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.
Here is what happened in this case:
1. The prosecutor’s office filed a motion to postpone a case based on the absence of an officer that had nothing at all to do with the case. Why? When asked by the Judge the response from your Government is “ready for trial your honor” ie. We have no idea whatsoever but lets get past it as quickly as possible.
2. The senior prosecutor in this case unethically comes to trial counsel (me) before the trial and wants to know if I demand the breath tech when she already knows he is not present, and has not been subpoenaed for this case. Naturally, she says nothing to myself, the Judge or anybody. I suppose being a senior prosecutor in this office carries certain perks at the expense of innocent defendants and you and I as tax payers who pay for unnecessary court time and police officer overtime. Strangely while the breath tech was not present in the courtroom, there was another Maryland Transportation Authority office present who just happened to be sitting in Court all morning, he also had nothing to do with the case. Hmmm. anythoughts why he was sitting there?
This is a prime example why I get so excited when a client comes to me right after their DUI/alcohol arrest and says, “Do you think I need a lawyer for this charge, after all, I am guilty?”
Remember, your not guilty until the person wearing the black robe says your guilty and there is one heck of a lot of misrepresentations, deceit and unfairness that can and often times does take place at the hands of the state prosecutor between now and your trial.
This is your government and prosecutor’s office at work folks- you do need a lawyer, we all need to be protected!