Joseph P. Hougnon, Attorney at Law

Who Has The Burden Of Proof In DUI Cases?

In alcohol-related cases, if your BAC (valid test) was .08% or more within 3 hours of driving, legally, you are presumed guilty of both DUI charges [VC section 23152(a) and VC section 23152(b)]. The defense therefore has the burden of proof in this instance. In order to rebut the burden of proof, the defense must provide evidence at trial that shows the defendant was: 1. Ability to drive was not more impaired than a reasonable sober person; and, 2. The defendant’s BAC was below .08% at the time of driving. To win a jury trial, the defense must raise reasonable doubt about the validity and/or accuracy of the test results, as well as mitigating or rebutting the observations and testimony of law enforcement officers involved in your case that lead to their conclusion your ability to drive was impaired. Witnesses can also play a role in rebutting the officers’ conclusions in the arrest report and testimony at trial.

The DA’s have the entire burden of proof in non-alcohol related cases (no presumption of guilt). The prosecutor will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant had sufficient quantities of a drug, or a combination of combination of drugs and alcohol (even though below .08% BAC) capable of causing impairment at the time of driving. Other evidence may include recorded observations and/or testimony in support of those observations of impairment clues that are consistent with the particular drug or drugs involved.

Can I get my DUI charges dismissed without going to trial?

Depending on the evidence, it may be possible to get your case dismissed before setting cases for trial. In most cases, though, if the DA filed a case against you, it will take time to defend, and it may require setting the case for jury trial to put pressure on the DA to reconsider the evidence against you. It also gives the defense another opportunity to negotiate the case with a new judge before trial. Many of the DUI cases I’ve set for trial over the years were dismissed prior to trial, some on the first day of trial prior to picking the jury.

Will I need to pay an investigator to help with my defense?

Investigation can also be the vital in some cases. The investigator I’ve been working with the past couple of years is not only good at his job, his testimony has helped me win motions and jury trials over the years, as well as DMV APS hearings.

Joe Hougnon, Esq.

Answers to all your questions are only a phone call away. Call Now at (916) 730-5251.

If there are any witnesses involved, it’s important you do not talk with them about the facts of the case, whether you know them or not. This will protect you from any argument from a prosecutor that you “got your story straight” or somehow collaborated with the witness to your benefit. However, it is important to obtain contact information if possible – law enforcement may or may not get that information and record it in the arrest and/or collision report. Time can affect memory and witnesses may move away or it may be more difficult to locate later on. If a particular witness is potentially helpful to the defense, I will likely recommend having my investigator take a statement and write a report that may or may not be submitted to the DA’s office. The investigator is a third-party witness at that point and could be called to testify in the event a witness or witnesses change their story later after the investigator has taken and recorded their statements. But, unless there is a danger the witness may not be available later on, I usually wait until after I’ve had a chance to review the report before taking their statements, because questions may come to mind after I read the arrest report and I get a better understanding of the case.

Whether you were involved in a DUI causing injury (VC section 23153), believe you were pulled over illegally, or were involved in an accident that lead to your arrest, an investigator working on your behalf can mean the difference in the outcome of your case. The fees are reasonable, and I only recommend hiring an investigator when I believe it will help the defense of your case.

Aren’t Most DUI Cases Cut & Dried?

Over the years, I’ve heard clients say things like, “All DUI cases are cut and dried,” or “I know I don’t have a case.” Details matter, but common sense matters too. If your BAC is .08% or more, and in traffic stop cases, the stop may look legal and justified, the case may not be defensible. Still, I’ve gotten DUI cases dismissed over the years that initially seemed provable. After reviewing the evidence and investigating the scene and/or taking statements from witnesses, a viable defense may emerge. So, don’t sell yourself short.

Your attorney should take the time to listen and consider your side of the story, or any theory or idea you might have that would make the case more defensible. It may take time to determine whether you have a defensible case, or whether there are sufficient mitigating factors to argue for a reduction of the charges and/or sentencing. But, by the same token, at some point a decision has to be made about how to proceed in your case. Investing more of your hard earned money to file motions and set a case for jury trial may not be the best choice, either. Having a good grasp of the evidence and understanding your options and chances of success are key to making that final decision whether to negotiate and accept a plea bargain, or to reject the offer from the DA and set your case for trial. It all depends on the evidence in your case. My job is to work the case until I can give you the best advice possible so you can make an informed decision.

Will my case be dismissed if I’m pulled over illegally before being arrested for a DUI?

If it appears the stop may have been unwarranted or illegal, I’ll first recommend and order investigative services to obtain more information before advising you whether your case warrants filing a Suppression Motion (PC section 1538.5). Your case may come down to your word vs. the officer, or officers involved. Or, it could be a legal issue only where the officer cited reasons for the stop that are not justified under the law (Click to see Avoiding a Checkpoint case).

The recent addition of In Car Cameras, or dash-cam videos, in so many law enforcement vehicles, including most CHP vehicles, has given DUI Defense attorneys another tool to help get some cases thrown out of court. Suppression Motions (PC§1538.5) are Pretrial motions that are like mini-trials heard by a judge, with testimony from law enforcement and any other witnesses deemed relevant to the traffic stop or search. The DA’s Office and the Defense file written legal motions prior to a scheduled hearing, before coming to court to have the motion heard. If the Defense prevails, the judge will exclude the evidence and the case will be dismissed.

I’ve won the majority of motions I’ve filed in the past decade or so, and I’ve won every case I’ve set for jury trial in the past 15 years, including cases that were dismissed on the first trial date. But, I’m careful to avoid recommend my clients invest money and time into litigating these issues until I’ve reached the conclusion we have a reasonable or good chance of prevailing. I don’t charge my clients up front for possible or potential motions, like so many attorney do these days. My job is to work on your case, research the facts and legal issues specific to a particular to your case, and make sure you’re fully advised so you can make an informed decision. Ultimately, the decision about how to proceed in your case is yours, and yours alone.

For more information on Burden Of Proof In DUI Cases, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (916) 730-5251 today.

Joe Hougnon, Esq.

Answers to all your questions are only a phone call away. Call Now at (916) 730-5251.

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