The Legal Insider

December, 2009

Top 5 Best and Worst Defenses to DUI

Speaking Bluntly About Holiday DUI/DWIDriving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is obviously dangerous, illegal, and potentially fatal. Below are 5 of the most god-awful defenses to a DUI that have been used as well as 5 defenses that may actually help you.

The Bad Defenses

  1. Religion: It may have been Jesus's blood that got you so drunk, but religious beliefs and freedoms are no excuse for DUI or DWI. This applies to drinking and that Rastafarian incense that's still burning in your glove box.
  2. The Unicorn Defense: The Unicorn Defense originated in Montana when a driver suspected of a DUI refused to tell officers who was driving. The unicorn defense is lawyer-speak for when a defendant blames a mythical person or creature for a crime they are indicted.
  3. Denial: It may have worked for "Mr. Boobastic" but denying everything isn't an acceptable defense. At least pointing to the person in the passenger seat and saying, "Uh, she did it," is better than nothing.
  4. Tolerance: Yes, I'm talking to you Bro. I know you've had a legendary time slamming Jager-bombs and you're "not even feeling it." But DUI's are issued on blood alcohol content (see our Law Library Article DUI Basics) and not how you feel... even if you were twice as drunk the last time you rode your dirt bike to the tattoo parlor.
  5. A Pack of Gum and a Mouth Full of Pennies: You'll need to produce more than a few pennies to pay for your legal fees after trying this one. Many states also offer enhancements if you attempt to tamper with the investigation, resist arrest, or obstruct an officer who is on the job.

The Good Defenses

  1. Insufficient Evidence: Much of an officer's decision to arrest someone is made upon observations that will be used as evidence. If a field sobriety test was not administered, it may be possible to argue that the officer's "personal opinions" were unreasonable in assuming that you were drunk.
  2. Rising BAC Defense: Since alcohol takes time to work its way into your system, the rising BAC defense (see LegalMatch Law Library Article Pros and Cons of the DUI Tests) argues that you may not have been legally drunk while driving since the alcohol had not taken effect. The greater length of time between the stop and DUI test add validity to this defense. This definitely doesn't mean take shots and then jump in the car before they hit you.
  3. Illegal Traffic Stop: If a policeman doesn't have probable cause to pull you over, then the stop is illegal and the DUI may be dismissed. This does not include DUI checkpoints or random vehicle stops for other traffic violations that lead to a DUI. Improper Miranda Rights may also invalidate a DUI test.
  4. Not Actually Driving: Most states have enacted some kind of law that allows officers to arrest for a DUI even if you are stopped on the side of the road or just arriving home. Check your local state laws on DUI to see if the prosecution has to prove that you were driving at the time of the DUI arrest.
  5. Improper Testing: If DUI or DWI tests are improperly performed or used it can negate the results. These include breathalyzers, blood tests, and urine tests.
If you have a specific question about DUIs or want to read others' questions and answers to get an idea of the issues, visit our Criminal Law Forum.

Puppy Lemon Laws: A Guide to Making Lemonade

Puppy Lemon LawsThe simple fact is that dogs are expensive. Sure, it's great if you're willing to buy a rescued dog from the animal shelter, but many families only want new dogs (i.e. puppies) directly from a breeder.

After you've spent somewhere between hundreds and thousands of dollars, what guarantees do you have that the dog isn't a lemon? It may be surprising to find out but there are a number of states that have enacted puppy lemon laws. The laws hold breeders and stores financially responsible for dealing sick pets to customers.

Before you buy a puppy from a breeder, the seller must disclose the animal's health and immunization records, age, and history, such as where the animal was bred. Some of the states that have puppy lemon laws include:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Virginia

Puppy Lemon LawsIf you have purchased a lemon puppy, the provisions work very similar to those vehicle lemon laws; if you've purchased a defective car you just take it back to where you bought it. Puppy lemon laws entitle you to a refund, a new healthy puppy, and reimbursement for any veterinary costs associated with the lemon puppy. You usually have 1-2 weeks to return your animal unless the issue is congenital, in which case you have a year in most places. Puppy lemon laws sometimes apply to other animals like kittens, too.

House Fires: A Hot Holiday Trend

House Fires: A Hot Holiday TrendEvery Holiday Season there are 3 standard sad news stories: burglary, fraud, and house fires. Most houses will go up because of heating or electrical problems, some will be lost to Christmas tree lights, and a select few will perish because Thanksgiving turkeys just shouldn't be fried indoors. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that over 156,000 fires erupt each Holiday Season claiming 530 lives and inflicting roughly $554 million in property damage. If you haven't lost your home to bankruptcy, be weary of fire this season.

The tips below won't necessarily prevent a fire, but they will help you lest you decide to decorate your Christmas tree with candles or if your kids find the fireworks stash while you're at work.

  • Update Your Insurance Policy: It's always important to keep your home insurance policy up to date in case something were to happen. The holidays are a great time to review your policy and revise the list of insured property in your home. You don't want to be reimbursed for the loss of your 1970s television if you've just gotten a plasma or LCD television.
  • Fire Alarms and Smoke Detectors: The current U.S. Fire Administration motto is "Install. Inspect. Protect." Many people who die in home fires are never alerted by an alarm and consequently do not wakeup and escape.
  • Electrical Outlets: That extra string of lights may take your tree from festive to brilliant, but at what cost? Check your Christmas lights for short circuits and exposed wiring; try not to plug more than 3 strands together and periodically check the wires to make sure they aren't hot.
  • Christmas Trees: Make sure your tree has ample water in its basin to extend its life as well as to prevent a fire. One of the most effective methods of preventing a home fire is through common sense. Don't place your tree near a heater or vent, don't use candles, and don't try to burn your Christmas tree in your fireplace. When you're ready to get rid of your tree and garland, go green and recycle your tree at a nearby drop off center. It's easy and free.

Do I Need Travel or Trip Insurance?

Holiday Travel Guide 2012Sure, the holidays are meant for spending time with your family; unless you're Home Alone. As this holiday travel season gears up, it's important to take the proper precautions; whether you're flying home to visit the folks, or jumping on the next flight to "anywhere else but here." Travel and trip insurance cost money but may be a good idea in case the H1N1 virus or other illness drastically changes your plans.

Travel Insurance can save you money by reimbursing you for unexpected costs that may cause you to cancel, postpone, or shorten your trip, in addition to covering costs like unexpected medical expenses incurred during your vacation. If you have homeowner's or health insurance policies, then you may already have coverage for traveling. But it's likely that it doesn't cover cancellation or interruption insurance. You may want to inquire about the extent of your coverage before embarking on your vacation.

Trip Insurance is analogous to travel insurance but is often much more extensive. Trip insurance can account for cancellations, interruptions, delays, missed connections, medical emergencies, lost baggage, as well as accidental death or dismemberment. Cancellation due to war, terrorism, bad weather, or disease outbreak (that's you Mexico) are typically not covered by trip insurance.

Deciding if trip or travel insurance is worthwhile for your trip is largely on a case by case basis. If you're planning an expensive trip abroad, then it may be entirely worth it; but first you should check to see what coverage you already have.

Frosty Holiday Discrimination

I can't turn on the television without seeing one of the annoying Las Vegas commercials that show some poor schmuck telling his boss that he needs time off for some fake cultural holiday. Apart from having "upper management written all over him," we wonder how that guy has a job during the recession and more importantly, we wonder if we could get away with the same kind of malarkey.

Anti-discrimination laws seem to be the jumping off point for a number of very lucrative civil lawsuits as well as an outstanding method of strong-arming your employer into giving you time off. But what is a valid discrimination claim? Do these apply to the holidays and actual religious practices?

When Discrimination Can Occur in the Workplace:

Race and Nationality Discrimination Laws Also Prohibit:

  • Harassment: by your employer or coworkers because of your race or national origin.
  • Retaliation: against you for reporting discrimination, filing a lawsuit due to the discrimination or participating in an investigation.
  • Employment Advertisements: excluding persons of a certain race or national origin or showing a preference for a particular race or nationality.
  • Promotions: offered or given only to persons with a certain preferred race or nationality.

If you have more questions about discrimination, you may want to consult a local lawyer who is familiar with the courts and specific laws in your area. LegalMatch will pair you with that lawyer. If you're not sure you're ready, read up on discrimination in the Law Library or post a question in the Legal Forums.

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