DUI accident case with blood draw of .37 reduced to Negligent Driving!
Recently (August 2014) I resolved a client's case regarding a DUI charge. The significance of this resolution was due to our persistence in litigating this matter. This particular client came to me after having driven his car off the road at Sand Point Way in Seattle, WA. The client was taken to the hospital for a blood draw which revealed he had a .37 ethanol reading (BAC of .37). Yes that is extremely high, and in some instances a person can die from a concentration of that amount.
Nevertheless, I took the case on and we litigated this matter over the course of a year and a half. After numerous motions were filed back and forth (between the prosecutor and myself), and we appeared in court at least a dozen times, the case was finally set for an evidentiary hearing the day of trial. The prosecutor made an offer to my client to plea as charged and they would only recommend 3 days in jail (the mandatory minimum in this case was 2 days in jail), but that if my client proceeded to trial and lost the prosecutor would ask for 10 days in jail. My client, following my advice, politely declined the offer.
Our arguments at the evidentiary hearing included (1) whether the government could prove my client was the actual driver of the vehicle involved in the accident (corpus delicti) and (2) whether the officer hadprobable cause to arrest. The hearing involved an independent witness who heard the accident and found my client face down outside of the car moments later. There was also testimony from one officer. The officer testified there were numerous broken alcohol containers outside of the vehicle and some alcohol containers inside the vehicle. The officer also testified my client had bloodshot, watery, eyes, told others he was the driver, smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, was incoherent and admitted to consuming ¾ of a gallon of whiskey!
I know a lot of attorneys who would have convinced their client to accept the government's offer based upon the allegations, but I simply have a standard of not pleading anyone as charged unless they insist. After the hearing, and after my cross examination of the witnesses, prior to the ruling of the court, the government offered a plea deal. The reasoning was that if the court agreed with my arguments the case could have been dismissed, conversely if the judge agreed with the government my client would have not been able to accept the offer and would have had to take his chances in front of a jury. Prior to the ruling the government stated it would offer a Negligent Driving in the First Degree and not ask for any jail. After careful consideration, my client accepted the offer. After the plea was entered, the judge stated she would have ruled against the defense on our issue, so it was a wise decision by my client.
Now normally I don't necessarily post a Negligent Driving in the First Degree as a victory as many of my competitors do, I only like to post dismissals or not guilty verdicts but in this particular case, a DUI accident with a .37 blood draw reduced down to a Negligent Driving (misdemeanor) was an excellent outcome. The outcome was only achieved due to the persistence of my client and myself. It is not to toot my own horn that I post this, but it is to show that as DUI attorney you have to take on the most difficult of cases and try your best despite the evidence. I know a lot of attorneys who would have put forth the same effort as I did but there are many out there claiming to be “experienced” DUI attorneys who would have caved at the first hearing and convinced their client to plead guilty as "throw themselves upon the mercy of the court." Did you have an experience like that with your so-called “trial experienced DUI attorney?” My point is, if your attorney was not or is not willing to put in the effort as a truly experienced aggressive DUI attorney, they are likely performing a disservice to their client and should probably exit this particular area of law.
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