If you or a loved one has been arrested for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (known in Oregon as DUII or DUI), there are probably hundreds of questions running through your mind right now. While you can find information to help with some of your questions here or on other websites, there truly is no substitute for talking with an attorney who specializes in Oregon’s DUI laws. Each situation is different, and sometimes small nuances can dramatically change the outcome of your case – for better or for worse – so please call us to talk this through.
At the Reynolds Defense Firm, we believe that legal specialization is the right way to provide the best legal representation for our clients. We focus all our time and energy on a relatively small area of the law – DUI defense – because, in my opinion, this is what it takes to be truly great at what we do. With many law firms doing a ‘little bit of everything,’ we are definitely in the minority, but to me there’s probably a reason you don’t see brain surgeons also performing heart transplants... We don’t handle divorce cases or personal injury cases, we only help good people facing DUI charges.
Generally speaking, there are three parts to a DUI investigation – the initial contact between the officer and driver, any field sobriety tests administered by the officer and taken by the driver, and the breath, blood or urine test the driver takes.Initial Contact Between the Officer and Driver
From the point a police officer’s attention is drawn to a particular vehicle, the officer is trained to begin processing and evaluating information. The officer, especially one specially trained in DUI investigations, first looks at the way the car is being driven, together with the context of location and time of day, and makes the decision whether to use their overhead lights to make a “traffic stop” on that vehicle. After the “traffic stop,” the officer walks to the driver’s window and, while starting a conversation with the driver, the officer will make his or her initial observations of the driver’s speech and other physical indicators. Usually the officer’s decision to arrest the driver will occur within a few minutes after that initial conversation, even before the driver is asked to perform field sobriety tests.Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s)
Field Sobriety Tests are the roadside tests such as the “one-leg stand test” and the “walk and turn test” that an officer uses to evaluate a person’s sobriety and to gather evidence against that person. These tests are designed to highlight your coordination, balance, and ability to follow quickly given instructions in a stressful environment. As much as, from a citizen’s perspective, we’d all like to think these tests are a fair and accurate way to determine a person’s sobriety, I’ve seen many people with very low breath tests fail the field sobriety tests due more to nerves and fear than to alcohol.The Breath Test
Everyone has heard about the breath test as part of a DUI investigation. In Oregon, the breath test is generally administered in a police station or jail facility because there isn’t an Oregon-approved breath test machine that can be driven around in police cars. This means that, in the sequence of events, you have already been arrested for DUI, handcuffed, put in the back of the patrol car and driven to the precinct or jail before you have the chance to blow into the machine.But What if I Passed the Breath Test?
It is illegal in Oregon to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater, but you can still be arrested and convicted of a DUI with a BAC below .08 – we regularly represent folks who’ve blown a .07, .06, even a .05 BAC. The standard used by the police in making an arrest, and the prosecutor in court, is whether “a person’s mental or physical faculties are negatively impacted to a noticeable degree by alcohol or another intoxicant.” In other words, you can be arrested if the officer believes you are not as sharp, mentally or physically, as you would have been if you had not drank or used another intoxicant (like a prescription or street drug).Drug Recognition Exams
While the majority of DUI’s in Oregon are alcohol-based, there is an increasing number of arrests that are based on a person being under the influence of a drug, such as prescription medications or marijuana. Unlike the .08 blood alcohol content standard for alcohol DUI’s, there is not a line in the sand to determine if you are under the influence of drugs or not. Instead the police have specially trained officers to administer what they refer to as the Drug Recognition Examination protocol, or DRE to evaluate a person’s sobriety if drug use is suspected.I’ve been arrested for a DUI – what happens next?
When you are arrested, there are two separate processes moving forward simultaneously. The first is called the Implied Consent process – what most people refer to as the DMV hearing process. The second process moving forward is the criminal case itself.The Implied Consent Process:
You have a 10-day window to request a DMV hearing
You have a 10-day window from the date of your arrest to request a hearing to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license, and we generally recommend that you do so. As you decide which attorney is right for you, please keep this 10-day window in mind, because once it has passed, the opportunity is gone. As a general rule, there isn’t a downside requesting a hearing, and there can be a very real upside, both in terms of your driver’s license and in learning more about both the facts of your case and the legal sophistication of the officers involved, but please talk with an attorney to be sure the DMV hearing is the right move in your particular case.
Arraignment - the first court appearance
The first court appearance following your arrest is called an arraignment. This is how you are officially checked into the court system. Depending on where you were arrested (every court in Oregon has its own unique procedures), the arraignment may be the very next day or could be thirty or more days later. If possible, we recommend that you retain an attorney before your arraignment. If we represent you, it is our job to be sure that all goes smoothly during the arraignment process and in some cases, we may be able to waive your need to be present at your arraignment hearing.
Because our Reynolds Defense Firm attorneys are in court everyday representing our clients for DUI’s, we are very familiar with all of the varied procedures that courts use throughout the state of Oregon. For example, our attorneys are very familiar with both Washington County Court and Beaverton Municipal Court and understand that DUI cases in these courthouses sometimes take longer and require extra court appearances unlike the other Metro area courthouse. Since they know that this is standard procedure, they can help our client understand what to expect and not to be worried about this. Having an attorney who is experienced in Beaverton and Washington County goes a long way towards reducing stress and can improve outcomes for our clients.
If you were arrested in the Beaverton City limits, even though it is located in Washington County, DUI and other traffic crimes are tried at Beaverton Municipal Court, not Washington County Circuit Court.
Multnomah County has multiple courthouses depending on where your arrest occurred and which police agency arrested you for a DUI. It’s important for your case that your attorney knows the nuances of working within the Multnomah County jurisdiction so there aren’t any surprises with your case and stresses added to an already complicated process.
If you are unable to retain an attorney before your arraignment, be sure to let the judge know you want to hire an attorney and respectfully ask for additional time to do this – most courts will grant an extension or adjust the next court date to give you a chance to have your attorney there for you.The Three Ways Most DUI Cases Resolve
In Oregon, there is a court program called the DUI Diversion program. This program is generally available to you if you have not had a DUI in the prior fifteen years, but there are exceptions to this eligibility. The advantage to the DUI Diversion program is that it offers you the ability to avoid a DUI conviction. The disadvantage to the DUI Diversion program is that you give up the ability to challenge the DUI charge, and if all the requirements of the year-long Diversion program are not met, you are automatically convicted of the DUI charge.
Multnomah County which includes Portland and Gresham has a “problem solving court” which is a non-traditional court that handles some crimes such as DUI, certain drug cases and petty crime. The goal of these courts is to assist those who have been arrested in changing their habits rather than becoming repeat offenders.
Statistically, a large majority of DUI cases resolve through some form of negotiations between your defense attorney and the prosecutor. Unlike some other states, by law in Oregon the prosecutor cannot dismiss a DUI charge or to reduce a DUI charge to a lower offense, so aspects of negotiation include the length of any jail sentence, alternatives to jail, fines, length of probation, and the resolution of non-DUI charges.
Because a DUI is a crime, you have the right to a jury trial to have a jury decide whether you are guilty or not guilty of the DUI charge. A trial isn’t something to undertake lightly, but it is extremely effective in the right situations. Knowing when to take a case to trial and when to resolve the case through negotiations is an art and a science, and the best attorneys have years of DUI trial work and criminal law experience to rely on as they help their clients make their decision on how to best resolve their specific case.
Sentencing by a Judge:
If you are convicted of a DUI, you will stand before a judge who will ultimately decide what sentence will be imposed. The actual sentence will depend on many variables. The big variables include things such as exactly what charges you face, the facts of your specific case, and any prior arrests or convictions you may have had. The more subtle variables are things such as which courthouse you are in, how full the jail is in that county, what alternatives to jail are available in that county, the particular judge you are appearing in front of, and the extent you have taken steps ensure that nothing like this will happen again. These subtle variables are what the best attorneys use to their clients’ advantage to obtain the most successful outcomes.
If you have been arrested for a DUI, we can help you. Without question you need an attorney that specializes in DUI law, and the Reynolds Defense Firm is exactly that type of firm in the Greater Portland metropolitan area of Multnomah, Clackamas, or Washington Counties, as well as elsewhere in Oregon. Please call the Reynolds Defense Firm at (503) 223-3422, or use the online inquiry form right here on this website. Your initial consultation is absolutely free and there is no obligation to work with us. Whether we ultimately work together or not, our goal is to leave every person we speak with better off than when we started our conversation, and we look forward to speaking with you.