Dropping DUI offenses if the officer does not appear at hearing

Written by James Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Criminal conviction has many differing requirements and criteria that must be met before a conviction can be applied to a case.  In the past decade, several national, state-wide, even local jurisdictions have been awash with advocacy groups against the seemingly ease that DUI arrests are dismissed or discharged. Each state has its own rules for defining what that state considers to be a crime, what needs to be proven to convict a person of a crime, and what punishment will likely be applied if a conviction does occur.  Also, each state defines what type of hearing, criminal or non-criminal hearing will be held for different DUI arrests and situations.

As a part of these hearings, the state will define what is necessary for the proceedings of these hearings, who must be present, and for what reasons.  Some states do require that an arresting police officer or state trooper be at the hearing.  That the arresting officer being absent from the hearing is an automatic reason to drop an arrest charge is an entirely different story.  These days there are an increasing number of tools that are available to the law enforcement officer and that the officers willing employ in the line of duty.  For a possible DUI, the officers have the breathalyzer, can have a videotaping, usually have some audio taping over their duty microphones, and sometimes an oft-chance eyewitnesses other than the officer.  Unless it is a requirement for conviction, that the arresting officer be present at the hearing or trial, if other means of evidence are available, the accused will have less than an easy time trying to have the accusations set aside.

As in any accusation, the State involved must prove that the arresting officer had sufficient reason to stop the vehicle in the first place.  Secondly, the State must prove that the arresting officer had sufficient reason to consider the driver as unsafe behind the wheel after stopping the vehicle and asking the driver to come out of the vehicle.  This become rather difficult without the arresting officer at the hearing or trial unless the other evidence gathered is in itself substantial and sufficient to not need the evidence and testimony of the arresting officer.  If there is video of the driver being unable to stand upright or walk in a straight line, if there is audio of the driver being unable to speak coherently or clearly answer the officer’s questions, if the breathalyzer has a reading that is beyond any reasonable doubt or challenge by contrary experts, if might be wise for the accused to consider his or her challenge.  Of course, the only way a person can be guaranteed to be found guilty of such an accusation is to plead guilty.

Most experts advise not pleading guilty as there is always a chance that something will turn out wrong for the State and its evidence during the proceedings.  With the climbing rates of occurrence of DUI arrests, most jurisdictions give the arresting officers work time allotments for the time spent at a hearing or trial, this to also increase the likelihood of a DUI conviction.

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