A Defense of the DUI Law Practice

Every DUI lawyer has faced the question “how can you face yourself in the mirror in the morning, knowing that you are defending drunk drivers who might cause injury or death to innocent men, women and children?  Wouldn’t we all be better off if drunk drivers lost their licenses permanently and were left to rot in jail for months or years?”

Persons accused of driving under the influence garner little sympathy, especially those with multiple offenses.   How can any lawyer want to get a repeat offender off on a technicality?

Here is how I respond:

First, the goal of any reputable criminal defense lawyer is to investigate to determine whether the state (in the form of the police officers and the prosecutors) have done their job according to the law.  In the American system, criminal prosecutions are adversarial in nature, meaning that the state’s attorneys (the prosecutor) and the defense attorney are on opposite sides.

Our founding fathers recognized that representatives of the state have significant resources and built in authority when appearing before juries.  Such power can be abused if not held in check.   Unfettered police power can turn a free society into an authoritarian one.   History has shown that when agents of the state can enter people’s homes at will, detain them indefinitely, and incarcerate without critically analyzed evidence, personal freedom disappears.  We can both support the hard work and bravery of policemen and women while at the same time demanding that these officers take care to collect and store evidence properly, advise the accused of certain constitutional rights and engage in a certain baseline of appropriate conduct.

How does all this apply to a DUI case?  Take a look at this informative article about blood alcohol testing kits in Georgia from respected Newnan, Georgia DUI defense attorney Alan Trapp.   Alan discusses the blood collection kits used by state and county police forces in Georgia and the potential for false results because of stale preservative or a defective seal.  Now imagine that you consumed one beer at dinner and were randomly stopped at a DUI checkpoint.  Further assume that the DUI kit used by the local police officer was contaminated with a yeast called Candida albicans that began to ferment when blood was added.  Further assume that there was insufficient preservative in the test kit.  A properly calibrated kit might have shown your blood alcohol content at .03, well below the legal limit, but the contaminated kit yielded a result of .09.

In this scenario, a DUI conviction would wrongfully land you in jail for two or more days, a fine of up to $1,000, a possible loss of your full driving privileges for up to a year, 40 hours of community service, probable loss of insurance coverage, and dramatically increased insurance renewal rates.

In truth, because of the contamination neither you, the arresting officer or the prosecutor would really know exactly what your blood alcohol level was at the time of arrest.   That uncertainty is called “reasonable doubt.”

Now imagine that you retained a smart lawyer like Alan who was able to obtain physical evidence and testimony from the arresting officer that convinced a judge or jury that the blood alcohol test kit was contaminated, thereby resulting in an acquittal.

Now this does not mean that every DUI arrest can be successfully challenged, and conversely there may be some guilty drivers who get off because of bad evidence.  If the stakes are your personal liberty and a huge financial burden, don’t you want the state to have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.  Don’t you want a procedure in place where you can argue against your guilt to an impartial finder of fact?

So, the next time a friend or relative opines that criminal defense attorneys are no better than the defendants they represent, think about how you would feel if you found yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time and your lifestyle was at risk.

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