It depends if you want to withdraw a guilty plea or retract statements made to police officers during a DUI traffic stop or after a DUI arrest. The answer is “it depends.” There are situations in which a defendant can recant or withdraw a statement or guilty verdict. The first step is to contact a California DUI defense lawyer to discuss your legal options and rights regarding a drunk driving charge.
Making Statements to Police Before and After a DUI Arrest
The statements you make to police officers can be used against you. You might not be able to retract a confession or statement after it is made. For this reason, it is best not to talk to police officers without an attorney present.
During a DUI stop, you must provide your name and current address. You need to give the police officer your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of automobile insurance. However, you are not required to:
- Take a breathalyzer test or saliva swab if you have not been arrested
- Consent to take field sobriety tests (FSTs)
- Answer questions about where you were before the DUI stop
- Admit or deny that you have had alcohol or drugs
- Tell the police officer where you are headed
- Answer any other questions
You can respectfully tell the police officer you do not consent to any preliminary assessment tests for DUI and that you are invoking your right to remain silent.
After a DUI arrest, refusing a chemical test results in penalties under California’s implied consent law. The California Department of Motor Vehicles suspends your driver’s license for one year. You also face enhanced penalties if the court convicts you for the DUI charges.
However, you still are not required to make statements or answer questions after a DUI arrest. As a result, you may remain silent even though police officers continue to ask questions.
It is in your best interest not to make statements or talk to the police until you speak with a California DUI attorney. Retracting statements made to the police may only be possible through a motion to suppress evidence.
Filing a Motion to Suppress Evidence to Retract a DUI Confession
Confessions you make before you are arrested or after the police officers read you the Miranda rights can be used against you in court. However, if the police violated your constitutional rights, the confession could be inadmissible.
Your attorney can review your case to determine whether to file a motion to suppress evidence. If the police did not have probable cause for an arrest, a motion to suppress evidence could result in all evidence collected, including confessions and statements, being thrown out. Without evidence, the prosecution may have no choice but to drop the DUI charges.
Can I Withdraw a Guilty Plea for a DUI Charge in California?
Yes, you can withdraw a guilty plea or plea of no contest in a DUI case in some cases. California Penal Code §1018 gives a judge the authority to grant a motion to withdraw a plea for “good cause.” The code applies in misdemeanor DUI cases and felony DUI cases.
The motion to withdraw a guilty plea must be filed with the court before the person is sentenced or within six months of a probation sentence. If the judge finds that good cause exists to withdraw the plea, he grants the motion. After that, the defendant may enter a plea of not guilty to the charges of driving under the influence.
What is Good Cause for Withdrawing a Guilty Plea for DUI?
Regretting the fact that you plead guilty to drunk driving is not sufficient cause for a judge to allow you to withdraw your guilty plea. You need to show that your guilty plea was the result of:
- A mistake
- Inattention or oversight
Also, the judge may consider other factors that demonstrate overreaching as reasonable cause to withdraw a guilty plea. Examples of reasons why a judge might allow a defendant to withdraw a DUI guilty plea include:
Not Represented by an Attorney
In addition to claiming you plead guilty while representing yourself, you must show that you were not informed you had the right to have legal counsel. The judge must have failed to explain your right to an attorney in his instructions for you to win on this cause.
Your Attorney Was Incompetent
Ineffective legal counsel can be a ground for withdrawing a guilty plea. For example, suppose your attorney did not investigate your case, file appropriate motions, or otherwise provide a vigorous and effective defense. In that case, the judge may allow you to withdraw your guilty plea.
Proving your attorney was not a competent lawyer can be difficult. The legal representation must have fallen short of the accepted standard. Suppose you can prove that your attorney did not provide reasonable representation, which led you to accept an unfavorable plea deal. In that case, you might win your motion to withdraw a guilty plea.
Coerced Guilty Pleas
When you plead guilty to DUI, your plea must be voluntary and given without threat or coercion. The threat or coercion to plead guilty can come from any source, including police officers, co-defendants, prosecutors, and others.
You Did Not Understand the Consequences of Your Actions
If you can prove to the judge that you did not understand a significant consequence of pleading guilty, the judge might allow you to withdraw your guilty plea. For example, you were not aware that the state would revoke your professional license for a DUI conviction, or you did not know that you faced a mandatory prison sentence if you plead guilty.
Seek Legal Counsel Before Pleading Guilty to DUI Charges
Before pleading guilty to DUI charges, talk to a California DUI attorney. There could be one or more DUI defenses that might help you beat the drunk driving charges. If not, a skilled DUI defense lawyer works to obtain the best terms for a DUI plea agreement.
Potential DUI defenses include, but are not limited to:
Lack of Probable Cause
Police officers must have probable cause to make a traffic stop. For example, they witnessed a traffic infraction, such as speeding or running a red light. The police officer might claim that your driving was erratic, which indicated you might be intoxicated.
An exception would be a DUI checkpoint. California law permits law enforcement agencies to conduct DUI checkpoints as part of their DUI enforcement efforts. However, strict rules govern how DUI checkpoints are set up and operated. Failing to follow those rules could result in an illegal stop.
If a police officer did not have probable cause for the traffic stop or DUI arrest, your attorney files a motion to suppress evidence. The evidence collected from an illegal stop or arrest can be inadmissible.
You Were Not Under the Influence
California Vehicle Code §23152 states that it is unlawful to:
- Operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol
- Drive a vehicle with a BAC of .08 percent or higher
- Operate a vehicle under the influence of any drug
If your BAC was not above the legal limit or you did not take a chemical test, the state must prove you were “under the influence” of alcohol or drugs. That means the prosecutor must prove your ability to drive was impaired. Your attorney attacks the statements by police officers to raise a reasonable doubt of your impairment.
Breathalyzer Results Are Inaccurate
A breathalyzer may give a false high for several reasons. Medical conditions could result in a false BAC level, including acid reflux, diabetes, GERD, and hiatal hernia. If the machine is not calibrated correctly or maintained correctly, the results could be inaccurate.
Your attorney carefully analyzes the process used to take your breath test. Inconsistencies or deviations from procedure could result in the results being thrown out or a jury doubting their validity.
Problems With Chemical Tests
Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations sets the rules for collecting, storing, and analyzing urine and blood samples for DUI chemical tests. Violations of these rules could result in the chemical test results being thrown out.
Mistakes and errors made by the police or the lab could result in inaccurate results, such as contaminating the sample or using fermented blood for a test. Medical conditions and rising blood levels could also result in higher BAC levels that do not reflect the person’s actual impairment at the time of the DUI arrest.
Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests can be flawed for many reasons. First, the person may have a medical condition that prevents them from performing the tasks. Second, the police officers might provide incorrect or confusing instructions. Third, environmental conditions might affect the person’s performance, such as uneven surfaces or bright headlights.
You Are a Bad Driver
Other factors could lead to a DUI stop because of erratic driving. For example, drowsiness or distracted driving could appear similar to drunk driving. The driver panics when the police officer pulls them over. Therefore, they are nervous, which causes them to fumble and stutter. The officer may believe the person is drunk when they have had nothing to drink.
There are many more DUI defenses your attorney may investigate, depending on the facts of your case. The first step in fighting drunk driving charges is to talk with an experienced California DUI lawyer.