DWI Defense Strategies

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Posted by Christopher Combs on February 28, 2024

DWI Defense Strategies in Missouri. While many people think that being arrested for drunk driving is an almost automatic conviction, that could not be further from the truth. Whenever you’re accused of a crime, you have rights under United States law regarding police procedure, what evidence is admitted and your ability to cross-examine witnesses and put questionable evidence in doubt. With the help of an experienced St. Louis, MO DWI lawyer like those at Combs Waterkotte, you can successfully avoid a drunk driving conviction, or have your charges reduced to a lesser offense. For a free consultation and to discuss your DWI defense strategies in St. Louis, MO, speak to a Combs Waterkotte DWI lawyer today at (314) 900-HELP or contact us online.

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How Can I Defend Myself Against a DWI Charge in St. Louis, Missouri?

Every investigation, even one like pulling over a suspected drunk driver and doing a field sobriety test, must be done in accordance with the law and your rights. If proper protocol isn’t followed, or your blood alcohol concentration testing results are unreliable, we can successfully fight your DWI charge in St. Louis, MO. Below are the top 6 defense strategies for fighting a DWI charge:

1. Illegal Traffic Stop

Police officers must have probable cause to pull you over. That means they have to have seen you commit a traffic violation or have a reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime. Simply seeing you leave a bar is not a valid reason to pull you over. If dash cam footage shows you didn’t commit any violations or show any signs of drunk driving, then your traffic stop was not lawful, and we can argue that any evidence against you wasn’t lawfully obtained.

2. Disputing a Police Officer’s Testimony

An officer might say that they had probable cause to arrest you because you had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and/or you lacked coordination. But if your mugshot shows you with clear eyes, a body cam shows you speaking normally and dashboard footage shows you were walking fine, we can dispute that evidence. When you hire us, we’ll send a “letter of preservation” so that the police do not delete any evidence.

We can also challenge their observations in other ways. Maybe witnesses can attest to the fact that you had bloodshot eyes because you were sleepy.

3. Disputing a Field Sobriety Test

A failed sobriety test can be used as probable cause to arrest you and as evidence against you in court. However, these tests are not as reliable as the state would like people to believe. Studies show that when the horizontal gaze, one-leg stand and walk and turn tests are all used together, officers were only correct 82% of the time.

There are many reasons a person may fail a field sobriety test. The tests are designed to gauge how well someone can multi-task like they need to to safely drive; for example, checking the rearview mirror while keeping the wheel straight. The problem with that concept is that we practice driving for months before being allowed a license, and develop our driving skills over years. Most people have never had to take a field sobriety test before, and it’s understandable if they find it difficult.

Reasons why a sober person may fail a field sobriety test include:

  • You’re naturally not very coordinated
  • The directions were not clear or were improperly given
  • The office administering the test was poorly trained, or had forgotten key guidelines
  • You’re nervous or distracted by your surroundings
  • Footwear or weather issues
  • Prescription medications affect their balance

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4. Disputing a Breathalyzer Test

While a Breathalyzer may seem more scientific, in truth it can also give unreliable results. According to a peer-reviewed study by LaBianca, Simpson, Thompson, Breathalyzers have a margin of error of 50% when compared to an actual blood test. That means, a reading of .1% could indicate an actual BAC of anywhere between .05% and .15%.

Breathalyzers determine your blood alcohol content by measuring the amount of ethyl alcohol in your breath sample. However, there are numerous molecules with similar structures in human breath, including acetone. Reasons your Breathalyzer test may give an inaccurately high result include:

  • If you were at or just above the legal limit of .08%, the accuracy of the machines is not reliable
  • You still had alcohol in your mouth (the reading is only supposed to measure the alcohol in your lungs, and officers are required to wait 15 minutes to administer the test for this reason)
  • You’re diabetic
  • You’re on a certain diet
  • The machine wasn’t calibrated properly
  • The officer was poorly trained or didn’t administer the test properly
  • Cell phones or an officer’s radio interfered with the machines

While Breathalyzer tests are admissible in court, they are not considered irrefutable proof that you were drunk, and a skilled St. Louis, MO DWI lawyer will be able to raise doubts about the accuracy of the test.

5. Disputing a Blood Test Result

Because of the limitations of field sobriety tests and Breathalyzers, police usually want to take a blood sample after your arrest to confirm your BAC results. While these do tend to be more accurate in determining a person’s alcohol level, there are still ways to dispute their reliability:

  • After ingesting alcohol, your BAC continues to rise anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours. As the blood sample will usually be drawn 1 to 2 hours after you’re pulled over, we can argue that the results are not an accurate reflection of your level of impairment while you were operating your vehicle.
  • Blood samples have to be properly stored in order be accurate. If your blood was stored at the wrong temperature for too long, it may lead the blood to ferment, which would reflect a higher BAC than what you actually had at the time.
  • The Supreme Court has ruled that, because a blood sample is so invasive, police need a warrant from a judge to take one if you refuse. If they forced you to give a blood sample without a warrant, that violates your Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

6. Other Procedural Errors

The police and the state are held to a high standard when it comes to investigating, interrogating, arresting and charging suspects of any crime. For example, you must be made aware of your right to an attorney and be read your Miranda rights. If police violate any proper protocol, evidence, and sometimes the entire case against you, can be thrown out.

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Call Combs Waterkotte For Your Winning DWI Defense Strategies in St. Louis, Missouri

We know the fear, stress and even shame that you can feel when you’ve been arrested for a DWI. But, you need to know that a conviction, a record and points on your driver’s license are not a certainty. Everyone accused of any crime has a right to due process under the law. Your Combs Waterkotte St. Louis, wdac-state] DWI lawyer will conduct their own investigation into the charges and stand by your side throughout the entire legal process — even up to fighting for a not-guilty verdict at trial if we have to. To get started on your DWI defense strategy, call Combs Waterkotte today at (314) 900-HELP or contact us online for a free consultation.