Being arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) can be traumatizing. You might be handcuffed and spend time in jail. Your car could be impounded, license suspended. Suddenly your criminal record and financial security are at stake.
But instead of simply accepting defeat, you can defend yourself. Police officers must follow strict evidentiary protocols to make an arrest. Prosecutors have the burden of proving a crime was committed. If you can expose their mistakes, you might get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether. You might even show you should never have been arrested in the first place.
Were there problems with the traffic stop?
Police officers cannot just assume someone driving away from a bar has been drinking and pull them over. Swerving may be a clue, but it’s not a free pass for a traffic stop. Officers need probable cause that a motorist has committed a traffic violation, such as speeding or running a red light, to flash their lights and order them off the road.
Once an officer has pulled someone over, they need probable cause to make an arrest. Potential causes may include:
- Slurred speech
- Bloodshot eyes
- The smell of alcohol
These may be reasons for an officer to make an arrest, but they’re not necessarily proof of a crime. There might be other explanations. Perhaps the driver had dental work performed that affected their speech. A smoky room might have irritated their eyes. Maybe a waitress spilled a drink on their clothes to cause the odor.
Were there problems with the evidence?
Outside of the traffic stop and arrest, there are other ways that officers may break the rules. If they do, they may invalidate some of the evidence they want to use against you. This is part of the reason that registering a blood-alcohol level above the 0.08 legal limit does not guarantee a conviction.
The evidence in an OWI case might not be good if:
- The officer wasn’t certified to administer a chemical test, or the equipment hadn’t passed its latest inspection. Indiana law mandates police officers be certified to perform chemical tests and that the equipment must be working properly and inspected every six months.
- The police question you without first reciting your Miranda rights. You have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. If the police fail to remind you of these rights before questioning you, a defense lawyer may be able to get the testimony tossed out.
- There are discrepancies in the stories related by police reports and testimony.
The possible problems aren’t limited to these three issues. Every piece of evidence has its own story.
Protect your rights and your wallet
In Indiana, most OWI convictions are misdemeanor, but they still carry severe criminal, driving and financial consequences, including:
- You may face a hefty fine and up to 60 days in jail
- Your license may be suspended from 90 days up to 2 years
- Your insurance premiums may shoot upward for several years after your case is resolved
- An OWI conviction can also jeopardize your job and prevent you from traveling outside the country
OWI laws are complex, but the stakes are too high not to scrutinize your arrest. An experienced defense attorney can help you look in all the right places to challenge the evidence, challenge the procedures and hold law enforcement accountable.