A good law gone bad
A law against DUII--driving under the influence of intoxicants--is one that most of us will agree is important to keep our roads safe. It makes sense, right? Drunk drivers are a danger to themselves and others--that's the sort of conduct our laws should discourage. But for a law prohibiting driving under the influence to be fair and effective, the way it is enforced must be fair and effective. Unfortunately for Oregonians, the way Oregon's DUII laws are enforced doesn't always line up with this supposed goal of keeping drunk drivers off the road.
First, we should look at the reason many individuals end up being charged with DUII in the first place--a traffic violation. Did you forget to signal 100 feet before your turn? Taillight out? Rolling stop at a stop sign? Most of these minor violations are the sorts of things nearly all drivers do from time to time. The reality of driving is such that we can't do everything 100% correct, 100% of the time. During the day, most police understand this fact and give a little lenience. However, make one of these mistakes later in the evening and your chances of encountering an understanding officer go way down. Why is this? Because police on patrol at night are looking for any reason to pull you over. Not because they love writing traffic tickets but because their chances of catching a person on the way home from the neighborhood bar go way up after 6PM. Fair? Not really. Legal? Unfortunately. Oregon's Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States have said it's fine for police to essentially "go fishing" for DUIIs by pulling people over for minor traffic violations.
At Northwest Immigration & Criminal Defense, we think this is a pretty poor enforcement strategy. With law enforcement complaining about under-staffing, why are they wasting resources on these pretextual stops? If they're really concerned with criminals roaming our neighborhoods and cities, why is it so very important to go hunting for burnt out taillights every evening? Why can we roll through a stop sign at 8:30AM, right in front of a patrol car but, when we do it at 8:30PM, we're pulled over immediately? The answer, unfortunately, to these questions is simple: Most Oregon police are not as worried about fighting crime as they are about catching someone, getting a conviction, and getting a fee.
Next, let's examine the "field sobriety tests." All of us have heard about police making drivers stand on one leg, recite the alphabet backwards (thankfully, not part of the tests in Oregon), and walk a straight line. Although Oregonians are NOT obligated to take these tests, many of us believe they will give us a chance to prove we are not DUII. But there's a problem with this sort of thinking--hardly anybody passes the tests. In school, if the teacher gives a tests and the whole class fails, that's not a bad class, it's a bad test. Oregon police are giving us a bad test. Officers look for "clues" while you are performing the field sobriety tests. These "clues" are extremely subjective. What's the difference between finding 4 out of 6 clues on the walk and turn or finding 5 out of 6 clues? What the officer had for dinner? How nice of a car you're driving? Many police can't articulate a consistent answer. At Northwest Immigration & Criminal Defense, we make the police justify their "tests" and show the jury that field sobriety tests set us up for failure.
Finally, we should address the "breathalyzer." Yet another test that Oregon police would have you believe "proves" someone is DUII. This is based on one assumption: it's a computer and computers don't make mistakes. Anyone who has ever used a computer knows this is not sound logic. Computers make mistakes all the time. Especially when they're maintained and operated by the government. That's why websites crash, data is released, and information sometimes just disappears. However, Oregon police want us to believe their special breath test computer never makes mistakes. It's our job as attorneys to make the case to the jury that, in fact, government computers--even ones that the police use to test breath samples--are still just fallible machines.
Why hire an attorney to defend you against a DUII charge?
A well-crafted DUII defense is based on a thorough understanding of the facts and the law. If you want to have the best shot at beating a DUII charge or getting the most favorable resolution in your case, you need attorneys who can devote time to you. This means taking the time to do a thorough consultation, learn your objectives, gather the necessary information, do an investigation, and plan a strategy. Not all law firms can provide that level of personalized attention. At Northwest Immigration & Criminal Defense, we can. We provide individual-focused DUII defense in English, Spanish, and Russian.
Where are we located?
Our office is conveniently located here for residents of Portland and Gresham. We also periodically travel to Woodburn, Hood River, Beaverton, and Hillsboro for community outreach. If you are unable to make it to our office, please contact us to set up a time when we can come to you.
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