Learn what’s involved in defending a DUI charge. We serve clients throughout Gwinnett County, Forsyth County, Hall County, Barrow County, Jackson County, and Dawson County.
People call us all the time and ask us, “Aren’t DUI cases open and shut?”
The answer surprises a lot of people. It’s “Absolutely not! No!”
DUI cases are very complex and can carry significant penalties. Very few cases in the criminal justice system involve so many issues of fact, science, and opinion which in turn leaves a lot of room for question.
DUI cases are very fact-intensive. The odor detected by the officer, the way the subject gets out of the vehicle, the performance on field sobriety evaluations, and other manifestations that are noted by the officer provide a basis for establishing guilt.
These facts are not always consistent with the theory of guilt to DUI. For instance, bloodshot eyes can be caused by alcohol consumption; however, they can also be caused by lack of sleep or being around smoke. The odor of an alcoholic beverage, if strong, can indicate how much the person has had to drink; however, it can also merely indicate recent use or that the beverage is one with a stronger smell. Thus, facts are not always as clear-cut as may first appear to be.
Further, any well-trained officer will perform field sobriety tests. These evaluations are standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a lot of testing has gone into validating these “tests” which creates a scientific component. Visit the field sobriety portion of our site to learn more about the types of field sobriety evaluations used.
Mediocre or poor performance on field sobriety evaluations does not always indicate that the person is impaired by alcohol to the extent that they are less safe to drive. First, environmental and personal factors have a direct correlation to field sobriety performance.
Extreme heat or cold, the subject’s age/weight, or physiological characteristics (poor balance or medical conditions) can all have an impact on an individual’s performance on field sobriety.
Finally, given the fact that these evaluations are standardized, there are very specific requirements the officer must follow in administering these evaluations. Failure to comply with these standards can compromise the results subjecting them to attack.
An attorney, like Phil Pilgrim, who has been trained in standardized field sobriety and once taught law enforcement on those standards can locate these errors and use them to his client’s advantage.
It should be noted that this is also true for blood and breathalyzer tests. Just because you blew “over the limit” does not mean that your case cannot be fought. These machines malfunction, protocol is not followed, and standards are not kept on a very consistent basis. Science can work against them, and could get the case dismissed.
Finally, all of those facts and science are taken into consideration by the arresting officer in formulating an opinion as to the subject’s ability to drive. DUI cases are the only types of cases that a witness can testify to the “ultimate issue.”
What that means is the officer can give an opinion as to whether or not they believe you were guilty of violating the law. In any other case tried before a jury, a witness cannot opine as to whether they think you are guilty of driving under the influence.
DUI cases are the only circumstance in the criminal justice system where this is allowed. However, remember, an opinion is just that. It’s only an opinion.
So, the short answer is yes, you absolutely should hire a lawyer. As noted above, FACTS, SCIENCE, and OPINION in these types of cases are very much up for dispute and subject to a lot of interpretation. Hiring a skilled Gwinett County DUI lawyer like Phil Pilgrim puts you in the best position to get the best result possible. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation to learn how to protect your legal rights throughout the DUI litigation process.
We are located in Suwanee Georgia, but we defend clients throughout Gwinnett County, Forsyth County, Hall County, Barrow County, Jackson County, and Dawson County. Contact our Atlanta law firm as soon as possible to learn how we advocate for your best interests.