Driving Under the Influence
America as a nation has spent billions of dollars on national campaigns to discourage people from drinking and driving. The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) came up with their slogan of “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” back in 2006. There have been dramatic television ads sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation saying that “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk”, in an effort to promote how others can take responsibility. While some of these campaigns have been successful, driving under the influence (DUI) still remains a problem throughout the nation. When someone has been charged with DUI, they may be facing several legal challenges.
The Bill of Rights Protects Defendants
The U.S. Constitution affords American citizens the right to a fair trial. When an individual has been charged with driving under the influence, they are tried in criminal court. The legal term of due process means that every citizen is protected against the following:• Unlawful search and seizure—The Fourth Amendment protects people from police unlawfully searching their person or property. Officers are not allowed to search a person’s home or vehicle without a valid warrant. The cops may have probable cause to search a vehicle depending upon the situation. If they make an arrest in someone’s home after responding to a domestic dispute, they are generally allowed to search the immediate area while conducting their investigation.
• Self-incrimination—The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from providing testimony that may incriminate them.
• Legal counsel—The Sixth Amendment guarantees the defendant to be represented by an attorney. If they cannot afford a lawyer, the court must give them a court-appointed attorney. Criminal defendants also have the right to a speedy and public trial. This means that the State must bring them to trial within a reasonable amount of time. In addition, each defendant has the right to be notified of the charges against them and they must be given the opportunity to confront all witnesses against them.
• Cruel and unusual punishment—The Eighth Amendment means that the court cannot impose excessive bail or fines for the alleged crime. Every individual is also protected from receiving punishment that is cruel. The government cannot cut off a person’s hands because they were arrested for stealing. Although the death penalty is still viewed by some as cruel and unusual punishment, each state has the right to either embrace it or abolish it. The death penalty is currently practiced in 35 states, along with the United States government and military.
The Prosecution Has An Uphill Battle
The prosecutor in any criminal trial has the burden to prove the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. During the discovery process, prosecutor’s are required to turn over all evidence to defense counsel. If they fail to do so, the judge may rule the evidence inadmissible. Furthermore, the defendant is entitled to any evidence that may prove favorable to their case.
The Goal of the Defense Attorney
The primary goal of any criminal defense lawyer is to keep their client out of jail. In cases where the prosecution has strong and convincing evidence, the defendant’s attorney may try to cut a deal with the District Attorney’s office. A plea bargain allows the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for less jail time. Most prosecutors are reluctant to proceed to trial if they don’t believe they can win. If you have been charged driving under the influence, it’s extremely important to have a strong and experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you and defend your rights.