By the time someone calls my office, it is too late for me to explain that they should not have driven. I say that in jest, because, absent a situation where the person had to drive intoxicated for their safety or someone else’s safety, every client wishes they would have called for an Uber or Lyft. After twenty years of successfully defending over a thousand clients, I thought I would provide some insight into what anyone accused of a DUI should do regardless of who they decide to use as an attorney.
Your to do list starts with finding a friend who has a smartphone, a roll of quarters, and a level – I’ll explain
First, go back to the area where the officer pulled you over. You want to take pictures of the area. I have had cases where an officer claimed my client sped over the posted speed limit. But, when we went back to the area, it turned out a tree blocked the view of the 35 mph sign. So anyone driving on the road would have thought the speed limit remained 45 mph as it had been for miles. By taking pictures within a few days of the arrest, it provided an excellent defense attacking the probable cause the officer claimed for pulling over my client. Moreover, had my client waited a few months, the Judge may have questioned whether the tree blocking the sign looked the same when my client drove past it on the date of the arrest.
Why do you need a friend to take pictures instead of you? The evidence code requires that anyone seeking to introduce evidence needs to demonstrate that the picture accurately depicts how the scene looked at the time of the incident. If you take the pictures, it requires you to testify. Rarely does a person whose alcohol level exceeds the limit want to take stand and face questioning from a prosecutor concerning how much she had to drink. Instead, by having a friend, who was not with you on the date of the arrest, take pictures, you limit the prosecutor’s ability to ask questions about what led up to the arrest. And, the friend can testify how the scene looked when she took the picture.
Why a roll of quarters and a level? When you go back to the scene of your arrest, you will see for yourself whether the officer conducted a fair set of physical field sobriety tests. From an officer’s perspective, he performs the tests on a flat level surface. Or, perhaps, he conducted the test on a reasonably level surface. A stack of quarters holding up the level shows precisely how “flat and level” the area was where the officer conducted the tests. I recall one time where the officer explained he performed the test on a “relatively flat level surface.” The officer claimed in his report that he would take into account the condition of the surface. Sounds fair? Thankfully, my client and his friend went back to the area with a basketball to show how the basketball rolled away on this flat level surface. They say a picture is worth a thousand words; well, here a video was worth a substantial reduction of the DUI charge.
For the officer, the case investigation ends with the arrest. For you, that is just the beginning. Think about how many people an officer will contact after your arrest and before your trial date. Most officers won’t review their reports until shortly before the prosecutor calls them to testify. Also, they may never see your video until shortly before the court date.
When you poke holes in a prosecutor’s case, they become more reasonable for two reasons: 1) they don’t like to lose. Prosecutors are used to winning most of their cases and don’t enjoy hearing the words not guilty. 2) No officer wants to look dumb on the stand. Interestingly, as the Law Office of Chip Siegel can attest, they tend to hold it against the prosecutor for not protecting them. Having represented multiple officers in DUI cases and receiving countless referrals from officers I have cross-examined, I understand their fear. No officer wants to come in a public setting, or testify in front of his fellow officers, and look foolish.
I am hopeful that this gives you an idea on how to start preparing your defense.