Drunk Driving Defense: 3 Mistakes Police Make During OWI Stops

People throughout Wisconsin have been there — they had one too many drinks and need to drive home. Getting behind the wheel while intoxicated can lead to serious consequences, but you should know that if you find yourself in this situation, and if a police officer made a procedural mistake, your charges could be reduced or dropped.

Police by law have to follow strict procedures if they pull over someone who is believed to be driving while intoxicated, or if an officer is going to arrest this person. Police also have to follow guidelines when testing someone’s sobriety. 

Here are three mistakes police officers can make and that you can use to defend yourself against drunk driving charges:

1) You were pulled over without “reasonable suspicion”

For a police officer to decide to turn on the police lights and make a traffic stop, the officer must have what the law calls “reasonable suspicion” that the driver is doing something illegal. This means the officer has to reasonably suspect that you are driving drunk or doing something else that violates the law. If an officer pulls you over without reasonable suspicion, any evidence the officer collected during the traffic stop cannot be used against you.

2) You were arrested without “probable cause”

After an officer pulls you over, assuming there was reasonable suspicion that you were intoxicated, the officer then has to determine whether you are actually intoxicated or above the legal limit. If the officer fails to run tests or determine that you are in fact intoxicated above the legal limit before arresting you, or if the sobriety or blood-alcohol testing is faulty, then you were arrested without probable cause.

3) Police improperly administered a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test

Results from a field sobriety test are not always accurate if the officer didn’t follow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines for conducting the tests. Officers must use these standardized methods when evaluating whether a person is intoxicated. Even then, field sobriety testing is not a perfect science, and the results are not always reliable indicators of whether a person was drunk while driving.

There is also a margin of error when using a breathalyzer. If the breathalyzer was not properly calibrated on a regular basis, or if the officer administers the test incorrectly, it can result in bad readings. Not only can breathalyzers give false positives — they can also incorrectly read someone’s level of intoxication.

Flaws in the officer’s procedures for this testing can invalidate the basis on which you were charged in the first place.

Retain the best defense for your OWI case

Wisconsin law is serious about OWI offenses, and penalties are harsh. Data for 2015 shows that most of the people who had OWI citations adjudicated in that year were found guilty. Specifically, 93 percent of the 25,734 drivers who had OWI citations adjudicated that year were found guilty. That is an alarming percentage to be convicted of OWI.

Because the odds are not in your favor without the best defense against OWI charges, the criminal defense lawyers at Kim & LaVoy, S.C. are ready to protect your rights if you have been accused of or charged with OWI.