Beyond Reasonable Doubt
As a citizen of the United States, you are granted a number of essential rights and liberties—with one of the most important one of them being a presumption of innocence if you are ever accused of a crime. As a result, before you can be convicted of the charges against you, your guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is one of the most important things to remember if you are one of the countless drivers who are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) each year.
Like any other criminal case, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution in a DUI trial. Since you are automatically presumed innocence, this means that the state must submit evidence that proves you are sufficiently guilty and that no reasonable person would think otherwise. If this requirement is not met, you cannot be convicted of the offense.
To meet the reasonable doubt requirement, the court must establish probable cause for the charges against you. In a DUI case, this requires two things: first, the prosecution must show that the officer who arrested you had a reason to stop you (such as speeding or running a red light); and second, that after pulling you over, the officer then had a reason to suspect you were under the influence of alcohol.
For example, if you were pulled over simply for driving late at night or in a bad neighborhood, the officer will be unable to meet the court’s probable cause requirement—which means the charges against you should be dismissed. Likewise, if you are pulled over for a traffic violation, and show no signs of impairment, your arrest will be considered unconstitutional.
Assuming the stop was warranted, the officer must now justify his or her reasons for suspecting you of DUI in order to meet the prosecution’s second probable cause requirement. Because law enforcement must have probable cause to administer a breathalyzer or chemical test, you must show signs of impairment (such as slurred speech or bloodshot eyes, for instance) before an officer can legally ask you to perform these tests.
Even if the prosecution meets its probable cause requirements, there are a number of defenses that can be used to create reasonable doubt for your conviction. Some of the most successful DUI defense tactics include challenging BAC calculations and/or field sobriety test results, as well as questioning the officer’s ability to administer the tests correctly. In some cases, your medical history could even be used to justify your actions at the time you were arrested.
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