In April of this year, an Illinois county judge dismissed DUI charges against a man who fatally struck and killed a woman. According to the Chicago Tribune, the woman and her husband had been walking home in July 2011 when the man hit them. However, the man's defense attorney argued that the Illinois State Police crime lab did not properly test the driver's blood for alcohol content. The judge agreed, calling the matter one of the "weakest DUI cases" he had ever seen.
The case illustrates one of the common ways people accused of driving drunk can defend themselves. The following options illustrate how someone can build a strong defense against the charges:
1. Improper field sobriety tests
When a law enforcement officer pulls someone over on suspicion of drunk driving, he or she can put the driver through a series of field sobriety tests. The walk-and-turn, the nystagmus test and the one-leg stand leave plenty of room for error. For example, as an article for the Illinois State Bar Association points out, if an officer does not give the tests according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's standards, the results may not be reliable.
Further, field sobriety tests do not always take into account extenuating circumstances that affect someone's performance. Someone with an inner ear problem or a disability may have difficulty balancing or walking a straight line when sober. Tracking what happens before and during the arrest is key to putting together a solid defense.
2. Inaccurate blood or breath test
There are certain procedures that must be followed when someone's breath or blood is tested for alcohol. A crime lab, for example, must handle a blood sample delicately to ensure it is not compromised.
Similarly, a breath test must be administered properly in order to get accurate results. The National Motorists Association states that for the following reasons, such tests have up to a 50 percent margin of error:
- The machine has not been properly calibrated.
- The machine mistakes certain foods for alcohol content.
- The machine interprets blood, vomit or even environmental elements for alcohol.
Someone who is given a breath test may be able to attack the procedure using any one of these arguments.
Although it is rare, it is possible to cite necessity or duress when fighting a DUI charge. For example, a woman finds herself in a situation in which someone is trying to harm her. To escape, she gets behind the wheel of a car and drives despite having had a few drinks that night. If she is pulled over and charged with drunk driving, she may be able to invoke the necessity defense.
These are just a few of the ways a defendant in Illinois can seek to get charges reduced or dismissed. Anyone with questions about this matter should consult with an attorney.