The truth is that the law has progressively evolved in the direction of more and more virtually automatic convictions for people suspected of driving under the influence. The burden of proof for some aspects of convicting a person of DUI has shifted from the prosecution to the defendant.
For example, the state is not required to prove actual impairment – a breathalyzer result is per se a ground for conviction. Even if your driving ability may not actually have been impaired, and even if you could prove it, the judge or jury isn’t allowed to consider that possibility.
But testing below the legal limit is not per se evidence of innocence. Even if you have no measured BAC, the state can still claim that there is other evidence of impairment, such as a police officer’s testimony regarding your demeanor. Thus, the state gets two shots at you – if one doesn’t work, it can try the other.
At the same time, the defendant is legally required to cooperate with the state in preparing some of this evidence against him – for example, he can’t use his Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights to refuse to take the test for BAC. (This Wikipedia article on Implied Consent gives a brief overview of this issue.)
A quote from Lawrence Taylor, the former prosecutor mentioned earlier, illuminates one part of the political realities behind this situation:
In the war on drugs, federal grant programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program have encouraged state and local law enforcement agencies to boost drug arrests in order to compete for millions of dollars in funding. Agencies receive cash rewards for arresting high numbers of people for drug offenses, no matter how minor the offenses or how weak the evidence. Law enforcement has increasingly become a numbers game.
In our view many of these biases in the current DUI policy miss the main safety issue, which is repeat drunk drivers, who typically have an alcohol problem. Locking up or otherwise penalizing thousands of other people does little to help this. To make our roads safer from those with addiction issues, treatment is needed at least as much as fines or jail time.
Nonetheless, there are some very understandable reasons why interest groups, law-makers and even much of the general public have sought stricter and stricter laws. And the fact is, as long as this is the situation, if you are suspected of DUI needs the best legal representation they can afford. Even small mistakes can jeopardize your case.
In short, you need an attorney who is familiar with the science and technical arguments employed by prosecutors, who can pick up on flaws in the state’s reasoning, and who is skilled at dissecting expert testimony, including that regarding raw data and statistics.
At Ariano & Associates, whether it is a first-time misdemeanor DUI or an Aggravated Class 4 or Class 6 Felony DUI with priors, we know DUI law and procedure from top to bottom.