Archive for May, 2013

Proven DUI Defense Strategies in Texas Drunken Driving Cases [Part II]

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

This is the second installment in our two-part blog providing an overview of defenses that experienced Texas DUI attorney Alex Tyra may employ to protect his clients from the consequences of a driving under the influence conviction.  While these are only some of the defense he may use to protect his clients driving privileges and freedom, these provide examples of strategies that can be effective in protecting suspects accused of DUI.  While we also invite you to review Part I of this two-part blog post, the best way to obtain specific information about the potential defenses appropriate in your case is to contact Mr. Tyra to schedule an initial consultation.

Questioning Police Observations during the Stop

While the officer may claim that physical traits like red eyes or slurred speech indicate intoxication, most of the observations typically relied on by officer to justify conducting a DUI investigation may not have anything to do with intoxication.  Red water eyes can be just as indicative of lack of sleep, hay fever or allergies as drugs or alcohol in a driver’s blood.  Slurred speech and lack of coordination similarly can be caused by many factors that have nothing to do with drunken driving, such as fatigue, diabetes, illnesses and similar medical and physical conditions.  Alcohol on one’s breath also is not particularly incriminating since the law prohibits operating a motor vehicle when your driving ability is impaired or your BAC is .08 percent or above rather than driving with ANY amount of alcohol in your blood.

Experienced Texas DUI attorney Alex Tyra ensures that the judge or jury recognizes the lack of reliability of these observations and the fact that they have little connection to alcohol impaired driving.  When Mr. Tyra reviews the police report and other evidence, he also will look for evidence that the officer’s recitals regarding these observations are little more than a repetition of standard facts rather than actual observations from your case.

Inherent Unreliability of Field Sobriety Tests (FSTS)

The difficulty of FSTs is so well established that the physical coordination, reflexes, concentration and balance required to successfully complete these tasks is the frequent subject of comedic fodder.  These tests are not particularly reliable and all have fairly high false positive error rates for indicating intoxication even when conducted properly.  Many officers lack sufficient training in conducting FSTs or simply fail to demonstrate and explain each FST properly.  If the officer fails to comply with the procedures and policies for conducting and scoring FSTs, the results are even more unreliable.  Further, a motorist inability to walk heel to two along a straight line or stand on one leg can have more to do with lack of coordination, obesity, fatigue or other factors than alcohol impairment.  Mr. Tyra ensures that the judge or jury understands the inherent unreliability of FSTs as an indicator of DUI.

Challenging Chemical Tests of BAC

Because there are three methods of chemical tests that may be used to measure blood alcohol concentration – breath, blood or urine – a complete discussion of attacking chemical testing is beyond the scope of this blog post.  However, breath testing may be challenged for a variety of reasons, which may include:

  • Presence of mouth alcohol because acid reflux, belching or other sources
  • Failure to properly calibrate the breathalyzer device
  • Officer not observing the mandatory observation period prior to administering the test
  • Rising BAC level because of drinking immediately prior to driving
  • Malfunctioning breath testing device

Blood testing is more reliable than breath tests but may also be challenged based on a variety of grounds:

  • Contamination of blood sample by alcohol from sterilization of draw site
  • Improper mixing of chemicals and blood sample
  • Lab errors resulting in contamination or allocating samples to the wrong subjects
  • Improper draw, storage or transport of blood sample
  • Failure to use a whole blood sample rather than just components of the blood

Urine testing is usually confined to drugged driving because it is the most unreliable form of BAC chemical testing.

If you are arrested for driving with a BAC of .08 percent or higher or impaired driving, Texas DUI attorney Alex Tyra offers a free consultation during which he can advise you about your legal rights and potential strategies for avoiding a DUI conviction.  We invite you to contact us in our Longview office at 903-753-7499 or visit our website and submit a case contact form.

Proven DUI Defense Strategies in Texas Drunken Driving Cases [Part I]

Friday, May 10th, 2013

When you are arrested for DUI in Texas, the consequences can be life-altering because you may be subject to incarceration, significant fines, suspension or revocation of your driver’s license, community service, alcohol classes, probation and more.  In addition to these consequences, you may also end up with a criminal record that impacts housing, education and employment options.  If you are subsequently convicted of another DUI in the future, the penalties become harsher.  While these adverse consequences may be significant, there are many defenses that experienced Texas DUI attorney Alex Tyra may use to protect his clients from these penalties.

Some people facing drunken driving charges simply plead guilty because they do not realize the wide range of defenses that are available to prevent a DUI conviction.  We have provided an overview of a few of the defenses that Mr. Tyra may use to obtain a dismissal, acquittal or reduction in charges:

Unlawful Vehicle Stop

Law enforcement officers generally may not stop a vehicle without “reasonable suspicion” that the driver is engaged in unlawful activity.  In the context of DUI cases, the basis for a stop will typically be the officer’s observation of a motorist engaged in a traffic violation or a pattern of erratic driving that is symptomatic of alcohol impaired driving.  If you are stopped for a traffic or regulatory violation that has nothing to do with alcohol impaired driving, such as an illegal left turn or expired tags, the officer will look for evidence during the stop to justify initiating prolonging the stop and conducting a DUI investigation.  The officer will look for factors like slurred speech, bloodshot watery eyes, lack of coordination, odor of alcohol on your breath, or admissions of drinking to justify conducting field sobriety tests and a roadside portable breath test.

A brief mention of Sobriety Checkpoints (DUI Roadblocks) is worth mentioning because they constitute an exception to the rule that police need some basis of individualized suspicion to justify stopping a vehicle.  While the U.S. Supreme Court has permitted an exception that allows this form of stop with no basis for believing that a driver is engaged in criminal activity, there are strict requirements to prevent selective enforcement.  Although a complete discussion of these requirements is beyond the scope of this discussion, one requirement is that the determination as to which vehicle will be stopped must be based on a pre-determined formula like stopping every fifth car or every other car.  When law enforcement officers fail to comply with the strict requirements for a lawful DUI roadblock, the evidence obtained during the stop may be subject to exclusion.

If the officer cannot articulate sufficient facts to justify the initial stop or DUI investigation, this may pose a basis to file for a hearing to have all evidence suppressed, such as chemical testing of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), field sobriety tests (FSTs) and observations during the vehicle stop.  Because officers sometimes lie or distort the truth in a police report to justify their actions, we look carefully at evidence like dash video, witnesses in the vicinity and inconsistencies between the police report and the officer testimony.

We also invite you to review Part II of this blog-post for other examples of defenses that we may use to protect our clients from a DUI conviction.  Texas DUI attorney Alex Tyra offers a free consultation during which he can advise you about your legal rights and potential strategies for avoiding a DUI conviction.  We invite you to contact us in our Longview office at 903-753-7499 or visit our website and submit a case contact form.