October 25, 2008

The Government doesn't play fair- there's a shocker!

I was in Baltimore County District Court this week representing a pleasant out of state client on a Maryland DUI/DWI charge. This client had never been in trouble before and was very concerned about the outcome of his case (obviously desiring to keep his record untarnished by a bogus DUI charge).

We proceeded to Essex District Court and I advise the prosecutor that we can stipulate to the facts of the case but that I will be arguing the legality of the stop under the omnipotent Atkinson case. The Government responds that if I wish to argue the facts of the case, then we must have a full blown trial. I told her that's a ridiculous waste of the Court's time and resources but if that's what you want, that's what we'll do. The next thing that happens is that the senior prosecutor comes over to me and asks me if I want the breath tech to stay for the trial. I told her that since they are insisting on a needless trial then yes we will need the breath tech to be present for the trial. She turns around in a huff and walks away.

Roughly an hour later as the docket thins out, the case is called by the Judge. The first thing that happens is the Judge inquires of the Government why the Government earlier filed a motion to postpone this case as a result of a police officer not being available for trial, when the officer they noted had absolutely nothing to do with the case whatsoever. Woops, the state has no answer at all, just a deer in the head lights stare and a meek "we are ready for trial judge"

The State then indicates that they only have one police witness for trial, the arresting officer and that the breath tech (who I required to be present) was not present in court and never was there the entire day. This is the officer that the senior prosecutor asked me if I wanted for trial and I said yes and she damn site knew he was not there and was not going to be there at all.

Be that as it may, we proceed to trial, the DUI arresting officer testifies to the facts, to which we agree and then the Judge says, "why are we having a trial if the facts are stipulated too?" I say, Judge I don't know, I already told the state I would stipulate to the facts of the case but they insisted on a trial. I suppose it was a matter of inexperience on the part of the prosecutor, oh well, what's the difference if we waste the tax payers money on court time and police officers overtime. Perhaps if the Government is so eager to waste tax payer money, they might want to consider investing more of it in training new prosecutors.

So the case moves forward and the officer finishes testifying, I cross examine the officer on the basis of the stop and subsequently make a motion to suppress the .13 BAC (blood alcohol content) based on an illegal stop. As it was, the trial judge completely agreed with me that the police engaged in an illegal stop of my client and all evidence was suppressed and the client was found not guilty! Client is happy and goes home with a clean record; I am happy but go back to the office quite concerned.

Continue reading "The Government doesn't play fair- there's a shocker!" »

October 21, 2008

What you do following a DUI arrest in Maryland

So, you have been arrested for a DUI/DWI in Maryland, what do you do now? Well, here is what you don't do, nothing!

Following an arrest for DUI or other alcohol related offense in Maryland there are time sensitive things that must immediately be done in order to protect your license. Then there are things that must be done in order to protect yourself in court.

It happens with some frequency that a client will come to the office 30 days or more after their arrest (having recently received a court date) and ask what should I do now. I am then placed in the unenviable position of having to advise the client that they are about to lose their license to drive for 45 days or more because they failed to act promptly and request an MVA hearing. (The hearing presently costs $125 and the check is made out to the Maryland State Treasurer.) This can be even worse in the case of a refusal to blow which will net a 120 day suspension of the Maryland Driver's License.

Following this bit of bad news is the question "Do I have to do anything now to prepare for court since I feel I am guilty of the charge." The answer is a resounding yes! Believe it or not, just because you think you are guilty of the charge does not in fact make you guilty of the charge. There is quite a bit that must be proven before a judge can find you guilty of a DUI charge and many times the state is simply unable to meet its burden and then you are, in fact, not guilty of the charge. One example I like to reference is on my wall when you come into my office, it is the trial summary of a minor that was operating his vehicle at triple digit speed and accused of DUI among a host of other charges. Sounds pretty "guilty" right? Well, the court agreed that he was not so guilty and he was acquitted of all charges, including speeding.

Continue reading "What you do following a DUI arrest in Maryland" »