Do I Need an Expert Witness for my DUI?

The Science Behind DUIs

expert witness in a DUI case

Sometimes an expert witness is needed in a Utah DUI to help the jury understand the science involved.

DUIs are unlike most criminal charges because of the heavy amount of science that is involved in the cases. For example, to even be able to determine that someone is driving above the legal limit of .08 law enforcement has to involve a complicated machine to measure the breath alcohol content of the individual suspected of DUI. These machines, such as the Intoxilyzer 8000, are difficult to understand. The average Joe cannot explain how the machine work.

Additionally, the science behind how alcohol is metabolized in each individual body is extremely complex. Only those trained in the applicable sciences can even begin to understand how a body can metabolize alcohol and at what rate. There is also the question of how alcohol impairs an individual and whether a certain individual is actually impaired as demonstrated by the field sobriety tests administered. Suffice it to say DUIs are not clear cut cases.

When Should You Get an Expert?

To answer this question you should determine what your trial strategy will be. For example, if your defense is that the traffic stop was illegal, there’s probably no need for an expert witness. The judge can make that determination without outside help. On the other hand, if your strategy is to attack the accuracy of the breathalyzer machine or the blood test, you will probably want an expert witness. Likewise, if you want to attack the field sobriety tests administered you would want to get an expert witness on the issue.

It is sometimes a good idea to get an expert witness early on in the case to be able to give you consultation on various issues. Having that expert consultation early on will allow you to determine if you should have an expert witness at trial.

Not every case needs an expert witness and expert witnesses are expensive. Consult with an attorney to determine if you should look into getting an expert witness.

Arizona Court Rules DUI Proper In Medical Marijuana Case

Utah does not yet have a medical marijuana law permitting use under a physician’s direction (there is a very limited medical marijuanamedical marijuana product use in Utah for some children who suffer from seizures). However, nearly every state surrounding the great state of Utah does permit some form of medical marijuana. In Utah, if you are found to be driving with any amount of marijuana in your system you can be charged with a DUI. This means, even if you are not impaired while you are driving, lets say you smoked marijuana 3 days ago and are just fine to be driving, you can still be charged with a DUI. Most other states have a similar DUI Metabolite law including Arizona. Recently, a man charged with a marijuana related DUI in Arizona, who had a valid medical marijuana license, challenged the state law appealing all the way to Arizona’s Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the court did not find in the man’s favor. The judge issuing the opinion stated no exception existed for medical marijuana patients because such an exception was never written into the law itself by the state lawmakers. Similar cases are popping up in Nevada, California, Colorado, and Washington. Most notably in Colorado and Washington where marijuana was decriminalized. Some courts have found the opposite of the recent Arizona decision. The federal courts might be getting involved at some point and eventually there will become a consensus on the issue.

DUI After Consuming Marijuana Legally

Under current Utah law, if you legally consume marijuana in Colorado, you could be charged with a DUI upon driving back through Utah even if you are not impaired and it has been several days since you smoked pot there. While this seems incredibly unjust to many of us, it will take a strong case making its way up to the court of appeals to have any hope of real change. It seems unlikely the Utah State legislature will be changing their tune on this any time soon. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI under similar circumstances, we would like to help. We are hoping to find the right case to appeal all the way up the chain until this and other similar marijuana issues are resolved by the courts. We think it incredibly unfair for a person to be charged just for having substance in their body, when they legally ingested the substance, and they are not impaired or a danger to anyone.

Disposable Breathalyzers

Disposable breathalyzers have been in use in Europe and elsewhere for several years. The United States has been slow to approve these and related products. However, just recently, the FDA approved a particular type of disposable breathalyzer known as the Safe & Sounds Breathalyzer. These one time use, disposable breath tests, should be hitting stores including Walmart and Seven Eleven in Utah and all over the United States in a few months. You may also end up seeing these in vending machines in bars and clubs.

The disposable breathalyzer works like this: you essentially blow into a small plastic bag, then you attached a small cylinder to the mouth piece and release the air through the cylinder. There are small crystals in the cylinder which detect the presence of alcohol and turn from yellow to green if alcohol is present. Additionally, if a black line appears on the cylinder, the air tested at or above the .08 limit giving a very clear answer on whether or not it is safe to drive.

These new small disposable breathalyzers can be easily stashed in a glove compartment or even carried in a purse. These can be a great tool to help prevent DUI charges in Utah and we highly recommend individuals who regularly consume alcohol keep one of these handy. The cost for this device various but is generally about $7, at least that is the current listed price on the manufacturers website.

From the research we could gather regarding these devices, they seem to be very reliable and accurate. Some police departments have even vouched for their reliability and are considering carrying them in stock as a tool to be used by officers in the field. With FDA approval, many government agencies are picking these up for various uses. We are hopeful once these hit the market, many DUIs in Utah can be avoided.

No Alcohol, No Drugs, No Prescriptions, No DUI?…Not Necessarily

Did you know you could possibly be charged with a DUI even if you have consumed no alcohol, have no illegal drugs in your system, and have no prescription drugs in your system? Unfortunately this is true. In Utah, and many other states, you can charged with a DUI for driving under the influence of “any drug” which renders you incapable of safely operating your vehicle. Yes, “any drug” could even mean over the counter medications that people take routinely. Many over the counter medications can cause people to become drowsy or incapable of safely operating a vehicle. For instance, lets say you were on a combination of non prescription medicines dealing with allergies and a cold and you were driving drowsy which caused you to be all over the road. Under that scenario, you could potentially be charged with a DUI even though you may have had no alcohol or illegal substances in your body, only Benedryl and NyQuil.

Defending Against “Any Drug” DUIs

At our law office, we have dealt with many over zealous prosecutors who have decided to charge individuals with DUIs when they had no measurable controlled substance in their body and no alcohol. We fight hard against these types of cases because it seems generally unfair to so dramatically punish somewhere under this statute. Often, the prosecution is incapable of proving, not that the driver had some kind of drug in their system, but that it was the drug which “rendered the driver incapable of safely operating the vehicle.” That is a tough burden to meet and we have faith in juries not being able to make such a determination beyond a reasonable doubt in most cases. As such, we aggressively defend these types of charges and have a history of getting great results. Anyone charged under this “catch all” DUI statute in Utah should meet with one of our Provo DUI Defense Lawyers to get an accurate assessment of your defenses and options in the matter.

Push to Lower the Legal Limit

There has been an increasing push by advocacy groups across the nation to lower the legal limit for drunk driving. The National Transportation Safety Board is recently pushing states to adopt a .05 blood alcohol content level as the legal limit. Supporters of the change argue the lower level could save many more lives as fewer individuals would choose to drive after consuming any alcohol. The statistics on this issue are somewhat grey as proponents suggest impairment occurs at the .05 limit and others argue the opposite citing statistics indicating most people are not impaired at even the .08 level. At any rate, it is not unlikely that such a change in the law could take effect in Utah.

The Utah legislature recently convened for its general session and many wonder if this type of bill would come up. Going into the session there was a lot of talk about the potential for change in the legal limit although to our knowledge such a bill has not made it out of committee yet. We will of course keep you posted on any new developments in Utah’s DUI and Alcohol Related Laws. One issue we know which has been discussed this year on Capital Hill is the “Zion Curtain” and whether or not law makers will be willing to change the silly law requiring restaurants to mix drinks in the back as opposed to over a bar where children can view it. No bill has made it all the way through the process in this regard but we will keep you updated on this as well.

BAC Levels in DUI Cases

Many believe a .08 BAC level is already to low and should be adjusted in the opposite direction. If you are charged with a DUI in Provo Utah, your BAC level can have a significant impact on how your case is resolved. Prosecutors often look at lower BAC levels, those slightly above .08, differently than they do those that are more like twice the legal limit, .16 and above. A Provo Utah DUI Lawyer at our office can help prepare you for what to expect based on your BAC level. For a free review of your case, call us today or send us an email.

Going Easy on the Egg Nog

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are here and Christmas is just a few short days away. It is a time to celebrate with family and friends. Unfortunately for some, the holidays often lead to an increase in DUI charges as people attempt to drink and drive often returning home from a work party or other event. For that reason we offer a few tips for you to consider to help prevent a DUI and spoiling your Christmas cheer.

Limit Your Drinks

Really, the only way to ensure you are not cited with a DUI is to not drink and drive. But of course it is the holidays and you plan on drinking here or there. If so, try to limit your intake to an amount where you are not impaired and you are under the legal limit of .08. Of course it is difficult to know what your BAC level may be at any given time, and it may also be difficult to know exactly how much alcohol you have consumed, but as  rule of thumb, you shouldn’t have more than a single drink if you are going to get behind the wheel. Of course, even a single drink, under some circumstances, might get you over that limit if the drink has an abnormally high alcohol concentration.

Designated Driver

Everyone now having a designated driver is the best way to ensure you can indulge in all the drinking you like while still being able to get home safely and without incident. If you are going to a holiday party with a designated driver, make sure they understand what they are in for, they are responsible, and are committed to your safety.

You Throw the Christmas Party

Why not have the party at your place? This allows you to consume alcohol without the need to go anywhere. Just make sure that your guests are also being safe and are not getting into trouble or getting into their cars and driving drunk.

DUI Attorney in Provo

If you find yourself facing a DUI charge over the holidays, take action quickly and give us a call. We hope everyone has a fun safe Christmas but understand some people may end up needing help from a lawyer. A DUI Attorney in Provo at our firm can help.

BAC Levels and Plea Agreements

Your BAC level refers to the amount of blood alcohol content tested in your system. This can be obtained through a portable breath test (PBT), intoxilyzer test, or blood draw. In Utah if you are suspected of a DUI, you can almost guarantee the officer involved will test for your BAC through at least one, most likely two, and sometimes all three of these testing methods. The PBT, is the small hand held device the officer may have you blow into at the scene of the stop. This is administered in almost every DUI case because most officers hae ready access to these simple devices. The PBT is the least reliable of the testing methods and is not admissible as evidence in court to establish your BAC level because of the unreliability of the test. This is why most often, the police officer will give you another breath test at the station from the intoxilyzer machine which is more reliable and which is admissible to show a BAC level in court. The intoxilyzer machine is the large machine which will give you a receipt indicating, among other things, your BAC.

Blood Draws

It is not common practice for the police to do a blood draw in very case, but it does happen under some circumstances such as if you were injured in an accident and can’t readily take a breath test or if a breath test fails to properly register. It is important to note, Utah law requires you submit to any chemical tests if suspected of a DUI, including a blood draw, or your license can be suspended for long period of time. The BAC level is usually the most significant evidence against you in a DUI charge so it is important to speak with a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney about the results.

BAC Levels Effect on Plea Agreements

Generally speaking, the higher your BAC, the less likely the prosecutor will be willing to negotiate on the resolution of your case. A BAC level of .12 and above can result in higher penalties including the requirement that an ignition interlock be installed in all vehicles you drive. An interlock device is the machine installed in your vehicle which require you to blow into and not register any alcohol or your vehicle can’t be started. If your BAC proves to be twice the legal limit, most prosecutors will be unwilling to come down significantly on the DUI charge. This is one reason why is it so important to have an experienced Provo DUI Defense Lawyer representing you. Even in cases involving high BACs, we have had success in dismissing cases all together or getting favorable plea agreements on our clients behalf. Even though you may have a high BAC level, there may be other issues in your case which can still result in a strong overall defense.

Probation Following a DUI Charge

If you are convicted of a DUI, you can almost guarantee you will be ordered to some kind of probation. The question is really only whether or not your probation will be supervised or unsupervised. In a sense probation is always supervised its just either supervised by the court, supervised by a probation officer, or supervised by a third party private supervision agency. We mostly refer to supervision by the court as being unsupervised probation. Under the DUI laws in Utah, if you are convicted of a DUI and it is your first offense, the judge may order supervised probation. Many times however, the judges do not order supervised probation on a first offense and as long as you are compliant with paying fines, taking the DUI classes, etc. you are taken off probation.

On a second or third DUI conviction, the judge is required by law to impose a supervised probation order. As part of your supervised probation you will most likely be required not to consume any alcohol at all during the time of your probation and you should expect to be tested for both drugs and alcohol along the way. Supervised probation will keep close tabs on you during your probationary period which usually lasts at least year and often longer.

DUI Probation Violations

The most important thing to know is that violating your probation in any way can easily land you in jail so having a Provo DUI Defense Attorney represent you in an order to show cause is well advised. Also keep in mind that it will be your duty to inform the court during your probation when you pass certain probationary requirements such as the Prime for Life class. Always keep a record of any classes, assessments, or treatment you received and you should always the court is provided copy of your certificates of completion. For help with DUI Probation Violations or a DUI charge itself, our team can help.

Labor Day Weekend and Drunk Driving

As you could probably guess, Labor Day weekend is a big weekend for DUI charges. In fact, Labor Day is one of the weekends with the highest number of DUI citations written each year. The weather is still nice, its the end of summer, and a lot of people are out getting their last weekend vacations in on the lake, up in the mountains, and all over the great outdoors this state has to offer. With the end of summer fun often comes a lot of partying and drinking and you can bet police and sheriffs in Provo and all over Utah County will be on high alert for drunk driving. It seems every year, the Utah Highway Patrol plans a DUI blitz all over the state in which troopers patrol I-15 and all the major highways specifically looking for drunk drivers. Additionally, at least some local police departments will likely be setting up DUI checkpoints. Often these checkpoints are set up in canyons to catch drunk drivers who have been enjoying the mountains. Don’t drink and drive this Labor Day, or ever for that matter, but if you do end up facing a DUI charge, make sure you give us a call.

Keeping You Informed

We are certain DUI blitzes and checkpoints will be happening in parts of  the state as they always due during the Labor Day weekend. While we are currently not aware of any scheduled checkpoints in Utah County, we will keep you posted on the locations and other information on any checkpoints  that may arise. Keep checking back with our firm to get the latest updates. You can also visit our facebook page to get the most up to date information including comments from others on these issues. If you are charged with a DUI this Labor Day Weekend, we can help so do not hesitate to call.

Waiving Rights When Entering a Plea on a Utah DUI Case

If you are facing DUI charges and contemplating entering into some kind of a plea agreement there are some things you should keep in mind.  Specifically, you should be aware of the rights that you will be waiving if you decide to enter any kind of plea.

Waiver of Rights Form

Nearly every court in Utah requires a defendant who is entering into plea agreement for a DUI to sign a waiver of rights form.  Such a form explains to the defendant every right he has, but which he is waiving by entering into the plea deal.  Those forms include an explanation of the following rights:

  • The right to a trial by jury;
  • The right to confront and cross-examine witnesses for the state;
  • The right to compel favorable witnesses by subpoena to testify;
  • The right to remain silent and have the state prove each element of every charge;
  • The right to a direct appeal;
  • The right to counsel, should the client not be able to afford an attorney.

The defendant and his attorney will be required to sign off on the waiver of rights form and then appear in front of the judge.  The judge will accept the form and then will typically go over the the rights in detail with the defendant.  The judge will ask the defendant if he is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and if the defendant is doing this knowingly and voluntarily, that is, if he understands the rights he is waiving.

In addition to the waiver of rights form and the constitutional rights that a defendant waives, a court will notify the DUI defendant that there may be adverse immigration consequences by entering a plea of guilty to DUI.  For example, if you plead guilty to a DUI, you can’t go to Canada.  You should ask your lawyer what the immigration consequences are for you in your particular situation.

Give a Provo DUI Lawyer at our firm a call to better understand your rights. We offer free consultations 24/7.