Why I Take Cases to Trial
Steve was charged with felony DWI. After two jury trials, and a prosecution that lasted over two years, he was acquitted. Here’s his story:
Steve had had three prior DWIs which resulted in two things: 1) he had ignition interlock in his car (so he couldn’t start the car without blowing into an alcohol sensor and 2) he had gotten sober.
A Simple, Careless Accident
Confirmation Bias Takes Over
When White Bear Lake police officer Patrick Swenson (his real name) arrived, he saw the ignition interlock and began a stream of speculation which, fortunately, he said out loud to another officer and was captured on his body-worn camera. He told another officer that Steve “reeked of alcohol.” Using his powers of deduction, Officer Swenson speculated that a woman walking down the sidewalk had been Steve’s passenger and had blown in the ignition interlock to start the car. Steve tested 0.00 for alcohol and the pedestrian was just a woman on a walk, but Officer Swenson was not deterred.
Officer Swenson performed the Drug Recognition Protocol he had been certified in and determined that Steve was under the influence of a Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressant. His determination may have been informed by the fact that Steve told him that he had taken his prescription Valium and not by the fact that Steve was negative for 9 of the 12 DRE CNS depressant clues. The three positive clues were 1) pupils of normal size (because CNS depressants don’t affect pupil size), 2) low blood pressure which, in this case was an admirable 70/100, and 3) flaccid muscle tone (a completely undefined term). I have all three of those clues, too (thanks to a lot of blood pressure medication)!
Officer Swenson got a warrant and took a sample of Steve’s urine, which tested positive for the medicine Steve had been prescribed. Officer Swenson subpoenaed Steve’s prescription records and found that Steve had 1) been prescribed this medication for several years, 2) that Steve had always received his prescriptions from the same two doctors (no doctor shopping), 3) that Steve had always filled his prescription at the same pharmacy (no pharmacy shopping), and 4) that Steve had never filled his prescription early. Steve gave every indication of responsibly taking his medicine as prescribed.
Waste of Court — and Jurors’ — Time
Still undeterred, Officer Swenson recommended that Steve be charged with driving under the influence of a controlled substance, and the Ramsey County Attorney, of course, obliged. After a mistrial on the first go-round, we tried the case to a second jury which, of course, found that there was no evidence that Steve had driven while under the influence of anything but a poor decision to try to eat his milkshake with a spoon while driving. He should have been fined for careless driving and made to pay restitution for any damage he caused.
Instead, he has a felony charge (although he was acquitted), he spent about a four days in jail then lost the $2,000 he had to post for bond, and he lost his job because he was in court over twenty times.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, call me, an attorney who defends clients all the way through jury trial if necessary!