Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney and DUI Lawyer Jonathan Rooker reminds us that the DUI Season is upon us again with the Holidays approaching. Many people celebrate the holidays by imbibing with alcoholic beverages, travel to and from social gatherings such as family events or work parties. During the course of these celebrations, gatherings, work events, and general holiday cheer, many people end up having a life altering event, being arrested for DUI while returning home.
If you find yourself in this situation, keep in mind that the informed citizen must understand that the officer who detains you is conducting a criminal investigation attempting to gather evidence that will be used to prosecute you. They ask questions such as how much you have consumed, when you consumed the alcoholic beverages, if you ate a meal, slept, and numerous other questions. Keep in mind, they aren't just curious, they are limiting your defenses in trial, can use any information later found to incorrect as a separate violation of lying to a police officer, and you may be helping them build a case against you.
Field Sobriety Tests are another issue. Once again the officer is conducting a DUI investigation, and using one of the strongest tools in his arsenal. Another factor is the FST's are rarely conducted on camera, and the person evaluating the performance of the FST's has already concluded that you have been consuming alcohol, and may be impaired. They also regularly claim to have kept notes on a subjects performance of the FST's, used them to write their final report, then destroyed their notes. The problem is, the report is not written contemporaneous with the performance, it is written at a later time, usually after a decision to arrest is made, breath alcohol results have been determined, and a large amount of information has been gathered from the subjects themselves. The FST test results are often a "justification" of why a decision to arrest was made, and reflect the necessary information to justify their conclusion that the subject was under the influence of an alcoholic beverage while operating a motor vehicle. The FST's are also the most important weapon in a prosecutor's arsenal when prosecuting a DUI defendant for driving while impaired. It is commonly stated by expert witnesses that the best person to gauge impairment in a DUI case, is the officer on scene. That is the same person who concluded the defendant was impaired, based on FST's and the often cited, yet rarely explained, "totality of the circumstances" involved in the arrest.
Another factor in avoiding a DUI is keeping the vehicle in proper working order. Check you headlights, blinkers, tail lights, and especially you license plate illumination lights. One of the most common non-driving causes of a DUI stop is a burned out license plate illumination light. It is also one of the rarest citations written. The reason is most likely that the officers want a reason to stop you, so they do not regularly cite people for a burned out license plate illumination light, thus allowing an perpetual justification to stop that vehicle, at any time. If the individual was cited, he would be forced to fix the light, and take one of the weapons to justify a stop out of their arsenal. Another justification is the middle or third brake light in the back window. It seems to burn out more regularly than other lights, and becomes the focus of DUI enforcement officers looking for a justification to stop a vehicle, usually in the late night or early morning hours, all too often resulting in a DUI investigation and/or arrest.
If you are celebrating the holidays, make sure not to drive while impaired or under the influence. Fresno and Fresno County will have stepped up DUI enforcement patrols, DUI checkpoints, and DUI saturation patrols looking to stop anybody they can to check for Drivers who may be impaired.