. The number of convictions, however, is a different story. Police can arrest many people, but if they make mistakes during the procedure of arresting someone, arrest someone who isn't guilty or otherwise botch a Birmingham DUI arrest, our firm is ready to step in and help. Fighting these charges are critical because of the steep penalties involved and the potential long-term effects of having a conviction on one's criminal history record. Nationwide, about one-third of those charged with DUI are not convicted.
According to the newspaper, Alabama State Troopers statewide worked nine fatal crashes, which is down from 13 a year ago, during the 78-hour holiday period. And during that time period — 6 p.m. Friday, July 1 to midnight Monday, July 4, they arrested 148 drivers and charged them with DUI. They also ticketed 3,400 people for speeding, 1,169 for seat belt violations and worked 350 crashes. And that doesn't include local law enforcement efforts.
Law enforcement obviously did a lot of work over the holiday weekend and it is certainly sad that people lost their lives in accidents during the Independence Day weekend. But while many people believe that anyone arrested for DUI is guilty, it is simply not true. These charges can be beat because of police mistakes, improper procedures and false testing. Typically, periods of enforcement blitzes — such as those around the holiday — increase the chances of questionable arrests.
Many aspects of a DUI arrest can and should be challenged, such as whether the arresting officer had justification to make the initial stop, whether the officer was properly trained in giving field sobriety tests and if the breathalyzer was properly calibrated.
Probable cause for the initial stop: Law enforcement must have a reason for initializing a traffic stop and beginning a DUI investigation. This is typically justified because of one of the following driver actions:
Weaving while driving
Sudden stops and starts
Not using a turn signal
Running red lights or stop signs
Sometimes, though, officers don't have a legal reason for making the stop and the results of their investigation can be thrown out of court.
Proper training and conducting field sobriety tests: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are only three field sobriety tests that are considered standard for all law enforcement: horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk-and-turn, one-leg stand. Many people may not know these by name, but would recognize them by action. The HGN is when an officer makes a driver stand still and follow an object from side to side with their eyes. The walk-and-turn is when the person walks, toe-to-toe, in a line and the one-leg stand measures balance.
Sometimes, officers will administer other tests that can't be used in court to tire or frustrate the driver and sometimes, outside factors, such as weather conditions or a medical ailment can explain failure of some of these tests.
Breathalyzer results: Breath testing is notorious for being inaccurate and unreliable. Prosecutors across the country have had to toss breathalyzer results because the machines were manufactured wrong, weren't calibrated by law enforcement or because the machines themselves produce wrong outputs. It should be noted that these devices only estimate a driver's blood-alcohol level, not measure it, anyway. These tests, just like the others, can be contradicted in an Alabama criminal court when fighting a DUI charge.
Previous Blog Entries:
Law Enforcement Will Be Out in Birmingham Looking for DUI Arrests This Fourth of July : July 1, 2011
Hundreds Arrested For DUI During Fourth of July Weekend, by Jim Cook, Dothan Eagle