The overwhelming majority of the people I deal with feel that, once they get arrested for DUI, their situation is hopeless, but that’s not really the case. The vast majority of DUIs are people who have made a mistake; it’s all about trying to determine if they did make a mistake and then how severe that mistake was. Losing hope and throwing up your hands is not the way to approach these cases.
First of all, they’re some of the most scientific cases out there, rivaling DNA cases and things of that nature in terms of the science behind arriving at that blood alcohol content level. There’s good science behind those tests, but there is also bad science, so you have to know what you’re doing to look at these cases and determine just how bad the mistake was.
Once we’ve determined that someone has made a mistake, it can be rectified through mitigation, by looking at the kinds of things you’ve done in your past as well as what you do moving forward. In Colorado, the justice system is not about destroying someone who made the mistake of a first DUI; it actually does a very good job of seeing that first one as a mistake. It’s not until you start talking about seconds and thirds that it becomes much more punitive, but most people can make that first mistake, have some consequences and a learning experience and move on with their life, if they approach it the right way.
How Public Will My Situation Be If I Am Charged With A DUI?
The vast majority of DUI arrests are not very public; they’re typically situations in which most people are bonded very quickly if they aren’t released on summons, so they’re typically not missing any work or losing their job because of that. The counties that I practice in, unlike some other counties, doesn’t publish all the DUI arrests online or in the newspaper or anything like that, so most of these cases don’t lead to any public ridicule or shame.
However, there are certain public consequences; for example, I have represented people who are considered to be high profile and members of the media will cull the arrest reports to see if any names pop up; those are obviously public. Also, some people have jobs that depend upon their ability to drive. So, while the arrest won’t be public knowledge, there can certainly be consequences that carry over into their jobs and things of that nature. Where I practice, it’s a major metropolitan area, not a small community where everyone knows everyone else’s business, which means most people are able to keep these kinds of things largely to themselves when these mistakes happen.
What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make When Charged with a DUI?
The most obvious mistake that comes to mind is that people tend to make decisions when they’re going through their contact with the officer that are backward; by that I mean they agree to perform roadsides, which are totally voluntary and agreeing to them provides a whole lot more evidence, as well as leading to a lot of subjective interpretation on the officer’s part. Then they turn around and refuse to submit to a chemical test, which triggers all kinds of negative consequences for them with their driver’s license and it permits a negative inference instruction that the prosecution can use in any jury trial.
When I say that negative inference, I mean that the prosecution is specifically permitted to argue that by refusing the test, someone is conscious of their guilt because if they haven’t been drinking, they would have submitted to that test, but they knew the test would show alcohol they refused it.
The reality is people should absolutely refuse to do those roadsides because that doesn’t have the same negative inference; they’re completely voluntary. Because of the negative consequences that come along with refusing to perform a chemical test, they should absolutely go ahead and do that if they’re being arrested; we can always deal with the legality of the arrest, whether that arrest was based upon proper probable cause, and if not, we can suppress those test results anyway.
If the test was based upon probable cause, there are still attacks that we can make on the test results themselves, if we feel the test is in error. Most people do it backwards; they take those roadsides and refuse the chemical test when they should do the exact opposite.
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