DUI DEFENSE ATTORNEYS
Nobody plans on getting a DUI. But if you do, your choice of attorney is the most important decision you will make. At Collins & Associates, we are experienced advocates dedicated to helping you come out of the DUI experience with the best possible result. DUI cases are very technical. You need a skilled DUI practitioner, not a lawyer who dabbles in DUI. Contact us for a no-charge consultation. We can help.
Should I fight a DUI?
If you are unfortunate enough to be arrested for DUI, you are sure to get no shortage of advice. It seems everyone has a cousin, co-worker, or friend who had a DUI and wants to tell you what you should do. While they mean well, it is important for you to seek the counsel of an attorney–that is, an attorney who is experienced and skilled in DUI defense.
Lots of folks come to us and say, “Well, I was over the limit so I should just plead guilty.” Or, “I guess I should just do the First Offenders Program.” But don’t limit your options too soon. Every DUI case is different. You cannot determine your best course of action without consultation with a qualified lawyer.
At Collins & Associates, we offer free initial consultations, so that we can best advise you and so you can get to know us. While we listen to you, we will be considering what legal defenses might be available:
- Was the initial stop of your car constitutional?
- Did the officer have sufficient cause to detain you for a DUI investigation?
- Were the field sobriety tests performed properly?
- Was there probable cause to arrest you?
- Can we file a motion to suppress the evidence?
- Can any challenges be made to the results of the blood or breath testing?
- Do you qualify for any programs that could lessen your penalties?
At the end of the consultation, we can usually give you a good idea of what we can do to help. Maybe a trial is your best option. Maybe it isn’t. Possibly we would have to fight just to get you into a program. Possibly we would advise there were irregularities in the investigation and we should file a pretrial motion. There are many possibilities.
We will not waste your time or your money. We will not promise to do the impossible. We will simply give you good advice based on your individual situation. Please contact us for an initial consultation. The sooner you do it, the sooner we can help.
What should I do if I'm stopped for a DUI?
Let’s state the obvious: do not drink and drive. That way you will never have to worry about a DUI arrest. But with the BAC limit set at .08 and with aggressive DUI patrols and checkpoints out there, it is good to know what you should do if stopped by a police officer and that stop turns into a DUI investigation. (A couple disclaimers: This is not specific legal advice, but some things every driver should know. Also, this post applies to Delaware only–all states have their own DUI laws.)
The Delaware DUI law was a tough one to begin with, and the penalties were recently significantly enhanced. So if you are pulled over or stopped at a checkpoint, here is what you should know:
- Always be polite and courteous to the officer.
- Never admit to drinking alcoholic beverages or give any kind of a statement. You have a right to (politely) refuse to answer questions.
- Do not help the officer prove his case against you.
- Easier said than done, but stay calm and do not let yourself be intimidated. You have rights.
- Contact Collins & Associates for an initial Consultation
Field Sobriety Tests
You have probably seen some poor guy on the side of the road trying to walk a line or touch his nose in the well-known procedures of field sobriety testing. These tests are extremely powerful in court. You will NOT pass these tests. Do NOT try these tests assuming you are not too drunk and you will do OK. You won’t. Do NOT believe the officer who says “OK, you are doing great, just a few more tests.” You are NOT doing OK.
Field tests were developed by NHTSA a long time ago. The tests are supposed to be predictive (not conclusive, but predictive) of impairment. Officers use these tests to “investigate,” but a better way of thinking of it would be that the tests are used to build probable cause to arrest you and have you brought in to take a BAC test. The tests include the walk and turn, the one legged stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (follow a pen with your eyes only). The officer also has a portable breath tester in the car. It is not very accurate so the results are not admissible in court, but the pass/fail result IS admissible when the officer is testifying in a probable cause hearing.
You should refuse to do the tests, politely. You have no obligation to do them. All they do is help the officer prove his case against you. If you refuse, then it is likely the officer will take you in for a BAC test anyway, but at that point the officer’s probable cause argument will probably be pretty weak. Unless you were found passed out with your car wrapped around a tree and an empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s sitting in your lap, the officer really needs the field tests. Do not comply.
Please note that field tests were tested on only fully healthy young adults (police cadets), so if you have ANY physical impairment (bad back, knee surgery, heart problem, etc.) then you must inform the officer of that fact and he is not supposed to even administer the tests.
Most DUI prosecutions feature a BAC test. Normally it is a breath test using a calibrated machine (called the Intoxilyzer 5000). Sometimes it will be a blood test. This is the most crucial evidence against you. DUI is a “status” offense: If your BAC status is over .08, you are guilty. The State does not need to prove anything else, like intent.
What normally happens is that the officer will take you in for the Intoxilyzer test. If you refuse to blow into the machine, the officer has two options: he can either just arrest you and go forward in court without a BAC, or he can attempt to get a blood draw. This may involve bringing in a phlebotomist or taking you to a hospital. This will require the officer to obtain a search warrant from one of the 24-hour Justice of the Peace courts.
You should refuse all chemical tests. And if you refused the Intoxilyzer, then you should ALWAYS refuse to do a blood draw, because you have already been classified as refusing a chemical test. So never say no to an intoxilyzer and yes to a blood draw.
The penalty for refusing is that you will have your license suspended by the DMV for a year under our implied consent law. You do get a DMV hearing on that issue if you request one. (More on DMV hearings in a moment) But then again, if they get a sample from you and it is over .08, you are likely losing your license anyway. In our opinion it is better to refuse all tests. It gives you more legal options down the road.
After you are released from the police:
YOU NEED A LAWYER. DUI defense is complex. You need someone who knows exactly what they are doing. Contact Collins & Associates for a free initial consultation about your case. Also:
- Keep in mind that a DUI arrest results in 2 cases: the DMV administrative case and the court case. Do not get these two mixed up.
- If you are a Delaware licensed driver, they took your license and you have a temporary paper license. That license is only good for 15 days. YOU MUST call the DMV or go online to request an administrative hearing. DMV will extend your temporary license and schedule your hearing.
- The other paper you will have in your hand is a notice to appear in court. That is where things start to get complicated and you have various options. Do not miss any court dates, though, or the judge will issue a capias for your arrest.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We are here when you need us!
What are the normal procedures involved in a DUI case?
Traffic Stop and Field Sobriety Tests
- The officer’s reason for stopping you and the way he conducts his field sobriety tests can make or break your DUI case. An officer must provide a proper base for stopping you. If he cannot, it is an unlawful stop. If you are unlawfully stopped none of the evidence gathered after that is admissible in your trial.
- Sometimes police officers will use a traffic violation to stop you. This is allowed but an officer cannot randomly start a DUI investigation. There has to be a reason for the officer to go down that path. If there’s not a good reason, then the officer have unlawfully detained you.
- Field sobriety tests are designed to assist the officer in gathering information to determine whether you are intoxicated. The officer looks for “clues” when he has you perform these tests. But these “clues” are specific and often times police officers will conduct the testing improperly, rendering the “clues” invalid.
- The tests are the HGN (the officer has you follow a pen or another object with your eyes), the One-Legged Stand test, and the Walk-and-Turn Test. All three are designed to detect whether you are intoxicated. In other words, they are designed for you to fail.
- As a Delaware driver, you have a right to refuse field sobriety, breath, and chemical tests. Like anything else, there are good and bad parts about refusing testing.
- The Good: Without field sobriety, blood, or breath test results there isn’t much evidence for the prosecutor to use against you at trial.
- The Bad: Refusing testing subjects you to a loss of license for up to 1 year.
- If an officer determines that he has “probable cause” that you were driving under the influence or with a prohibited blood alcohol content, he will arrest you for DUI.
- A probable cause determination is a technical, legal determination driven by the facts observed by the officer. Call us to schedule an appointment to discuss whether you were properly stopped and arrested.
DMV Administrative Hearings
- Many people don’t know this, but there are two parts to a DUI case. The criminal part is well known. The less talked about but equally important part of DUI case is the administrative aspect.
- When you are arrested for DUI, the arresting officer seizes your license and provides a “Notice of Revocation” form. The purpose of this form is to notify you that the officer believes he had probable cause to arrest you, which, depending on the circumstances, justifies DMV suspending your license for at least 3 months. DMV cannot, however, suspend your license without notice or an opportunity to be heard. This is where we come in.
- Timing is everything. You have 15 days to notify DMV that you want a hearing to contest the seizure of your license. You can request this hearing, or if you hire Collins & Associates, we can do it for you. We will represent your interests at your DMV hearing and during the court process.
- If you fail to request a hearing you automatically lose your license for a set period of time, typically three months. This will immediately impact your day-to-day activities, including your ability to work. This is a significant hardship for most so don’t hesitate to request your hearing.
- Your arraignment is your first appearance in court. This is where the Court will read you your charges and request a plea.
- This can be a scary process for someone who has not been in this situation before. We can help you through the process.
- The State is obligated to provide discovery in your cases, which consists of any testing or statements made by you during your interaction with the officer. The State also usually provides the police reports.
- Once we receive this information we will review everything and discuss your case with you in detail.
Suppression Issues and Trial
- If after assessing the discovery in your case we determine that you were unlawfully stopped or arrested, we will file a motion to suppress. Police officers are human so they make mistakes in these cases. Don’t get convicted. If the evidence in your case is suppressed, there is a strong possibility that your case will be dismissed.
- If necessary, we are prepared to take your case to trial to fight to protect your record and your license. A DUI conviction can impact your job, family, and much more. Don’t let it happen to you.