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DUI Defenses

DUI Defenses

The Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to present a defense.

Some things we might think are valid defenses are not recognized by the law as such.   A defense is a set of facts that act as a kind of excuse or justification for the alleged illegal behavior.  If you prove you have a defense at trial, you are not guilty of the crime charged.

In some cases, an attorney may be able to persuade the prosecutor that you have a valid defense to the charges before trial, resulting in a dismissal or a reduction in the charges or penalties.

Potential Defenses to a DUI Charge in California:

  • Duress: You committed an unlawful act but you reasonably feared an immediate threat to your own life unless you did so.
  • Necessity: This defense has several parts to it.
    • You acted in an emergency to prevent a significant bodily harm or evil to yourself or someone else
    • You had no adequate legal alternative;
    • Your acts did not create a greater danger than the one avoided;
    • When you acted you actually believed that the act was necessary to prevent the threatened harm or evil;
    • A reasonable person would also have believed that the act was necessary under the circumstances;
    • You did not substantially contribute to the emergency.
  • Accident and Misfortune: You acted without the intent required, but acted instead accidentally, without evil design, intention or negligence, i.e., your car rolled down the hill because your emergency brake wasn’t working.
  • Involuntary Intoxication: This defense may be available in drunk driving case – e.g. somebody spikes your drink without your knowledge — but it would be difficult to show how you did not know you were intoxicated when you decided to drive. (See unconsciousness, below.)
  • Unconsciousness: You are not guilty of committing a crime if, when you acted, you were not conscious of your actions. A person can be unconscious even though he or she is able to move. Unconsciousness may be caused by many things, including but not limited to a blackout, an epileptic seizure, involuntary intoxication, or sleepwalking.
  • Breath/blood/urine tests – Call me and ask me about your particular case and any potential defenses that you may have.

Things That Are Not Defenses (or Not Good Defenses) to a DUI in California:

Alcoholism — Although being an alcoholic can be a defense to simple intoxication charges, it is doubtful that it would be a defense to DUI because it is believed that people are not forced by alcoholism to drive a vehicle against their will.

Voluntary Intoxication:  This defense can be a defense to what are called specific intent crimes.  But because drunk driving is a general intent offense, voluntary intoxication is not a defense to drunk driving.