In December of 2015, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Braden Bunch was arrested on charges of driving under the influence. At the time of the arrest, arresting officers said that they smelled alcohol, and that Bunch admitted that he had been drinking that night. The public information officer, who was originally arrested because he performed an illegal lane change maneuver, according to a December 2015 story in wistv.com, resigned shortly after his arrest, and awaited formal charges and sentencing.
According to news reports, Bunch showed signs of intoxication, and did not perform well on a field sobriety test. However, upon having his blood alcohol content (BAC) level tested while incarcerated, he blew a .06 percent, a level below the legal level of .08 percent (as a note, the level is lower for those who are under age 21).
A Live5News story released on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 reads that DUI charges against Bunch have been dropped.
DUI Charges Dropped
While the article does not explain precisely why charges against Bunch were dropped – or why it took more than six months to do so – it is likely that the prosecution could not pursue a criminal conviction based on the fact that Bunch’s BAC was below the legal limit. However, Bunch did not walk away without any charges – the judge over the case convicted him of driving on the wrong side of the road, a crime that required Bunch to pay a fee of $155. Compared to a DUI charge, however, Bunch faced relatively minor consequences.
Breathalyzer Tests and DUI Convictions
As stated above, the saving grace for Bunch was likely his breathalyzer test result, showing that he was not operating his vehicle in violation of the law. However, had Bunch been intoxicated above the legal limit (and blown a .08 percent or higher), a conviction may not have been inevitable. In fact, Bunch (or anyone else who is stopped and asked to take a breathalyzer test) did not have to submit to testing. While refusing to submit to testing will result in a license suspension, doing so may be advantageous in regards to avoid a DUI conviction.
It is important to note that blood and breath testing (particularly the latter) is not always accurate. If a breathalyzer test is defective, the results of it may be thrown out.
Field sobriety tests are also a poor piece of evidence on which to base a conviction; field sobriety tests have a high rate of error, and are often considered as inaccurate and weak substantiation of a DUI.
Getting DUI Charges Thrown Out
Not everyone is as lucky as Bunch in terms of having DUI charges against them dropped; many people who are charged with a DUI will face a conviction, which can result in a suspension of one’s driver’s license, a large fine, jail time, community service, mandatory rehabilitation or alcohol education courses, and a mark on your criminal record.
But with the right legal strategy, you can improve the chances of your DUI charges being downgraded (to a smaller traffic offense) or dropped entirely. Some legal strategies that can result in dropped charges or less severe sentencing include:
- Presenting lack of probable cause. Remember, an officer cannot request that you pull your vehicle over or arrest you just because they feel like; they must have probable cause to do so. If the arresting officer did not have probable cause – or reason to believe that you were more likely than not committing a crime – then charges against you may be dropped.
- Gathering witness testimony. If there were witnesses to your arrest or who can testify to your activity prior to your arrest, their statements may prove to be critical to your case. Witnesses may be able to provide evidence that you were not intoxicated prior to your arrest to the point where you could not drive because they only saw you have one drink, or provide evidence that the police violated your rights by pulling you over without cause or illegally searching your vehicle.
- Offering a valid reason for your behavior. There may have been a very valid reason for why you were speeding, driving erratically, or performing another illegal maneuver that had nothing to do with your BAC. For example, perhaps you were on a legal medication that had side effects you were not expected, your vehicle was malfunctioning, or there was an emergency situation within your vehicle.
In addition to the above, remember that DUI charges may be thrown out because of insufficient proof of intoxication based on faulty field sobriety or BAC tests.
How an Attorney Can Help to Protect Your Rights After Being Charged with a DUI
While we would all like to believe that the criminal justice system is perfect, the truth is that too often, the rights of those who are charged with crimes are significantly violated. Not only may your rights be violated during the initial arrest – i.e. Miranda Warnings are not read, you are arrested without probable cause, etc. – but your rights may be in jeopardy throughout the criminal proceedings as well. For example, imagine a situation where you are denied adequate and competent legal representation, and instead assigned an attorney who does not have your best interests in mind – this is a violation of your constitutional rights.
Working with an experienced Greenville DUI attorney following an arrest is one of the best things that you can do to reduce your chances of harsh legal consequences. The right attorney will explore all defense options, conduct a thorough investigation into your arrest and the charges against you, and build a case that focuses on protecting your interests.
Contact The Bateman Law Firm Today
Do not wait to contact The Bateman Law Firm if you are facing DUI charges. While we cannot promise that charges against you will be dropped and that you will walk away without legal ramifications, we can promise to work hard on your behalf and to advocate for you every step of the way.
To schedule a confidential case consultation, contact us today by phone or by filling out our online contact form.