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Defenses to DUI in California

There are several ways to defend against a California DUI charge. One of the most popular methods is to challenge the validity or legality of the initial stop and whether the officer had reasonable probable cause to pull over the driver. Another is to question whether sampling or performance tests were performed correctly and interpreted accurately using properly functioning equipment. However, there are certain factual defenses which may lessen or eliminate the charge altogether.

The first defense against drunk driving charges is necessity. In a life and death situation such as needing to get a critically ill or injured person to a hospital, the danger of an intoxicated person behind the wheel may be balanced against the need to prevent further injury or death to an endangered person. A similar defense is duress, in which the person was forced to drive against their will under threat of harm.

Another defense is known as mistake of fact and usually pertains to individuals on certain medications. If the person believes in good faith that any intoxicating effects of the medication have worn off and drives, a DUI charge may be avoided. Involuntary intoxication, where a person ingests alcohol without their knowledge, or entrapment, where a police officer orders an intoxicated person to drive, are other possible factual defenses.

When defending against DUI charges using any of the above defenses, the attorney may consider whether the driver would voluntarily drive drunk if there were not dire prevailing circumstances. The attorney might look at the driver’s record for intoxication-related charges or convictions. In some cases, a plea bargain which entails probation and/or community service instead of charging points to a driver’s license may be a viable option in lieu of fines or jail time.

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John Patrick Ryan has been practicing law for over 20 years. Experienced in criminal law. U.S. Navy Veteran.