Travis County, Texas
Client wrecked her car in the middle of the night returning home from a wedding reception. There was significant damage to her car. Officer arrives on scene, smells alcohol, and my client admits drinking 5 glasses of wine that evening. Officer says my client failed field sobriety tests, and my client is arrested.
A review of the video showed my client performing rather well on the field sobriety tests, as well as otherwise looking and acting sober despite the bad accident. The officer had my client walk quite a distance from her car to a clearing where he administered the field sobriety tests. The fact that she was able to do so without any hint of a stumble while wearing a formal gown and high heels was impressive to the jury. The prosecution pointed to the accident and my client’s admission of drinking 5 glasses of wine as the be-all-end-all of their case. And it is true: any time there is a DWI involving a collision it is a much tougher case for the defense because preventing accidents is really what DWI law is supposed to be about, and when there is an accident, well…it does not look good. This case could have gone the other way if the officer had asked my client the right questions that night, but he never established a timeline of when my client first started drinking and when she stopped. I conditioned the jury to receive my argument by suggesting during jury selection that I could drink a case of beer and not get drunk. At first, some panelists said that was absurd, but eventually some of the panelists began suggesting that if I stretch that out over time by drinking a beer or so an hour, I could avoid becoming intoxicated.
The officer ruined the prosecution’s case by trying to be cute with me on cross examination. My question was: “You never asked [my client] what time she started drinking, did you?” The officer replied, “She told me she had 5 glasses of wine.” I asked the same question and got the same answer seven times in a row before the prosecutor rose to object. “That question has been asked and answered, Your Honor.” The judge shot back, “No, it has not. The officer has been non-responsive to the question.” The judge ordered the officer to provide a direct answer to my question. The damage to the officer’s credibility had already been done, and the looks on the jurors’ faces let me know the acquittal was in the bag.