Will It Hurt My DUI Case If I Cannot Remember All Of The Details Of My Arrest?
In the San Francisco Bay Area, when someone is arrested for a DUI, and they hire me as their DUI attorney, we go over everything from the beginning. I have them share as much information as possible about what happened. The reason for that is because I was not there. They were there, and I need to use their recollection to help me fight the case. Now, a lot of this stuff is recorded, a lot is not, and sometimes none of it is recorded. It depends on the type of police agency. Some agencies have cameras on their cars, bodies, and dashes, which are called MVARS. Rarely, do they have both, and sometimes they don’t have any. Some people remember more than others. We try and talk about what they remember early on in the proceedings because memory fades over time, and what people remember depends from person to person.
It can depend on how they handle their alcohol. If they had way too much or were over the limit, they often don’t remember. Some people have a much higher tolerance and will remember a lot more detail. I’ve had clients who are at or above a 0.20% blood alcohol content, which is 2 ½ times the legal limit and remember almost every detail of what happened. I’m then able to verify their account when l see a video or read a police report, and it’ll be just as they said. When the client gives me their information, I take a lot of notes, which helps me ask a lot more questions. And so, when I get to see the report or the video, I can compare what they told me to what is on the video or report. I can then see where the cops are not telling the truth about what happened.
Typically, most officers try to get it as correct as possible. As we know, there are those situations where officers don’t put down the correct information. That’s not because they are bad cops. That can be because they are human beings, and they just don’t get it all right. They are trying to remember things that happened earlier when they do the report later. Sometimes there are honest mistakes, sometimes there are not. For example, if a cop pulls you over for going over the line, and I get the video and see that you did not go over the line, regardless of whether or not you remember going over the line, if the police report said that you went over the line and that’s why you got pulled over, we are going to run a suppression motion under Penal Code Section 1538.5. That officer is going to have to come into court and testify. And we are going to have a judge make a determination as to whether or not you did enough for him or her to pull you over.
If the judge sees that you did not go over the line, the hope is that the judge tells that officer that he or she should not have pulled you over and do a DUI investigation. As a result, we would win the case, which is pretty awesome. That has happened a number of times over the years in my cases, and that is why doing the whole discovery process is crucial. I get clients all the time that barely remember anything. It doesn’t necessarily hurt their case. What it usually means is that they were pretty impaired, or just had way too much and shouldn’t have been behind the wheel.
On the other hand, you could get pulled over just because your taillight is out, your license plate light is out, or your headlights aren’t on. It could be that someone cut you off and you swerved. It could be speeding, or it could be a million different reasons why they pulled you over. Once you get pulled over, once they light you up and those flashing lights are behind you, maybe that will alert you and you will snap to it or remember more things. But it’s also triggering trauma, which can make us forget things.
When you’re driving and an officer pulls you over, you are hearing them tell you to pull over and where to pull over. You then wait while they run your plate as you sit in your car. When they come up to you and shine their light right into your eyes while telling you to get out, it’s pretty terrifying. All the while they are asking you questions and wanting you to multi-task. They want you to talk to them while you grab your proper identification, registration, and insurance. They have you count while doing things with your body. These standardized field sobriety tests are very difficult to do, and if you’ve never had to do these before, you don’t know what the rules are, you don’t know what a pass or fail is, you don’t know exactly what they are looking for. How often have you been to a test where you didn’t know what the rules were? You weren’t given the subject of the test, so you didn’t know how many questions there would be, how hard they would be, and what was expected of you. It’s a blind test that they are giving. These tests are designed to make people fail and to give officers more reason to further investigate for DUI.
While all this is going on, you are on the side of the road. There are cars going by. There are people in your car. And perhaps, friends in another car who have also pulled over to see if everything is okay. There may be a bunch of other officers coming over with their lights. And so, the big spotlight is on you. You can’t see very well, and it is very stressful. You are doing this balancing stuff, blowing into a machine, and getting cuffed and put in the back of a car. You are uncomfortable. Your arms are hurting, your back is hurting, your legs are hurting. And then, you get to jail. At jail, they stick a needle in your arm and spend hours there, where you do not get any sleep. Eventually, you are let out early morning or mid-morning.
Once you get home, I always advise people to sleep and hydrate like crazy. After you’ve slept, contact me so that we can talk about everything that you remember. Sometimes, people call me who haven’t slept or hydrated. They are exhausted, and trying to have a conversation is very difficult. That’s when I tell them that we can talk later when they’ve rested, and their head is clearer. Some people remember some stuff, some people remember a lot more stuff, but it is human nature not to remember every detail because of that stress.
Going through the arrest process has led to months, if not years, of damage to people emotionally, physically, and mentally. It’s such a traumatic experience. Most people have never been arrested in their life. Once it happens to you, that’s when you see how hard it is to remember everything that happened. I’ve testified a number of times over the years in court as an expert witness on DUI or other things as a witness, and one of the interesting things about it is that it is hard to remember the questions and answers. The stress you’re under hinders your memory.
It’s part of being human. Therefore, I would not be upset or worried if you can’t remember every detail about your DUI when you are trying to relay it to me. Do the best you can. Get your rest, and I will see a lot of what you can’t remember in a report, a video, through audio, or another different way. We’ll do everything we can to get the best results with what we have. The worst thing that you can do in a DUI case is to beat yourself up and continue to be stressed for long periods of time. Once it’s happened, it’s happened. That’s when you need to hire the best lawyer that you can find and afford. If you hire me as your lawyer, we will help you in this situation, and get you the absolute best possible result in your DUI case.
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