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Passing the “Attitude Test” in DUI Cases


Demeanor is important in DUI cases for many reasons. If a suspect passes the “attitude test”, the arresting officer tends to be a little more reasonable with the suspect and will describe a cooperative suspect in his or her arrest report. Small things can matter to a prosecutor or a jury. If a suspect is described as cooperative in a police report, a prosecutor is going to be more inclined to consider a reduction in penalties or even charges. A polite and calm suspect is more likely to be seen as sober and innocent by a jury.

On the other hand, an argumentative or belligerent suspect is more likely to be treated unfairly by the officer and is less likely to be considered a good candidate for leniency in court. Abusiveness, belligerence and uncooperative behavior are considered symptoms of intoxication. Alcohol can cause this type of behavior. In addition, it may also lead to additional penalties or even additional charges such as police obstruction or resisting arrest.

I am presently defending a DUI case in Torrance courthouse for a client who had a .10% blood alcohol level with no accident and no priors. Ordinarily, she would be considered for a reduction to a “wet reckless”. However, I am having tremendous difficulty in getting anything out of the Redondo Beach prosecutor because of the defendant's offensive remarks to the arresting officer. The officer recorded the suspect without her knowing it and the CD is terrible.

Most people arrested for DUI are otherwise hard working and law abiding people who would not normally be abusive to law enforcement officers. However, alcohol can sometimes bring out the worst in us and a traffic stop can trigger stress and anxiety that make us say and do things that we would not normally say or do. When presented with this kind of evidence, it is important to neutralize it in some way. Often there is a context. Maybe the defendant was having a bad night. Maybe there is a divorce or loss of employment in the background. It is important to put things in context and have a prosecutor or jury understand that the alleged behavior is out of character and in response to a specific set of circumstances. In any event, the defendant must be rehabilitated and seen as a “good guy”, not the person written about in the police report.