Common Misconceptions about DUI Charges
Interviewer: What would you say would be some of the top misconceptions that your clients have when they talk to you?
It Is Not in Your Best Interest to Plead Guilty
Paul Geller: A lot of people feel that once they’ve been arrested that it’s in their best interest just to go to court and plead guilty. I’ve heard many people say that; because they feel that if their blood alcohol level, according to a police officer, was at or above the legal limit that they really don’t stand a change in terms of a defense. That’s just not the case.
A DUI Conviction Can Have a Far-Reaching and Long-Term Impact
The thing about a DUI is that it does have such major implications upon a person’s life. Not just because of the criminal court conviction in and of itself and the potential punishment there, but also the effects that it can have on a person’s driver’s license, for years. It can impact their professional aspirations and/or their careers. So to feel as though they should take responsibility by simply going to court and pleading guilty is just an improper thing to do.
It Is Always Advisable to Consult with an Attorney Experienced in DUI Defense
You should have an experienced attorney really examine the circumstances. Oftentimes, the belief that the blood alcohol level, as communicated from the officer, was at or above the legal limit turns out not to be the case. There are things that can go wrong with the Breathalyzer devices if it was a case based on the Breathalyzer results.
There are things that can go wrong in blood alcohol testing, and it’s important that the attorney that is hired understands those things and has continuing and proper education as to how those machines work.
There Are Often Issues with the Breathalyzer Results and the Analysis of the Field Sobriety Tests
There are issues related to the analysis of field sobriety tests. For instance, I am certified and have taking the training on the proper administration of field sobriety tests. This is the same training that police officers with the California Highway Patrol and other local agencies have taken.
When those tests are not done or conducted properly, these officers are trained but rarely institute the legal conclusion that the field sobriety test, therefore, should not be taken into consideration, and most officers won’t do that. Legally, that’s the proper thing to do. It’s important that the attorney test these officers and challenge them in the way they perform these field sobriety tests.
It Is Unlikely That You “Passed” the Field Sobriety Tests
I have a number of clients that tend to tell me that they “passed the field sobriety test” and even the officer said that. That is a major misconception by the people that get stopped for these types of cases, that the officer is going to put that in their report. That’s never the case.
They will always write their report in a way that shows that this person did not perform the field sobriety test properly. Otherwise, they would making arrest every time without having probable cause, and that’s never the case.
Now the arrestee thinks that, perhaps, the officer said that and therefore it was a pleasant experience. My client sometimes will tell me that, “Well, the officer was really nice.” Well, that’s nice; but at the end of the day, you got arrested. They typically might be saying that for the purposes of trying to make it a less confrontational experience.
You Do Not Have to Be Read the Miranda Rights during a DUI Investigation in the State of California
Many clients are also under the misconception that they should be told their Miranda rights. I have many people who tell me, “I was not read my Miranda rights.” That, unfortunately, has very little to do with a DUI investigation. The California Supreme Court has ruled that questions during a DUI investigation, prior to arrest, don’t require Miranda. That’s another misconception.
You Are Not Legally Obligated to Perform the Field Sobriety Tests
Another misconception is that people feel that they are required to do field sobriety tests. They’re not. The police officers won’t tell a person that. The experience between the arresting officer and the client may not be as cordial. But nevertheless, without having the ability to write down that the client failed to perform the field sobriety test—as explained and demonstrated—there’s a very strong chance that the person was arrested without probable cause.
There are so many problems in the analysis of field sobriety test that it would be my suggestion to people not to do them, unless you’re absolutely certain that you are not impaired and you are able to safely drive your vehicle.