What Percentage of DUI Cases End Up Being Dismissed?


Similar to the military industrial complex, the various processes related to drinking and driving offenses have grown into a system that operates like an unstoppable machine. The law enforcement, judicial, administrative, and correctional resources dedicated to managing the various aspects of DUI are supported by billions of dollars paid by American taxpayers. The DUI industrial complex also features the participation of various third parties that seek to profit from convictions; they include technology companies that develop breathalyzer machines, substance abuse counselors and providers of driving education courses.

Those who are critical of the DUI industrial complex often point out high arrest and conviction rates to bolster their arguments. In 2006, for example, California prosecutors obtained an astonishing 90 percent conviction rate, which means that only 10 percent of DUI arrests were either dismissed, dropped or ruled in favor of the defendants.

Why DUI Cases Rarely Get Dismissed

DUI case dismissal rates are difficult to quantify because this is a very dynamic industrial complex. The statutes, regulations and rules of procedure that govern DUI at the state level are constantly changing. In the early 21st century, for example, dismissal rates in Connecticut were as high as 50 percent because of legislation that resulted in case dismissals for first-time offenders whose cases did not involve injury or damage. The Connecticut program also required drivers to take a course and pay a considerable fine, but this practice came to an end in 2011. It should be noted DUI conviction rates in Connecticut climbed to 70 percent just a few months after the aforementioned program ended.

The high DUI conviction rates can be partly explained by the high number of drivers who plead guilty without fully understanding the consequences. DUI records have become modern-day scarlet letters that individuals must bear for the rest of their lives. Aside from high insurance premiums, suspended licenses and hefty fines, convicted drivers often experience difficulties in getting jobs, financial assistance and professional licenses.

Most drivers arrested for DUI believe that their matters will be resolved in a traffic court venue, and they will often opt to be represented by court-appointed public defenders who may already be overburdened with heavy workloads.

How DUI Cases Get Dismissed

The low percentage of DUI cases would be higher if drivers retained the services of defense attorneys who can evaluate the circumstances that resulted in an arrest and the potential shortcomings of prosecutors.

Law enforcement officers are expected to follow certain procedures in their DUI investigations, which must include respecting the legal rights of drivers. Skilled lawyers will look at how evidence was collected by police officers and how prosecutors present the case. Probable cause must be properly established, and prosecutors have a burden to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Although dismissal of DUI charges is ideal, another strategy that can be pursued is a reduction of charges, which can be negotiated with prosecutors who prefer getting at least a conviction on lesser charges than facing the risk of their cases being systematically disassembled during a trial.