Verdict for Defense in DUI case involving non-injury accident
Client charged with DUI and Failure to Avoid a Collision when his vehicle left the roadway and went over a short retaining wall in a shopping center parking lot. Client admitted to drinking 2 Gin and Tonics over the course of 3 hours at a nearby restaurant. No field sobriety tests done at the scene due to driver's potential head injury and involvement of paramedics. Client taken to local hospital where police requested a blood draw. He refused. Officer stepped outside of hospital to request a warrant. In the meantime, client leaves hospital with spouse and returns home. A second officer went to the local restaurant where client admits to drinking earlier and obtains his bar tab. The tab confirms he had only 2 Gin and Tonics over a 2-3 hour period. Officers contacted client at home and served him with a summons to appear in court for DUI and traffic ticket. Client hired me to challenge the DUI charge since a conviction would have dire consequences to his employment.
At trial, I questioned the two officers involved and the witness to the traffic accident. Officers testified that sobriety testing was not possible due to involvement of medical personnel at the scene. Officers further testified that client had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and an inconsistent story regarding his leaving the roadway. At the scene, client initially said he was hit from behind by other vehicle. At trial, he testified he was distracted by reaching for his phone that was on the passenger seat. There was further testimony from the manager of the restaurant that client appeared normal and sober and did not demonstrate any signs of intoxication. Due to conflicting testimony and reasonable explanation for client's driving behavior (reaching for phone causing distraction), the Judge ruled the city had not proven "beyond a reasonable doubt" that client was legally impaired at the time of driving his vehicle. He was found guilty of the "failure to avoid a collision" charge and ordered to pay a fine. In the final analysis, the Judge applied the standard of proof required in a criminal case, ie beyond a reasonable doubt, in ruling the city did not present sufficient evidence of guilt. Indeed, the Judge upheld the rule of law in this regard.
The takeaway from this trial is that effective cross-examination of the witnesses greatly enhances the defendant's chances of winning. Cross examination is truly an art. The best criminal defense lawyers are highly skilled in this area. It takes years to master and even the top tier defense lawyers will tell you they are still trying to perfect the art at every trial or hearing. Most people likely don't realize that trials often turn on which side can cross examine witnesses the best. In this case, I did my job. And while I take satisfaction in knowing I performed at my best in this case, I understand that the next case may not go as smooth. I will, however, continue to improve my cross-examination skills in hopes of achieving good results on future cases.
Practice area(s): DUI / DWI