The prosecution uses evidence to build a case against drivers accused of driving under the influence (DUI). Many drivers first think of the results of their blood alcohol content (BAC) tests when they imagine evidence for DUI charges.
You may wonder if you can be charged with a DUI without evidence. If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence and you believe there may not be sufficient evidence to convict you, the criminal defense lawyers at the Simmrin Law Group can review your case.
Understanding Evidence in California DUI Cases
You cannot be charged with a DUI without evidence in the state of California. However, what many drivers do not realize is that BAC test results are not the only form of evidence available to prosecutors. In fact, you can be charged and convicted of a DUI even if you never took a BAC test.
Even if you took a BAC test and were below the legal limit, you can still be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a). This statute makes it possible to face DUI charges, as long as you had any level of alcohol in your system, and it affected your ability to operate your vehicle safely. Prosecutors may also support their case against you with:
- Sworn statements by law enforcement officers
- The results of field sobriety tests (FSTs)
- Physical evidence, such as open bottles of alcohol in your vehicle
- Video evidence of your erratic driving
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Types of Evidence Used to Prove DUI
Let’s review different types of evidence used in DUI cases in greater detail. Understanding the evidence you can face can help you focus on your legal options for handling DUI charges.
BAC Tests Results as Evidence for a DUI
The results of a BAC test are often the keystone of a DUI case in California. In addition to facing a charge under California VC 23152(a), drivers could face several other charges as well, depending on their situation. This means drivers must keep their BAC:
- Below 0.01% if they are under 21 (California VC Section 23136)
- Below 0.04% if they operate a commercial vehicle (California VC Section 23152(d))
- Below 0.08% if they are over 21 (California VC Section 23152(b))
You may complete a breath, blood, or urine test to measure BAC in your system. Breath and blood tests are more common. Note that you are legally required to complete a BAC test if you are arrested for a DUI. Refusing this test can result in an automatic license suspension. If you refuse a BAC test, you can get help from a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles.
Officer Observations as Evidence for a DUI
Let’s say that you refused a BAC test after an arrest, believing that this would prevent the court from gathering evidence against you. Prosecutors may then question the officer who arrested you about your DUI. Officers can provide evidence for the prosecution by testifying about:
- Evidence of drinking found in your vehicle
- Physical indications that you were impaired, such as slurred speech
- Your driving behavior prior to the DUI stop
Technically, you can be convicted of a DUI in California just for driving a vehicle while inebriated, even if a law enforcement officer does not know your exact BAC level. This means that an officer’s observations about your driving, your physical state, and your vehicle may lead to DUI charges.
FSTs as Evidence for a DUI
You may also be asked to complete a field sobriety test after you get stopped for a DUI. You should be aware that you are legally allowed to decline an FST unless you are under 21 years old or on probation for DUI.
During an FST, you will be directed to perform a number of acts to demonstrate that you can control your body. A failure on an FST can be used as evidence that you were operating your vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, even if you do not complete a BAC test.
Physical Evidence of a DUI
If you have open bottles of alcohol in your car, those could be used against you as evidence that you had been drinking. While an open bottle is not clear proof that you were drinking on its own, it can be a solid piece of supplemental evidence to other proof provided by the prosecution.
Video Evidence of Erratic Driving
Video footage from a police squad car or other camera equipment that records erratic driving can be used as evidence that your driving was impaired by alcohol. This visual tool is very useful in persuading juries.
Dashcam footage from the squad car may also show your behavior after being pulled over. This footage can be used to corroborate the testimony of the arresting officer.
Disputing Evidence During a DUI Case in California
As you can see, you can face multiple forms of evidence if you are accused of a DUI in California. Fortunately, a DUI lawyer in Los Angeles can take steps to dispute this evidence. Your criminal defense lawyer may work to show that:
- You were stopped without reasonable cause
- Your sobriety tests were administered improperly
- You were not impaired at the time of your arrest
Field sobriety tests are often inconclusive. Some people are able to pass them even with a high blood alcohol content, while others with no alcohol in their system at all may fail.
If you failed an FST, your DUI lawyer can help cast doubts on the results. They might accomplish this by showing that you were tired at the time of the incident or that you have a medical condition that impaired your ability to successfully pass the test, such as an inner ear problem. They may also be able to show that the directions from the officer were unclear.
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Getting Evidence Suppressed
Getting help quickly can allow your lawyer to block some of the evidence used by the prosecution. Limiting the evidence can help your lawyer get your charges reduced or even dismissed in some cases. In many situations, the best way to negotiate an agreeable plea bargain is through evidence suppression.
The more evidence your lawyer is able to get suppressed, the flimsier the case against you becomes. If the prosecution feels that their chances of a conviction are narrowing, they will be far more likely to agree to a deal that leaves you facing minimal penalties.
Of course, if the suppression of evidence makes your case strong enough, you might prefer to take your chances in court, where you could possibly avoid a conviction altogether. An experienced DUI attorney can advise you on whether you should take the deal being offered or take your case to court.
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BAC Test Results Are Not Always Available to the Prosecution
In many instances, the prosecution does not have access to the results of a BAC test in a DUI case.
Sometimes test results are not available because the defendant refused to take the test. Unfortunately, this does not generally help the case of the defendant, as the prosecutor will suggest that the defendant refused to take the test in order to hide their intoxication. This refusal can also result in harsher penalties when convicted.
Sometimes the test results are suppressed because the defendant’s lawyer was able to prove that the manner in which the test was administered did not comply with the law. The lawyer may also challenge the chain of custody with the results of the test.
It is also possible that equipment failure could result in a police officer being unable to administer a test after your arrest. However, this is incredibly rare since there are multiple tests that can be run. If they can not take a breath test, they will likely take a blood test instead.
Speak to a Lawyer if You’re Charged With a DUI
You cannot be charged with a DUI without evidence in California. However, there are many different types of evidence that can be used by the prosecution. Work to block or dispute this evidence now with the Simmrin Law Group.
Speak with us today by giving us a call or completing our online contact form. You can review your legal options with a free, no-obligation consultation from our DUI lawyers in Los Angeles.