Over the years drunk driving statutes have evolved not only to increase penalties for repeat offenders but to add additional charges. These additional charges increase the DWI conviction rate and make it more difficult for persons arrested on drunk driving charges to defend against the charges.
Initially, anyone arrested for drunk driving was charged with "operating" or "driving" a motor vehicle while "under the influence of alcohol" (OUI or DUI) or "while intoxicated" (OWI or DWI). In each, the influence of alcohol on driving conduct had to be shown to support a conviction. This was an important issue from a defense attorney's point of view. The construction of the law required a prosecutor to demonstrate the individual's alcohol consumption, no matter how great, affected driving conduct. In short, if the individual's intoxication was not apparent from driving conduct, an acquittal was likely.
Responding to public pressure for harsher drunk driving penalties, state legislators went straight to work to simplify the prosecutor's burden. A second offense was added to state statutes which is charged "IN ADDITION" to the DWI. This second charge makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) greater than a specified statutory limit. In most states, including Minnesota, the BAC limit is .08. It was reduced from .10 on August 1, 2005.
Tactical defense attorneys' challenged prosecutors in court arguing that urine, blood or breath tests to determine a driver's BAC were not tested at the time of the "driving conduct" but at some point after the driver had been arrested. As a result, the driver's BAC may not have been beyond the legal limit at the time the driving conduct. With this defense, Prosecutor's were tasked to find qualified medical experts to testify regarding the absorption rate of alcohol in each individual driver in order to prove the driver's BAC would have exceeded the legal limit at the time the motor vehicle was being operated.
In response, State legislators again went to work to simplify the prosecutor's burden. A third statutory offense was added which makes it illegal to test with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more within two hours of operating a motor vehicle. No longer is it necessary for the prosecutor to call an expert regarding absorption rates and weight ratio's if a driver tested with a BAC of .08 or more within two hours of being stopped. This offense is charged IN ADDITION to DWI and operating a motor vehicle with a BAC above the legal limit.
Good defense attorneys act swiftly when a driver charged with an alcohol related offense comes to their office. Vigilant attorneys analyze police reports to determine whether officers followed proper procedures while stopping or arresting DWI suspects. Police reports of the arrest are reviewed to find deviations from required procedures or law enforcement policies. Maintenance records and testing reports for equipment used to determine a driver's BAC are analyzed for errors which might impair testing accuracy. Weather and road conditions, as well as the attire and medical condition of the driver at the time of arrest are also noted. After all of the evidence and each element of the case has been reviewed, effective defenses are discussed and devised.
Today, more than ever, with changing laws and increasing penalties for alcohol related driving offenses, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced DWI attorney.