If you got pulled over for driving under the influence (DUI) and admitted to drinking while on the side of the road, you might be thinking that it’s time to plead guilty. After all, you confessed to the crime, so it must be time to accept the consequences and try to move on.
Wrong. Even if you told your arresting officer that you had been drinking, you may still have several options for fighting your DUI charge in Wisconsin. Here, Middleton DUI defense lawyer Stephen E. Mays discusses five ways that you may be able to avoid a DUI conviction:
5 Ways to Avoid a DUI Conviction Even If You Admitted to Drinking
1. Showing that Your Admission Doesn’t Constitute a DUI Confession
Just because you admitted to drinking, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you were drunk behind the wheel. For example, let’s say the arresting officer asked you if you had been drinking, and you simply responded “Yes.” The officer then asked you to step out of the car, and the officer proceeded to administer the breathalyzer and administer the field sobriety tests (FSTs) without asking you any additional questions.
In this scenario, what did you actually admit? All you admitted to was that you had been drinking at some point in the past. This leaves open key questions such as:
- How many drinks did you have?
- What types of drinks did you have?
- How long ago did you have your last drink?
To secure a conviction, prosecutors must be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. With these types of key questions left unanswered, your “confession” does relatively little to help build the prosecution’s case against you.
Now, what if you said something else? For example, what if the officer asked if you knew why he pulled you over, and you responded, “Probably because I was driving drunk.” Even in this scenario, your words aren’t necessarily proof that you are guilty of DUI.
Why? One reason is that you might be wrong. Even if you think you are intoxicated, you might not be—at least not for purposes of Wisconsin’s DUI statute. Proving intoxication requires clear evidence and expert analysis—and most private citizens (and even most police officers) don’t have the expertise needed to accurately evaluate a person’s level of alcohol impairment.
2. Showing that the Prosecution Doesn’t Have Enough Other Evidence to Convict You
Given that any admissions you may have made on the side of the road are inherently unreliable, prosecutors will need more than just your own words to convict you—or at least they should if you have an experienced DUI defense lawyer on your side. With this in mind, another way to avoid a conviction after you admit to drinking is to show that prosecutors don’t have enough other evidence of guilt.
To secure a conviction, prosecutors must be able to prove that either: (i) you were “incapable of safely driving” due to your alcohol consumption; or, (ii) you had a “prohibited alcohol concentration” (i.e., your BAC was 0.08 or above if you are over 21). Proving that you were “incapable of safely driving” requires more than just evidence that you were drinking, and proving that your BAC was over the legal limit requires a valid breath, blood, or urine test. If prosecutors don’t have the evidence they need, then you are entitled to a “not guilty” verdict regardless of whether you were drunk behind the wheel.
3. Asserting Your Constitutional Rights to Keep Your Admission Out of Court
Another way an experienced DUI defense lawyer may be able to help you avoid a conviction is by keeping your admission (and potentially the prosecution’s other evidence) out of court. This may be an option if:
- The police stopped you in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights;
- The police arrested you in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights; or,
- The police interrogated you in violation of your Fifth Amendment rights.
Prosecutors cannot use evidence that the police obtain in violation of your constitutional rights. So, if the police or prosecutors violated your rights—and if your lawyer can prove it—this can also serve to protect you even if you were driving under the influence at the time of your arrest.
4. Entering Into a Diversion Program
Even if your statements are admissible in court, and even if prosecutors have enough other evidence to convict you, you may still be able to avoid a conviction by entering into a diversion program. Your lawyer can determine if you are eligible for one of these programs. If you are, your DUI case will be “diverted” from trial while you go through the program; and, if you complete the program successfully, your case will be closed without a conviction.
5. Negotiating a Plea Bargain that Reduces Your Charge
Finally, even if you can’t challenge the prosecution’s evidence and you aren’t eligible for pretrial diversion, you may still be able to avoid the severe consequences of a DUI conviction by negotiating a plea bargain. For example, in many cases, it will be possible to negotiate a plea to a “wet reckless”—essentially a reckless driving charge that involves alcohol consumption.
The penalties for reckless driving in Wisconsin are far less severe than the penalties for driving under the influence. The long-term consequences of pleading guilty to reckless driving are far less severe than getting convicted of DUI as well. With all of that said, you never want to plead guilty if you don’t have to, so you should talk to an experienced DUI defense lawyer before you make any decisions about how to approach your case.
Contact Us for a Free DUI Defense Consultation in Middleton, WI
If you are facing a DUI charge in Wisconsin and you admitted to drinking, we strongly encourage you to contact us for more information about how to handle your case. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced DUI defense lawyer in Middleton, call 608-257-0440 or get in touch with us online today.