Will I Lose My License After a DUI Stop?
During a DUI stop, law enforcement officers might ask someone they suspect of drunk driving to take a Breathalyzer test. The Breathalyzer can provide information about someone’s level of intoxication. If the results show that someone’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is above the legal limit, they can make an arrest. In many states, when someone gets arrested for a DUI, they could lose their license.
If you’re wondering if you will lose your license after a DUI stop and end up with a charge, a DUI attorney can fight the charges on your behalf and build a solid defense. If they are successful, you could avoid a conviction.
What Happens After a DUI Stop?
After getting charged at a DUI stop, the person who received the charge might not receive an immediate license suspension. Many states give a grace period before the license gets suspended.
Within the grace period, they must request a hearing with the Department of Transportation (DOT). During the hearing, they can plead their case in hopes of avoiding getting convicted of a DUI and losing their license. If they fail to request a hearing during the grace period, upon the final day, the state will suspend their license.
What Happens During a Motor Vehicle Division Hearing?
The hearing with the DOT usually consists of the judge, the arresting police officer, the defendant, and an attorney if the defendant chooses to hire legal representation. When attorneys represent the person charged with the DUI, they can help them keep their license and avoid harsher punishments.
The following generally happens at the hearing:
- The police officer who made the arrest will provide their testimony to the judge. They can present evidence they collected, such as BAC test results. They also must provide evidence as to why they made the stop in the first place, like if the driver exhibited symptoms of driving while intoxicated. After the police officer makes their testimony, the defendant’s attorney can question them.
- The defendant’s attorney can provide evidence to defend their client. There are many defenses they could use, such as the BAC test providing inaccurate results or the police officer making an unlawful arrest.
- The judge will consider the testimony and evidence presented when making a decision. They can determine whether it is warranted to suspend the driver’s license. If the judge suspends the license, the defendant may have a certain number of days before it goes into effect.
The hearing occurs before the criminal trial. Typically, the prosecution will offer a plea deal. If the defendant accepts, they can avoid a trial and face the consequences of the plea deal. If they reject the plea deal, the defendant will go to court against the prosecution for a criminal trial.
What Happens During a Criminal DUI Trial?
At a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove to a judge and jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Defense attorneys come to the trial after preparing a solid case to prove their client isn’t guilty.
During a criminal trial, the following typically plays out:
- The attorneys for both sides can select jury members and dismiss them if they don’t want them on the case. Jury selection takes time for the attorneys to determine who they will choose to decide the case. Once they do, the jury members will swear in and complete their civic duty.
- Once both sides choose the jury members, they can make opening statements. During the opening statements, each side has the chance to explain their case to the jury. Typically, the defense and prosecution give insight into the evidence they will present throughout the case and the witnesses they plan to call to the stand.
- Both sides will present evidence and call and question witnesses on the stand.
- Each side will make closing arguments. During the closing arguments, it is common for them to recap the evidence they presented and poke holes in the other side’s case.
- After the closing arguments, the jurors deliberate the evidence each side presented. Sometimes jury deliberations are fast and come back within a few hours, while sometimes, it can take days. Once they have made a decision, they will present their verdict in front of the court.
There are three potential outcomes to a criminal DUI trial. The jury can state whether the defendant is guilty, not guilty, or disagreed on a decision. If the jurors don’t agree on a decision, the defendant is neither guilty nor not guilty. The law considers this situation a mistrial. When there is a mistrial, the prosecution could develop a new case with a new jury.
Potential Defenses to a DUI Charge
One of the greatest benefits of having representation from a DUI attorney is they have many defensive strategies for DUI charges. By developing a strong defense, the defendant has a better chance of keeping their license.
The Police Made an Illegal Traffic Stop
Law enforcement officers must have a justified reason to pull someone over. Police officers must see the driver commit a traffic violation, or they have probable cause someone is committing a violation before they can pull them over.
On top of the officer needing probable cause to make the stop, they must have probable cause for administering BAC tests or field sobriety tests. For example, someone must have bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, or another sign they were driving under the influence. Police officers can’t just assume someone is driving while intoxicated because they’re driving late at night.
Suppose the police can’t provide evidence of probable cause before administering BAC and field sobriety tests. In that case, the defense could claim that law enforcement collected their evidence during an illegal traffic stop. If they can prove the stop was illegal, they could have that evidence thrown out during the court case.
Loopholes in the Officer’s Version of Events
A large portion of evidence in a DUI case depends on the arresting police officer’s version of events. The defense can poke holes in their testimony by providing other reasons why their client had symptoms of intoxication.
For example, if someone’s eyes are glazed over or bloodshot, the defense could provide other reasons why their eyes look like that besides intoxication. In addition, defensive attorneys have likely handled many similar cases and know how to discredit the testimony of the arresting police officer.
The officer’s observation of events is crucial in a DUI case.
Other signs the officer could have noticed that caused them to order the BAC test includes:
- The person failed the field sobriety test. In this case, the defense could claim the defendant struggled to take the test because of a disability or another impairment not involving alcohol. They could also state the arresting police officer did not conduct the field sobriety test on a flat or level surface.
- The officer smelled alcohol. The defense could state there are many substances that could smell similar to alcohol.
- The officer believes the driver was swerving on the road. The defense could claim the driver swerved to avoid hitting a pothole or other hazard on the road.
Regardless of the police officer’s testimony, defense attorneys can develop other reasons why the police officer didn’t have a right to order the BAC test.
Challenging the BAC Results
When someone gets pulled over after law enforcement has a suspicion of driving while intoxicated, they could require the driver to submit to a BAC test. On the scene, police officers commonly use Breathalyzer tests. Once they get to the station, they could take a blood or urine sample that could provide more accurate results.
Regardless of how the arresting police officer administered the test, there are ways to challenge the results. This is especially true if law enforcement used a Breathalyzer to determine the BAC level.
Common challenges include:
- Providing evidence the police officers didn’t properly maintain the Breathalyzer test. The law enforcement officials in charge of the Breathalyzer must maintain the tool by re-calibrating it regularly. If not, it might provide inaccurate results. An attorney can review maintenance records and request the court to throw out the Breathalyzer evidence if they notice any discrepancies.
- The officer didn’t have the proper training to administer the test. If an officer administers a Breathalyzer test without proper training, they could receive inaccurate results. They might have also misread the results and believed the level of intoxication was higher than it really was.
- The Breathalyzer is not a reliable way to determine BAC. Blood and urine tests can be more reliable when testing BAC than Breathalyzers. If law enforcement only used a Breathalyzer to determine the level of intoxication, attorneys could have that evidence thrown out based on unreliability.
Breathalyzers are typically easier to challenge than blood or urine tests. Because of this, people who get pulled over at DUI stops should not refuse the Breathalyzer test. Refusal could lead to harsher consequences.
Failure to Read Miranda Rights
If the arresting officer doesn’t read the defendant their Miranda Rights during the arrest, they could lose the opportunity to prove the defendant is guilty.
The Miranda Rights include:
- The person getting arrested has a right to remain silent.
- If the person getting arrested says anything, law enforcement can use that against them in court
- The person getting arrested has a right to have legal representation present during questioning.
- If the person getting arrested cannot afford a lawyer, they can receive an appointed attorney if they desire.
Anytime a person goes into police custody, they must have their Miranda Rights read to them. If not, the defense could challenge anything the defendant says during questioning or during their time in jail.
Refusing a BAC Test Can Result in a License Suspension
A common way for someone to lose their license during a DUI traffic stop is to refuse the BAC test. Many people might think refusing could help them avoid a DUI because law enforcement can’t prove they drove while intoxicated. However, that is not always the case. In many states, when someone refuses a BAC test, they could face a one- or two-year suspension of their driver’s license.
Depending on the state, when someone has their first BAC test refusal, they could face a one-year driver’s license suspension. When they refuse a BAC test twice within a seven-year period, they could face a two-year driver’s license suspension.
Again, it is more beneficial to the driver to take the BAC test when requested and fight the results later. Refusing the BAC test gives the driver a higher chance of losing their license for a long time.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney to Avoid Losing Your License After a DUI Stop
If you are worried that you will lose your license after a DUI stop, you may benefit from the help of a criminal defense attorney. They have represented many people who received DUI charges and helped them avoid a conviction. With their advocacy, many clients have kept their licenses after a DUI stop because they poked holes in the prosecution’s case.
You can reach out to the local Phoenix criminal defense law firm and ask about a free consultation and discuss your legal options. They can also provide information about how the attorneys can help you and the steps we can take to defend your driver’s license.