From Traffic Infraction to DUI Arrest: Know Your Rights Part Two

In our last article, we addressed the issue of whether the officer has a legal basis to stop you, as far as the driving pattern observed or any other basis to justify stopping you. It is only when the stop is legal, either based on a driving pattern allegedly supporting impairment or based on a common violation such as speeding, that any observations which then flow from that stop will be considered legally obtained and admissible in court. If a stop of a driver is not legal, the remedy is what is called a suppression motion to suppress or exclude from admission in the courtroom any evidence that was not legally obtained. If such a motion is granted, that will likely lead to the imploding of the case against you, as all officer observations, all interactions between you and the officer, and all test results would then be excluded from being considered as evidence in court.

In this series, we will be taking a look at the five main areas for officer examination and defense challenge in any DUI investigation in order to educate and to empower our clients. Every case must meet not just the “test” of officer suspicion after that point when the case is filed in court; now, the charges will be held to a higher “test” which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt
1. the driving pattern observed/ basis for stop;
2. the so-called “objective” signs and symptoms, and other officer-alleged indicia, of impairment or blood alcohol content;
3. the nature of the information that the officer is able to gather from the suspect;
4. the driver’s alleged performance on roadside exercises labeled by law enforcement “field sobriety tests;”
5. the results of any tests on breath or blood samples obtained from the driver, ranging from Preliminary Alcohol Screening (so-called PAS) breath test results to the results of the final breath or blood test.

Part Two in our On-Going Series in your DUI Arrest in Ventura County:

2. Signs and Symptoms as Alleged Evidence of Impairment or Blood Alcohol Content

Once the officer stops you for alleged Driving under the Influence in Ventura County, there are certain symptoms that the officer is trained to look for, such as the condition of a person’s eyes, ability to speak, odor of alcohol, ability to be oriented as to where he is and where he is going, and coordination and balance abilities (even outside of the strict performance period for roadside exercises erroneously labeled “field sobriety tests” by law enforcement). As the officer interacts with you, he is attempting to evaluate your eyes, your speech, your ability to understand and to convey information, your ability to hand over requested information without fumbling, and any other symptomology which he believes could support your DUI arrest in Ventura County. It is important to note that an officer’s sole job in this scenario is to collect evidence to use to support the case against you, not to collect any exculpatory evidence or evidence which might support your innocence.

As officers will customarily admit under cross-examination in the courtroom, an odor of alcohol, in and of itself, does not prove that a person is then either driving while impaired or driving with a .08% or higher blood alcohol content. Similarly, as to an observation of red, watery eyes, your defense counsel can bring out that there are many other, innocent causes for red watery eyes, that are not linked to either impairment or a BAC over the legal limit. For instance, a person could be stopped late at night, after a very long day. He could be tired, have irritated eyes, have allergies. The list goes on. The officer, never having interacted with you before, does not know how your eyes normally look at 2 a.m. by the side of the highway after a 20 hour day, and so on. Similarly, the officer will attempt to determine whether your speech seems “thick” or slurred. As you can tell, this is a very subjective area full of vaguaries and judgment calls for the officer. The officer then attempts to differentiate on his form between what is considered “slightly slurred” or something more. At the same time that the officer is empowered to do this, he does not know how you normally speak with absolutely no alcohol in your system, or when not tired and nervous standing by the side of the road with him at 2 a.m..

As you can see, this area of officer observations in your DUI arrest in Ventura County is open to potential errors in officer judgment and interpretation. It is the role of your defense attorney to expose all the areas of reasonable doubt in your case so that we do not have overreaching and errors by government authority, which affects your freedom and sets the stage for the impingement of all our freedoms. That is why we have the individual freedom protections that are enshrined in the Constitution and the requirement of putting the government’s case against any individual to the test of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” in the courtroom. It is a larger issue of personal freedom in which we engage every day on the side of the defense.

In our next installment, Part 3 in our series, we will delve into the nature of the information that the officer is able to gather from you and how that has an impact in your DUI case. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should not feel forced or compelled to say anything to the officer who interacts with you. Your only legal obligation is to provide license, registration, and proof of insurance in this scenario, not to provide any information which the officer will seek to use against you to support your arrest for Driving under the Influence in Ventura County. Similarly, you do not have to “consent” to perform the roadside exercises labeled by law enforcement as so-called “field sobriety tests” and you do not have to agree to provide pre-arrest breath test sample, in what is known as the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) breath test.

Even if you believe that you are not driving while impaired, it is important to keep one thing in mind when dealing with officers: All of this information which they are attempting to gather can only be used for one purpose -against you. It is not your responsibility to provide officers with any information (beyond providing the basic information) that they can use to attempt to build the case against you.

If you do speak to the officer, do not despair. That is a common response to the pressure of the situation. We will address ways in which your defense counsel can shed further light on any information which has been provided to explore all the areas of reasonable doubt in your case and to effectively protect your rights in the courtroom. At the Law Office of Jennifer Zide, we are always on your side, protecting your freedoms. If you have any questions about your arrest for Driving under the Influence in Ventura County, please call us today to discuss the details of your case in a free, confidential initial consultation. Call the Law Office of Jennifer Zide at (805) 669-9744 or you can visit our website for more information about defending your DUI charge in Ventura County.