New York lawmakers passed the nation's first DWI law in 1910. For many years thereafter, police officers often released intoxicated motorists with just a warning. Then, beginning in the 1980s, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and other advocacy groups successfully pushed for change.
Today, the era of the DWI warning is long gone. Officers are extremely aggressive in this area. Once they pull you over, if there is any evidence you have been drinking, they will arrest you for DWI.
However, not all DWI arrests are created equally. Weatherford criminal defense attorneys take a different approach in each kind of prosecution.
About 80 percent of all DWI defendants provide a breath or blood sample. The conviction rate in these cases is very high as well. That's especially true with regard to blood test cases. Fortunately, blood test cases are rare, because U.S. law requires police officers to obtain search warrants before they extract blood samples.
Nevertheless, there are some effective defenses available. The Breathalyzer is essentially an updated version of the 1920s Drunk-O-Meter. Both these gadgets used a breath alcohol particle count to estimate the driver's Blood Alcohol Content level.
That extra step sometimes creates problems. For example, if the suspect burped or belched in the fifteen minutes prior to the test, the excess mouth alcohol level often skews the BAC estimate. Defenses like this one are especially effective in .08, .09, and other borderline BAC cases.
Blood tests are more reliable, but there are still issues. For that reason, Weatherford criminal defense attorneys often order blood sample re-tests. Many times, results from an independent laboratory are much different from the ones a police department technician obtained.
If the defendant refuses to provide a chemical sample, prosecutors must use circumstantial proof to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Generally, this evidence comes from the three approved field sobriety tests. All of these tests have flaws of their own.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: The DWI eye test often effectively determines if a driver has nystagmus, or lazy eye. But many other conditions aside from alcohol also cause this condition. In fact, many people have a lazy eye. They just do not know it.
Walk and Turn: The heel-to-toe walk test is very difficult to complete, even if the defendant is completely sober and wearing the right type of shoes. Roadside WAT tests are even more difficult to successfully complete.
One Leg Stand: The OLS and WAT are very similar. Any mobility or other impairment seriously affects the test. Moreover, in the OLS, officers often focus on obscure technicalities, like holding the leg at the wrong angle.
It is not enough to prove that the defendant failed the tests. Prosecutors must also establish that intoxication, and not fatigue, clumsiness, or something else, caused the failure.
In a few cases, defendants refuse to submit chemical samples and they also refuse to perform field sobriety tests. Prosecutors must use weak circumstantial evidence, like an odor of alcohol and bloodshot eyes, to establish intoxication. At best, these physical symptoms only prove that the defendant had been drinking. They do not prove intoxication, at least beyond a reasonable doubt.
A number of DWI defenses are available, depending on the kind of prosecution. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. Convenient payment plans are available.