Managing Challenging DWI Cases
The most challenging DWI cases are those in which the client was obviously drunk; but even then, there may be problems with the case that will cause the case against your client to fall apart. For example, the officer may make a traffic stop that is invalid, and in such a case you must suppress all evidence with respect to the stop. You need to explain to the jury that if the police can stop a drunk in an unlawful manner, they can do the same thing to you.
For instance, let us say that an officer pulls you over because you were weaving within your lane. That is not a violation. Some potential jurors will say that they would not mind if the police stopped them, even if they were not drinking and driving, or doing anything wrong. Well, the law says that the police should not be able to stop someone without having a valid, lawful reason for doing so. I will ask such jurors how they would feel about having an officer enter their home without a warrant and letting them go into their medicine cabinet and dresser drawers to see what drugs they are taking and what medications their doctor has prescribed for them. In most cases, jurors will agree that they would want to draw the line somewhere. Simply put, the police should not be able to search your house without a warrant. Again, under the Fourth Amendment, we are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures; the Constitution was not just created to protect the rights of the innocent.
You need to be able to counsel your clients about their legal rights. If you do not know the law concerning whether the cop made a legitimate traffic stop, you are never going to get the stop suppressed. If you do not read Bullcoming and McNeely, you will not know how to proceed on getting the blood result suppressed. I took a phlebotomy course because I wanted to know how to draw blood. Basically, you need to know what you are talking about; that means knowing the law. I suggest joining the National College for DUI Defense, joining the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and attending advanced DWI courses and seminars to help you achieve valuable experience and trial techniques. In addition, you should never pass on the opportunity to attend an Administrative License Review (ALR) hearing, or cross-examine an officer when you get the chance to do so; it is also helpful to read Terry MacCarthy’s book, “MacCarthy on Cross-examination” or attend his course.1 Doing so turned my practice around; I score valuable points when I cross-examine officers in DWI cases. I win many of my trials by letting the officers blow it on the stand. Play for the fumble.
1 Terence MacCarthy, MacCarthy on Cross Examination (ABA, 2007).