Recent Supreme Court rulings on DWI cases have been tremendously helpful in the area of defending against blood sample evidence. One notable case involved the confrontation clause issue, and allows defense attorneys to question those who were involved in the blood testing process and the preparation of the testing equipment.
Essentially, these decisions give defense attorneys more of a fighting chance in the courtroom. Unfortunately, many defense lawyers in this practice area don’t really know what they are doing and haven’t even read notable cases like Missouri v. McNeely or Bullcoming v. New Mexico. However, if you are dealing with a prosecutor who is aware of these Supreme Court rulings on DWI cases, they may be more willing to make you a better offer or reduce the charges in the case to something other than a DWI.
Supreme Court Rulings Help Lawyers Try DWI Cases
Remember, any DWI trial lawyer worth her salt knows not to count on the prosecution to read these cases with a defense slant. And no lawyer can argue logically to a judge if they haven’t read and studied the case law. Your attorney should be able to read it, know it, understand it, and know the nuances of it well enough to counter the misdirection tactics practiced by some prosecutors.
For example, I once handled a blood test suppression hearing in which the nurse who originally drew the blood sample had died, but the prosecution was still trying to introduce the evidence. In this case, I got the arresting officer on the stand, and by asking him very specific questions, I was able to find out exactly what the nurse did during the draw. I was able to establish that the nurse did not properly draw and prepare that blood sample.
Working with the Appellate Bar
It is essential for a defense lawyer to be prepared during the initial DWI hearing. A good defense attorney will act as if there is going to be an appeal. Even if an appellate lawyer (that is, a lawyer that specializes in making appeals to a higher court, such as the Supreme Court) knows the rules in this area, he may not always know what our original strategies were, what we are trying to do, and what we need to stay away from so we do not end up losing the good case law. Basically, an appellate lawyer really needs to know how to try a DWI to know what they are doing in the appeal.
In most cases, you would not file an appeal in a DWI case unless you were able to prove that the stop was invalid, harmful evidential error had occurred, or that your client’s Constitutional rights were violated. All too often, an appellate lawyer will not bother to consult the trial lawyer who has information about the blood draw, the field sobriety testing, and the implied consent rules. An appellate lawyer may assume that, because of their specialty, they know how to do appeals; but they were not in the courtroom during the original trial. Therefore, they may not be aware of the background story of certain issues that are on the record.
Consequently, I believe that it is important for criminal defense lawyers and appellate lawyers to sit down at the same table and work together to help the client.