Fighting a DUI Charge Based on Police Misconduct

If police misconduct leads to DUI charges or a resulting conviction, you can point to these issues to defend yourself against the allegations. Missteps or misconduct by law enforcement may involve not having the legal authority to stop your vehicle. Likewise, not following the correct procedures when arresting you can result in misconduct. You can point to these and other inconsistencies (such as invalid BAC results) to try to defend yourself against the DUI charges. If you succeed, the court may abandon or reduce the charges.  

Veitch Ault Defense is a premier law firm fighting for the people for decades. We understand the many forms of police misconduct that can lead to unlawful DUI arrests and convictions. Our Washington State DUI attorney has extensive experience identifying and fighting against these unfair practices. 

What Constitutes Police Misconduct in a DUI Case?

Police misconduct in DUI cases can take many forms. For example, stopping someone without having reasonable suspicion to do so may qualify. Likewise, if the police make a mistake in administering the field sobriety test, this may constitute misconduct. Additionally, failing to follow the correct arrest procedures or not having probable cause to detain someone may fall under the umbrella of police misconduct. 

Lack of Reasonable Suspicion

For an initial stop to be valid, the police need to have reasonable suspicion that you committed or are committing a crime. This standard is less than probable cause, but it does require an objectively justifiable suspicion that crime is afoot. In short, the officer needs more than a mere hunch. 

Something that might support reasonable suspicion includes witnessing the driver engage in a traffic violation (e.g., speeding, swerving, or running a red light). Without reasonable suspicion, the court may throw out evidence the police gathered. In many DUI cases, successfully challenging the initial stop may result in the court dismissing some or all of the charges completely.

Errors Made Regarding Field Sobriety Tests

Even when highly trained officers perform field sobriety tests, the validity of the results may be an issue. What’s more, these tests are notoriously unreliable and subjective. One reason for this is that the officers don’t have something to compare the test results to. The fact is that some people can’t perform these tests well when they are completely sober and relaxed. And having someone doing this exam on the side of the road with a police officer grading them is hardly a neutral environment. For these and other reasons, the value of these results can be questionable at best.

Lack of Probable Cause

Under the Constitution of the United States of America, the police must have probable cause before arresting someone. What this means depends on the context, but, in general, it requires the police officer to have evidence that it is more likely than not that you were driving under the influence. The cops can use things like field sobriety tests, the officer’s observations, and chemical tests such as the breathalyzer – as well as in response to a resulting car accident.

Improper Chemical Testing

For the results of chemical testing to be admissible, the police must maintain and carefully calibrate the devices. Likewise, those who use them should have the proper training and authority to do so. Further, police departments must log a considerable amount of paperwork that documents how they fulfill these requirements.

For testing that requires blood or urine samples, there is also the matter of properly storing the samples and documenting the chain of custody for evidence. In plain language, this means the police need to have a record of who had the sample, when, and for what reason—from the time they took the sample from you until they use the evidence in court. Any gaps in these records may call into question the validity of the results. King County DUI defense attorneys understand what to look for when determining if the police met these requirements. And they know what to do if the cops cross the line. 

Unlawful DUI Arrests

When the police detain you for a DUI, they need to follow the same procedures as for any other kind of arrest. This includes reading you your Miranda Rights, such as your right to an attorney and your right to remain silent. It is essential to understand that invoking these rights falls to you. At the same time, just because you start talking to the police doesn’t mean you can’t use your right to remain silent later on. Likewise, you can assert your right to an attorney at any point, even if you started by saying you didn’t want one. 

When you’re in police custody, they must treat you with respect and dignity and house you in a reasonably safe environment. For example, they can’t unreasonably deny you access to bathrooms, clean water, or food. Likewise, using corporal punishment or abusive tactics is off-limits. If the police used these or other wrongful behaviors during or after your arrest, you may be able to use this evidence to throw out or reduce the charge against you. 

How Can Police Misconduct Affect a DUI Charge?

When police misconduct leads directly to testimony or evidence that supports your DUI charge, the fruit of their misconduct – the testimony, evidence, or both – can’t be used in the case against you. In other words, anything they obtained after breaking the rules may be invalid. For example, if the police didn’t have a reason to stop you in the first place, any evidence they discover later on may be thrown out. If most of the information they gathered has questionable origins, the court may dismiss or reduce the DUI charges against you.  

What Defense Strategies Can You Use Against Police Errors in DUI Cases?

In cases where police misconduct or errors may be an issue, it’s imperative to carefully build a strong defense. While the specific strategy you use depends largely on the circumstances involved, here are some common approaches:

  • Pointing out problems with the results of chemical tests, including how the police kept the samples;
  • Challenging the integrity of the field sobriety test results;
  • Questioning whether the officer had reasonable to pull you over in the first place; and
  • Arguing that the officer didn’t have probable cause to arrest you.

In addition to pointing to misconduct or improprieties by the police, finding flaws in the test results may be an effective defense strategy. Consider the following:

  • Some medications can interfere with breathalyzer readings;
  • Some diets can affect breathalyzer readings;
  • Smoking can affect breathalyzer readings; and 
  • Some motorists perform poorly on field sobriety tests even if they are completely sober.

In other words, many reasons may merit calling test results into question. Often, this is a good starting point for challenging the DUI charge. 

Veitch Ault Defense: We Can Fight for a DUI Case Dismissal Due to Police Misconduct

Bringing a solid defense in the face of a DUI charge is critical, and often, the most robust defenses focus on police misconduct or mistakes. Just like motorists must follow the rules of the road, police officers should act within the careful parameters of the law when making arrests and bringing DUI charges. This includes upholding drivers’ rights and not overstepping the exacting boundaries set by the law. If you believe the cops made mistakes or mistreated you when arresting you for a DUI, consider working with a seasoned criminal defense lawyer. 

At Veitch Ault Defense, we dedicate our skills and resources to rooting out police misconduct in defense of our clients. Because of his tireless efforts, Robert J Ault has successfully challenged DUI breath test results, resulting in dozens of charges being thrown out. 

If you believe police misconduct paved the way for your DUI charge, contact us today by calling 425-332-1792 to schedule a consultation. 

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