What Must the Government Prove for an Orange County DUI Conviction?

Posted on: March 13, 2017 by in DUI
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For an Orange County DUI Conviction, the district attorney must meet all elements of California law for DUIs.  One element is that the government must prove that you were driving while you had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) high enough to justify arrest.  There are many different ways the prosecutor can prove an Orange County DUI. However, some situations are more complicated and more difficult to prove than others.

The first and easiest is if the police had a valid reason to pull you over.

There are several situations where you may be lawfully pulled over and questioned about a DUI.  The arresting officer may pull you over for any vehicle code violation, whether it is related to alcohol impairment or not.  Alternatively, the stop does not even need to be directly tied to driving at all.  If the officer had probable cause that any crime was committed and that you likely committed it, then they can make the stop to further investigate.  The key however, is whether the officer can sufficiently “articulate” the reason for the stop.

If the officer can articulate the reason for the stop, then there will be sufficient probable cause for the officer to further investigate whether he can make a DUI arrest.  This may seem like a simple task, but in truth this stage is where the government’s case is most vulnerable.

It is always the primary goal of Core Law Group’s DUI defense attorneys to immediately investigate whether the initial stop was valid.   If the initial stop was not valid, then any evidence obtained by the officer from that point on may be inadmissible and ultimately result in a dismissal of your case.  However, it takes a trained eye and knowledge of California vehicle and penal codes to identify errors made by an officer when initiating car stops.

The second requirement is if the officer has sufficient reasonable suspicion to believe you were driving under the influence of alcohol or another substance.

Once an individual is pulled over for a DUI, they are almost always asked by the police officer if they have had anything to drink. Every police officer is trained to ask this question.  The reason is that an answer in the affirmative automatically gives them necessary probable cause to move on to the next stage of investigation.  This is when individuals should exercise their right to remain silent. However, experience shows that almost all our clients, by nature, are honest and tell the officer if they have been drinking.  Once you tell the officer that you have had any amount of alcohol to drink they can automatically continue to observe and test you.

However, if an individual does not admit to having consumed alcohol then the officer must take the additional step of using their skill, knowledge, training, and experience to determine if objective signs of impairment are present.  Again, they must be able to articulate these facts, which can be difficult. Therefore, it is best that an individual does not volunteer or admit they have consumed alcohol.

The third requirement is if the Arresting Officer’s investigation resulted in sufficient probable cause to believe you may be driving under the influence.

This is normally the stage where the officer asks a driver to step out of the vehicle and perform multiple field sobriety tests (FSTs).  Through FSTs officers can document why they believe an individual was driving while impaired.  However, these tests are not perfect and there are many specific requirements officers must meet while administering the test and documenting the results. If the FSTs were not administered properly, the arresting officer may lack the probable cause necessary to make a DUI arrest.

Of course, police departments have found a way to ease their burden at this stage of the investigation as well.  Just about every agency in California uses Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) tests to bolster their argument for probable cause. This is when the officer offers the driver a Breathalyzer at the scene of the investigation.  Police officers know that most individuals mistakenly believe they must consent to this test and they use that to their advantage.  The reality is that prior to arrest, the PAS breath test is voluntary.

If an individual agrees to the PAS Test and blows over the legal limit, then the officer has easily established probable cause for a DUI arrest. However, the arrest at this stage is not fool-proof.  California law requires the arresting officer to give a very specific admonition to the driver stating that the PAS test is voluntary.

Finally, the mandatory chemical test must provide sufficient proof of probable cause for the arrest.

After a driver has been arrested, a driver must agree to a chemical test (either a breath test or blood test) pursuant to the California Vehicle Code.  A refusal results in automatic suspension of driving privileges and sentencing enhancements in the criminal case. This mandatory chemical test (unlike the PAS test discussed above) is usually given at a police station or sub-station and the driver is given the election of whether he or she wants to submit a breath test or blood test.  If a breath test is elected, a breathalyzer is administered to record the individual’s BAC. If a blood test is elected, then a sample of blood is taken for further testing. Once again, neither test if fool-proof.

There are many defenses that need to be explored at the various stages of a DUI arrest.  It takes a trained DUI attorney to identify defenses.  It is important to have a lawyer explore the defenses available and defend you after an Orange County DUI arrest—there is simply too much to lose.

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