Here are 10 DUI Myths Explained by The DUI Team
Myth 1: I have to be driving wildly to get pulled over for a DUI
False. We are experienced Tempe DUI lawyers who know the system. Law enforcement officers are always on the lookout for a potential DUI case. This isn’t necessarily malicious on their part- they want to cut down on incidents of drunk drivers. However, many people feel a false sense of security in that they think if they are driving normally, officers will leave them alone. On the contrary- the slightest violation, like a missed turn signal or a wide turn, is a potential reason for a police officer to pull you over. In Arizona, police only need to suspect you of a traffic offense to stop you. Officers have preconceived notions of whether or not you are driving drunk just based on what time you are driving, and they can and will find a reason to pull you over. In court, the officer need only claim he suspected a traffic offense, and the stop is legitimate. So don’t assume that just because you are not obviously swerving or otherwise driving as if you were obviously intoxicated that you are immune to being pulled over.
Myth 2: I never drink, so I am safe from a DUI conviction
False. There’s more to DUI than alcohol. Recently, officers in Arizona have ramped up on pursuing non-alcohol DUIs. The usual suspects are common culprits: drugs like cocaine, crystal meth, and marijuana can impair driving and are each a legal basis for a DUI charge. However, non-alcohol DUIs also include a category that might take many people by surprise: prescription medication. Drivers who depend on prescription medication are vulnerable to non-alcohol DUI charges. When you combine this with the idea above that it is easy for an officer to pull you over regardless of your driving pattern, drivers who use prescription medicine are in a tough spot. In the past, officers have used the lack of any evidence of alcohol or illegal drugs in a driver’s body as evidence that any traffic violations or erratic driving they performed was the result of the prescription medication the driver took. Medical marijuana is an even more difficult area, as you can imagine. It carries more of a social stigma than other prescription medication, so it is difficult to defend in court without an experienced DUI lawyer in Tempe.
Myth 3: If I’m friendly and cooperative, the officer won’t arrest me
False. While many believe that being as cooperative with the officer as possible will lead to a more favorable decision, in fact, the opposite might be true. Friendliness and openness are desirable qualities between friends, but cops are not your friends. You have a constitutional right to remain silent for a reason- you should never feel obligated to implicate yourself of a crime. Do not admit to the officer of drinking before driving in the hope of getting off lightly. The officer has no reason to be merciful on you for coming forward. From a legal perspective, you have just admitted to a crime in front of an officer of the law. There’s no benefit in that. It can potentially seal a conviction. Instead, maintain your right to remain silent. It is illegal for anyone, officer, lawyer, or jury, to use the fact that you remained silent as evidence against you. If the prosecution even insinuates that you invoked that right to cover up your guilt, the judge can and likely will dismiss your case. No court can force you to incriminate yourself in any way. Don’t be belligerent, but don’t volunteer any information when you get pulled over.
Myth 4: I have to take field sobriety tests if the officer asks
False. The officer does not have the legal authority to compel you to take a field sobriety test. These tests require feats of balance and athleticism that are difficult for anyone who has not practiced the specific motions of the test, even stone cold sober. Furthermore, the subjective nature of the test means that it is easy for an officer to decide that you failed based on an unstated condition that the officer decides you did not fulfill. Remember that you are not obligated to incriminate yourself. Field sobriety tests are just another way that an officer can find a reason to arrest you. You can make a polite excuse and refuse to walk in a straight line, touch your nose, or blow into a breathalyzer. Your Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating yourself does not merely cover speech- it covers any attempt to ask you to provide evidence that would harm your case. So don’t blow and don’t walk the line. This is the best approach to take, because without a field sobriety test or portable breathalyzer test, the court has only the officer’s testimony as evidence. A good Scottsdale DUI lawyer will try to defeat that testimony in cross-examination.
Myth 5: Because my blood-alcohol content was high, I will be charged with a felony
False. The amount of your blood-alcohol content does not affect whether your DUI charge is a misdemeanor or a felony. There are special conditions that determine when the charge is aggravated DUI, which is a felony. These conditions are as follows: you have previously had your license taken away, you have at least two DUIs within the past 7 years, you had an ignition interlock on your car when you were pulled over, or there was a child under 15 in the vehicle. BAC levels will determine your penalty if you are convicted, but having a higher BAC cannot “upgrade” your charge from a misdemeanor to a felony. There are four categories of misdemeanor DUI: slightest degree, above 0.08, above 0.15, and above 0.20. Each level has higher potential fines and penalties, but all of them count as a misdemeanor. Don’t worry about getting charged with a felony unless you meet one of the conditions listed above.
Myth 6: I’m a special person, so the charges won’t stick
False. Arizona is a notoriously harsh state for DUIs. While in other states it might be possible to negotiate a DUI down to reckless driving or a similar reduced charge, in Arizona the courts always go for the DUI conviction. That applies to everyone. Celebrities, preachers, doctors, even cops and lawyers- everyone gets the same tough treatment. Furthermore, while some states let you pay a fee and take a driving class to wipe the DUI off your record, Arizona has no such practice. That is called a diversion program, and Arizona does not offer them for DUIs. That is another sign of how seriously the state takes DUI charges- it wants to make sure that everyone it convicts pays a high penalty. There’s no easy way out of a DUI charge. Tempe DUI lawyers with experience in court can help, but don’t expect to be able to walk out of the courtroom with no penalties because of your job or connections. Arizona is not the state for that. Expect to either fight the charges or need to work out a plea bargain.
Myth 7: I don’t need a lawyer to fight this charge
Technically true. Legally, you are permitted to represent yourself, and no federal or Arizona law forbids it, provided that you are mentally competent enough to stand trial in the first place. However, this is a risky move. The old saying goes that whoever represents themselves has a fool for a client. This is not meant to insult you. It’s a simple fact that lawyers spend more time working with the court system than anyone else. The average person has likely been in court only a few times, if that. On the other hand, a DUI attorney in Scottsdale has spent their career working in court, so they know exactly how to protect their client’s interests. Just as you wouldn’t expect a lawyer to do your job well, you likely wouldn’t make a very good lawyer if you tried to do it without any practice or training. Lawyers have to spend years in school just to learn the basics. A lawyer knows what realistic goals he or she can accomplish and how to get them to minimize penalties for the client. Additionally, a Scottsdale DUI lawyer will be focused and objective. Ordinary people usually feel stress and worry in courtrooms, which can cloud their judgement, but lawyers have the experience to handle it.
Myth 8: A DUI means my life is pretty much over
False. While a DUI may be shocking and upsetting, it is far from the end of the world. One of the most important aspects of the DUI system is that the penalties increase in severity the more past convictions you have. So the first DUI isn’t as bad as the third one, for example. You will lose your license for a time and possibly face jail time, but the penalties are meant to jolt you into realizing the importance of drinking and driving. To be sure, nobody wants to serve jail time or lose access to their license, but in the grand scheme of things, there are far worse penalties that the legal system can impose on an individual. The conviction doesn’t need to be the end of your life, despite how catastrophic it feels. Of course, it is better to never have been convicted in the first place. A good DUI lawyer in Tempe can help you maximize your chances of avoiding a conviction and minimize your penalties if such a conviction is unavoidable.
Myth 9: If a lawyer has their ad on a big billboard, they must be good
False. The best measure of a lawyer is what they do for their clients, not how big and fancy their advertisements are. If you see a DUI lawyer that has ads on trains, buses, and billboards, who do you think is paying for that expensive marketing? The clients. In other words, these lawyers will charge you higher fees to support their own advertising spending. Those big ads don’t tell you anything about the experience of the lawyer or how they have helped clients in the past, and for good reason. They are hoping you will just see the smiling face and the phone number. Don’t be taken in. Good Tempe DUI lawyers don’t need to stick their faces on billboards to help defend their clients. Whenever you see a large ad for a DUI lawyer, just remember who is paying for them: all the clients who have to fork over massive hourly fees to enjoy the services of these “famous” lawyers.
Myth 10: A DUI conviction is no big deal, because I can get it expunged
False. Remember that Arizona is very tough on DUIs. That extends to expungements: it is not possible to expunge a DUI conviction in Arizona for any reason. Arizona will not remove anything from a person’s criminal record. That just emphasizes how important it is to do well in the court case. A DUI conviction will never come off your record. Arizona does a lesser form of removing the conviction called setting it aside. If you manage to get a conviction set aside, then the words “set aside” will appear on your criminal record if anyone checks it. It is up to employers or anyone else who looks up your record to determine how to interpret that. The conviction is still there- the state has just added language to your record to reduce its impact. So be sure that you have an experienced DUI attorney in Tempe so that you stand the best chance possible at winning your case. Not every case is winnable, but a good lawyer will ensure that you are in the best position to win.