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  • By: Kevin Leckerman, Esq.
  • Published: May 27, 2011
A man is holding a gavel - Leckerman Law, LLC

One month after being charged with a DUI and reckless driving, the prosecutor in Derek Lowe’s case decided that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the charges.  According to Lowe’s attorney, the arresting officer made numerous errors in the police report and was also mistaken about smelling the odor of an alcoholic beverage.    Additionally, Lowe performed the field sobriety tests fairly well.  Finally, there was no breath testing done, since Lowe refused [Keep in mind that this is not necessarily a good course of action in Pennsylvania or New Jersey – see article “Should I Refuse or Should I Blow”.

There are a few things that can be learned from Derek Lowe’s case.  First, never jump to the conclusion that a person is guilty of a DUI simply because that person was charged with one.  Remember that police officers make mistakes like any other people.   Many times, officers do not receive adequate training for DUI detection.  Without proper training, the officer realistically has no better skills to make arrest decisions for DUIs than the average lay person.

For example, the Philadelphia Police Department does not train its officers in DUI detection and field sobriety testing.  The Department primarily relies upon breath testing in order to prove a DUI charge.  Well, we all saw what happened when mistakes were made with the breath testing.  Reportedly, over 1,000 cases were overturned.  Now, the District Attorney’s Office is left with prosecuting cases that are only based on untrained officers’ observations of so-called drunken behavior.  Phila. Breath-test Readings Off for 1,147 Cases

Second, the odor of an alcoholic beverage does not mean that a person is drunk or had even consumed alcohol.  There are medical conditions that can cause a person to emit an odor that may smell like an alcoholic beverage.  Diabetes is one of those conditions.  Chewing tobacco, mouth wash, and non-alcoholic beverages are examples of substances that can emit an odor similar to an alcoholic beverage.

Third, the performance of field sobriety tests should be seriously scrutinized.  Although an officer may have received training in field sobriety testing, that officer may not have provided proper instructions to the driver or scored the tests fairly.  Furthermore, the person who performed the tests could have been injured or have had permanent conditions that affected balance.  Even athletes can have problems with certain field sobriety tests when their ability to balance has been compromised by an injury.

Finally, a good lawyer can never hurt.  Lowe’s lawyer is a well-known DUI specialist in Georgia, who is also a fellow member of mine in the National College for DUI Defense.   With extensive training in field sobriety and breath testing, a DUI defense attorney would be able to determine if the reliability of field sobriety and breath tests were compromised during an investigation.

For more information, contact Leckerman Law.

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