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Top 7 DWI Defense Attorney Tactics

When you are arrested and charged with driving while impaired (DWI), it can feel like the world is against you. However, remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. The government has the burden of proof to show that you were driving while impaired. Let’s look at seven common DWI defense attorney tactics you may need to prove your innocence in North Carolina.

DWI Defense Begins at the Stop

It is imperative to contact a reliable DWI defense attorney ASAP. Do not put your rights at risk. Some defense attorneys offer free legal evaluations to discuss possible defense tactics. An experienced attorney will protect your interests, reputation, and driving record.

You may call an attorney before taking any breathalyzer tests. Your attorney has 30 minutes to arrive on the scene before law enforcement may ask you to take the test without your attorney present.

Do not chat with the officer regarding your traffic stop or your behavior. Instead, invoke your right to remain silent until your attorney arrives.

Top 7 DWI Defense Attorney Strategies

1: Illegal Stop

An officer can’t legally pull over your vehicle over unless there’s a reason to believe you have broken a traffic or other law (“reasonable suspicion”). The officer must be able to articulate specific facts for why they suspected someone was breaking the law before for stopping the individual or automobile.

2: Inaccurate Sobriety Test

A standard DWI defending argument is that the officer did not conduct the standardized field sobriety tests appropriately. This argument might lead the courts to reject evidence collected during a roadside stop. 

In addition, the walk-and-turn test and other physical evaluations performed by police officers do not always reflect the driver’s level of intoxication.

Other factors such as injuries, body size, or being over a certain age can also affect your performance on a field sobriety test, regardless of your impairment level.

3: Invalid or Non-Standardized Tests

Some methods used by police to assess sobriety are not uniform or effective for detecting DWI. For that reason, a lawyer may challenge a field test. Some commonly questioned tests include:

  • Finger-to-nose test
  • Reciting the alphabet
  • Counting backward

Breathalyzer tests aren’t perfect. Even these standard tests have margins of error. If the only proof against you is a breath test, you may be able to argue that your level of impairment was questionable.

4: Improper Seizure

If an officer did not follow legal procedures during an arrest, the evidence from the traffic stop might be inadmissible. Some examples of improper seizures include if the officer:

  • Didn’t have probable cause to detain you
  • Held you beyond an appropriate amount of time 

Depending on the type of improper seizure, the courts may throw out your case and rule the evidence against you inadmissible.

5: Misleading Officer Observations

In most DWI situations, the police officer’s personal observations and impressions of the driver during the stop are substantial incriminating proof. Examples of observations at the time of your arrest that might work against you include if the officer claims you:

  • Were weaving
  • Ran a red light
  • Exhibited slurred speech 

An excellent Raleigh DWI lawyer may be able to dispute the officer’s findings or offer evidence to the contrary, undermining the prosecution’s case.

6: Contrary Evidence

Witnesses who were there at the time of your arrest may be able to speak on your behalf. Your passengers or someone passing by might testify that you didn’t drink before driving, appeared sober at the arrest, or committed a traffic violation for another reason, such as texting and driving.

7: Other Evidence

If there is other evidence that explains your actions or behaviors, this can act as a defense. There may be other valid reasons you looked, acted, or sounded impaired on the day of your arrest. Examples of behavior that could make you seem impaired include:

  • A knee injury could make you stumble during a field test
  • Lack of sleep could account for bloodshot eyes or slurred speech. 
  • Cold or rainy weather could explain poor performance on a sobriety test

Preparing Strategy for Initial Court Appearance

Work closely with your defense attorney to use tactics they recommend. You and your DWI defense attorney will meet to go over:

  • Details of your arrest
  • Potential evidence the prosecution has against you
  • Your next steps

Gather Expert Witnesses: The most critical element in a DWI case is the proof the prosecution has against you of your intoxication or impairment. You may hire expert witnesses, such as a toxicologist with expertise regarding BAC levels or the drug found in your system, to testify in your defense.

The prosecution will likely have its own expert witnesses, such as law enforcement officers specializing in DWI laws.

Interview Eyewitnesses: If your lawyer believes it’s wise to involve other witnesses in your arrest, such as a passenger in your vehicle or a bystander, they will interview the witness and gather strong rebuttal evidence.

Credible witnesses are typically not friends or family members. However, if a credible witness can refute the evidence against you, it’s wise to include them during the trial.

File Motions to Suppress Evidence: Your attorney will investigate your arrest and discover if the officer illegally obtained evidence.

If the evidence against you is inadmissible, your attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence in a special pretrial hearing. If a judge allows the motion, the prosecution cannot use the evidence during the trial. The judge may even outright dismiss your case.

We Can Help

At Scharff Law Firm, we work with you to find the best defense for your optimal outcome. Our experience and knowledge of the law bring you a significant advantage. If you’re facing DWI charges in Raleigh, don’t go through it alone. We’re here to support you every step of the way. Contact us today for a free consultation and find out how we can help you defend your case.