With a breath test result over three times the legal limit and our client, who had two prior DUI convictions, being the apparent driver at the scene of a crash, the State was overconfident in their case and unwilling to budge during plea negotiations.
The officer who arrived at the scene was prepared to testify that he saw our client exit his vehicle, which was stuck on some rocks after the crash. He claimed that our client was slurring his speech and had trouble understanding basic instructions such as producing his license and registration. Our client even admitted to the officer that he had been drinking. The officer claimed that our client performed poorly on the Field Sobriety Exercises (FSEs) he participated in, and refused the rest. Then, our client provided a breath test sample which showed he was three times over the legal limit.
Despite this mountain of evidence facing our client, we refused to fold and accept an unfavorable plea offer. Little by little, we picked apart the evidence the State had at its disposal, until that confidence in their case wavered and there was practically no choice but to make a favorable offer moments before trial began.
Our DUI lawyers arrived at court the morning of trial ready to argue six (6) pretrial motions that we drafted to try and preclude the State from making use of certain evidence. We prepared arguments to prevent the State from mentioning that our client refused to participate in some of the FSEs, from discussing the results of the one he did conduct, and from using his admission that he had been drinking. We also argued that certain evidence the State produced was untimely, since they did not provide it to us in discovery until after jury selection, and they should thus be prevented from using said evidence.
Most importantly, we seized upon issues with the breathalyzer machine’s inspection and maintenance documents, and argued that the State should not be able to admit the breath test results into evidence.
In Florida, the courts and legislature have fashioned shortcuts for prosecutors to admit results of a breath test into evidence at a criminal trial. A rigorous set of inspection and maintenance standards have been promulgated for breathalyzer machines. Rather than lay the traditional predicate of demonstrating its scientific reliability, prosecutors are allowed to simply prove that these inspection and maintenance standards are met, and reliability is presumed. With their thorough knowledge of the proper documentary predicate required, our attorneys were able to notice defects in the required records which they brought to the court’s attention.
Ultimately, of the six (6) motions we drafted, we only had to argue two. Before ruling on the second motion, the judge provided both sides an opportunity to revisit the possibility of a plea deal. Feeling the case slipping through their fingers and losing evidence by the motion, the State buckled and offered our client a more favorable resolution, which he magnanimously accepted.
The State dismissed the DUI charge and re-issued the citation as what is commonly referred to as a “dry reckless.” Adjudication was withheld as to the charge of reckless driving, meaning our client did not even get points on his license. He simply had to pay about five hundred dollars in fines and was put on probation for a period of three months.
For a point of reference, a conviction for a third DUI offense within ten years carries a minimum sentence of 30 days jail and a maximum sentence of five years in prison, with a mandatory ten year driver’s license revocation.
As the judge said, sometimes it takes the presence of the jury to focus the attention of the parties. Not only is trial an excellent opportunity to force the State to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, but being willing to take the case all the way to the jury puts pressure on the State. That’s why it is so important to have an attorney who does not shy away from trial and is not afraid to try a case to a jury, if necessary.
At Delgado & Romanik, PLLC, our DUI lawyers have decades of combined trial experience, both as prosecutors and defense attorneys. Whether facing a DUI or other type of charge, our attorneys have the experience and expertise necessary to pick apart the State’s evidence, both with pretrial motions and in the midst of trial. If you or a loved one are facing a criminal charge, please don’t hesitate to contact our firm for more information on how an experienced trial attorney can help you defend yourself against a criminal accusation.
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