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Drunk driving - How long does the prosecutor have to charge me?

A recent question on our forum ask if the state could charge a driver for drunk driving eight months after the drunk driving accident occurred. The statute of limitations, which is determined by each state’s legislature, is the amount of time the state or prosecutor has to initiate a criminal case against the driver. If the state does not file the charges within the prescribed statute of limitations, the state is usually not allowed to do so in the future. Statutes of limitations for misdemeanors and felonies can vary by state. Many states allow the state to file misdemeanor charges up to a year after the offense. Talk to a drunk driving lawyer for more information about your state. The question that should be asked, however, is not whether drunk driving charges can be filed, but whether or not the state gathered enough evidence at the time of the drunk driving accident to prove their drunk driving case.

What does the state have to prove for a drunk driving arrest?

  To convict a driver a drunk driving the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver either was operating or intending to operate a motorized vehicle (which was operable) while they were either under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit producing drug) or that their blood alcohol concentration was 0.08% or higher. Obviously chemical testing is the most damning evidence. It generally provides objective, scientific evidence against the driver. If the state has gathered blood alcohol concentration information against the driver the drunk driving defense attorney may discredit the evidence if they can prove:
  • The breathalyzer equipment was not inspected according to established procedures or it was not in proper working order and may have registered an inaccurate blood alcohol concentration level.
  • The police officer did not properly perform the test which may have registered an inaccurate blood alcohol concentration reading.
  • The police officer did not follow accepted procedures or failed to give the driver accurate information prior to administering the test.

What if the driver did not take a blood alcohol content test?

  Obviously, the drunk driving case becomes much more difficult for the state to prove if the driver did not take a blood alcohol concentration test, but not impossible. Drunk driving evidence can also include witness testimony, physical evidence such as a field sobriety test, slurred speech, stumbling, blood shot eyes and other physical impairments.

What do I do if I have not been charged after my drunk driving arrest?

  Some drivers are stopped for drunk driving and then have to wait weeks to find out from the district attorney whether or not they have been charged for drunk driving. Keep in mind, the D.A. has months to file  their drunk driving charges and if you took a urine or blood test the D.A. may simply be waiting for the results of the blood alcohol content test to be returned to them, which could take three months or longer, before they file charges again you. The best thing to do if you have been arrested for drunk driving is to contact a drunk driving lawyer. There are immediate steps that must be taken to stop an administrative license suspension, regardless of whether or not the state decides to charge you with a crime. A drunk driving lawyer may provide a free consultation to review your DUI case and determine the next steps. If you are arrested for drunk driving, even a first time DUI arrest, you could be facing high fines, jail time, probation and a suspended driver’s license. State laws vary, review our state DUI pages for more information about the specific penalties you might face if convicted of a DUI in your state.
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