Friday, March 31, 2006

DWI Victory!!

I previously blogged about a couple of DWI cases I have going.

One is where my client's car broke down, he walked home, a neighbor called the police, and he was arrested about 45 minutes later from inside his home without a warrant. We moved to suppress the arrest as a Payton violation (warrantless arrests in the home prohibited without both probable cause and "exigent circumstances"). About two months ago that judge denied the motion finding probable cause. She made no finding as to exigent circumstances, so we'll appeal that one if we lose at trial. We should have a good shot at trial anyway, since all they can really prove is that he was sleeping while intoxicated.

But that's not what motivated this post. In my other DWI case, the client was pulled over for a stop sign violation in a parking lot in Stuyvesant Plaza (near Albany). V&T Law Section 1172(a) governs stop signs. Section 1100(b) says that law does not apply in parking lots. Note that we still recommend obeying such signs. :-)

So we moved to suppress the stop and all the evidence from it (which would essentially destroy the prosecution's case as they have no other evidence). The first judge heard the motion and I was sure he was going to rule in our favor after oral argument. Instead he scheduled a hearing 5 months later. His decision was sent out a week after he lost the election.

So the new judge got the case and was at least kind enough to move the suppression hearing up a month. We did the suppression hearing, which was an awful lot of fun for me (trial lawyers love cross-examining cops). I have to say that the officer was scrupulously honest - there was no other reason for the stop, and he also admitted to imperfections in his handling of the field sobriety tests. I have seen other cops bend the truth on occasion, and I think they may get some pressure to do so. This officer was clean as a whistle and earned my respect. As for the stop, he simply didn't know about 1100(b). Don't be too hard on him. Seems like a lot of lawyers are unaware of this -- I had a hunch about it when the client first called me and had to look it up.

The judge's decision came in today's mail. We won!!! I actually jumped up and down. My cell phone fell out of my shirt pocket. One of the downsides of criminal defense work is that we don't win a lot of cases. We mostly get the best deal we can for our clients. Every once in a while we get a good case to defend. Those cases become passionate obsessions for me, and I suspect the same is true for other trial lawyers.
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