DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. The punishments for these offenses can be extremely considerable. If a person has been arrested for a DWI and wishes to contest the charge, he or she should know every defense that might be available to him or her. By preparing a practical defense, the individual might aid in convincing the prosecution to abandon or lessen the charges, stop his or her driver’s license from being suspended, or even obtain an acquittal after a trial.
In a DWI case, the prosecution must establish two key issues:
- The defendant, or the individual being charged, drove a vehicle and
- Simultaneously, the defendant was “under the influence”- indicating that the individual’s capacity to drive cautiously was influenced to a substantial degree by drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or a mixture of alcohol and drugs.
In a DWI case, a defense can be anything that disproves one of these aspects and therefore stops the prosecution from establishing its case. In addition, a defense may hinder the prosecution from presenting evidence at trial, which decreases the prosecution’s capacity to establish its case.
Defenses Connected With “Driving”
If the defendant was really driving a vehicle at time of the supposed DWI offense, he or she cannot be found guilty of drunk driving. Many DWI cases begin with a driver getting pulled over. Therefore, there normally is not much dispute over whether the defendant was really driving. However, if a police officer did not really see the defendant driving—the officer came near the defendant’s immobile car while he or she was behind the wheel in the parking lot, for instance—the matter may be arguable, founded on the evidence.
Defenses Connected With Arrest
If the police officer did not have legal reason to stop the defendant’s vehicle and/or arrest the defendant in the first place — or if the officer neglected to abide by appropriate legal practices during the arrest – any evidence collected from the traffic stop or the arrest may be considered “inadmissible” and thus excluded from a court case against the defendant. This could result in the prosecution having no actual case (for instance, because breathalyzer results and the arresting officer’s testimony could not be employed as evidence). Therefore, the DWI charges against the defendant could be abandoned.
No Probable Cause to Arrest
If an officer did not have probable cause to stop the defendant’s vehicle, keep him or her in custody, or arrest him or her for drunk driving, then the defendant could retain any evidence acquired during the arrest from being allowed in at trial. For instance, if the defendant thinks that he or she was stopped because of his or her race or ethnicity – and not because he or she was driving unsteadily or seemed to be intoxicated – the defendant could dispute the arrest.
No Miranda Warnings
If the defendant is arrested, a police office must give the individual Miranda warnings as part of the procedure. These are the warnings that the defendant hears on television – that he or she has the right to remain silent, that anything he or she says might be used against him or her, and that the person has the right to an attorney, and so on. If the officer does not give Miranda warnings or delivers them erroneously, the defendant could keep out specific evidence at trial.
Zane Schwarzlose is a writer at Carroll Troberman Criminal Defense, an Austin criminal defense law firm. Zane is glad he’s never had to use any of the defenses above.
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