28th Jul 2014
1 DUI Client, 2 Accidents, A Confession … and 1 Police Error
DISCLAIMER: The below listed Actual case result is presented for informational purposes only. Every case result depends on a unique variety of factors that are specific to a particular case. An outcome in a previous case does not guarantee future results nor a predictor of what may happen in your case.
What happens when the facts of a DUI case look right down awful? Let me give you an example, here are the facts of a DWI client’s: Prior to the DUI arrest, my client got into 2 accidents that night and I don’t mean he got into one accident and then ricocheted and immediately got into a second accident. I mean he got into one accident, kept driving, pulled over and fell asleep, began to drive again and finally got into a second accident. The DUI event was investigated by a Virginia Trooper. When the trooper arrived the client gave a full confession, including the large number of alcoholic drinks he had consumed. If a confession was not enough, he had also urinated on himself to boot. He miraculously only blew a .15 BAC, which would of likely been much higher had it not been for the extensive delay between the arrest and when he blew. Again, the facts did not look good. The .15 BAC meant in addition to a DUI conviction, he was looking at a minimum of 5 mandatory days in jail. In reality, he could of been looking at even more jail time because judges take into negative account DUIs involving an accident, not to mention 2.
The trooper had filled out a DUI checklist which contains the arresting officer’s observations, results of Field sobriety tests, the timing of when things took place during the investigation and so on. It appeared the trooper was dead on with his investigation and did not appear that he made any error… except for 1.
The trooper had written the time of several events on the DUI checklist. These events included such things as the time of the call from dispatch about the accident, when he arrived at the scene, the results and timing of the field sobriety tests, when he gave my client the Preliminary Breath test, when he arrested my client and so on. The times he wrote down seemed to follow the logical progression of a Virginia DUI investigation. But there was one time that was off and it involved the reading of the implied consent law, which has to be read after an arrest. He wrote down that he read the implied consent law to my client 30 minutes before he ever showed up at the accident. In reality, he had simply made a mistake and wrote down the wrong time, but, to me, that opened the door for a defense.
Shortly before trial, I spoke to the trooper and asked him about the DUI and specifically the timing of when things took place. Each time he had to look at his DUI checklist to tell me the timing of individual events and he readily admitted he could not remember the times of when things took place and was solely relying on what he had written down. I then pointed to him the time he wrote down for reading of the implied consent law. He reacted by saying “so what” and that he simply made 1 mistake?
So I explained it to him: he is stating that he can not remember what times things occurred that night without looking at his DUI checklist. If he made one such glaring error in the checklist, how do we know that he did not make other mistakes on the checklist which he was going to rely on in testifying in court? He agreed with me. I then spoke to the prosecutor who also gave me the “so what” attitude, until I explained it to her. She also then agreed. Net result, the prosecutor offered a plea deal that dropped the mandatory jail time and my client was given no active jail time.
Could we have pushed this to trial and gone for a complete dismissal? Maybe, but my client was so grateful that jail time was off the table that he just wanted to accept the plea deal. It was his decision to make which I respect.
The moral of this story though, is that even if the facts of a case look terrible and even if an officer is 99% correct in conducting a DUI investigation, that 1%, that one error can make all the difference.
Make sure you go with a Virginia DUI attorney who has the specialized experience and knowledge in how to find even 1 mistake (or more) and who will know how to exploit police error for maximum benefit.