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What Are My Chances of Beating a First Offense DWI Case?

The largest block of DWI cases in almost every state involves someone charged with a first offense. There are numerous considerations that play into the mindset of someone facing first drinking and driving charge, for example, is it worth investing the money to hire an attorney. The answer to this question and many others invariably comes down to the chances of beating the case. This article is intended to provide a thumbnail of the opportunities that exist for someone to successfully defend a first offense DWI.  

There are many issues that can help a motorist avoid a conviction for a first offense. First and foremost, there is scientific evidence in the form of a breath or blood test that is ripe for attack. In fact, there are strict protocols that the police need to follow before the related blood alcohol concentration ("BAC") result can be used to prove guilt. For example, there cannot be contamination of the defendant's breath cavity with mouth alcohol or another substance. Even a burp contemporaneous with the test can render the result inadmissible. This is but one example of many that can render an otherwise valid reading inadmissible to prove the first offense for DWI/DUI. Electronic or radio frequency interference is another frequently raised defense to exclude a breath test reading (i.e. there was a cell phone or other electronic device that interfered with the operation of the breath test device). 

Similar defenses exist when a first offense is based on a blood sample. Typically, the only way a BAC reading from blood is available for use in a court is if an official blood kit from law enforcement is used and the sample is properly taken. It is crucial that records demonstrate a chain of custody showing each and every person and entity that handled the sample once it is drawn to the point that it reaches the laboratory. If there is a gap in the chain, the sample and any related test result are inadmissible in court to prove the first offense for DWI. There are also laboratory and technician certifications that must be presented as foundational documents or the result is invalid. 

Eliminating scientific evidence of BAC certainly is not, however, the only way to beat a first DWI. There are other issues that can be raised by a motorist arrested for drunken driving to escape the first offense. First and foremost, there has to be a reasonable basis for the DWI stop or probable cause is lacking, and the charge cannot be sustained by the state. This usually contemplates some form of motor vehicle violation witnessed by the arresting police officer. And even where a stop is proper, the police must also prove that the driver failed roadside tests, otherwise, there is no valid basis for the police to take the accused into custody.

We certainly hope you found this information helpful if you were issued a summons for a DWI and this is your first offense.

Jonathan F. Marshall

Firm Owner, Attorney | The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall
(o) 732.450.8300 | (f) 732.450.8377