Cannabis DWI Dismissed after trial court suppressed evidence
DWI arrests must be supported by "probable cause" to believe that the suspect was driving while impaired, whether by alcohol or some other substance. Last week we began a trial on behalf of our client who was involved in a catastrophic car accident and was subsequently charged with driving while impaired. The evidence showed that likely one driver or the other had run a red light, and the two cars had collided at a high rate of speed, estimated as 50 mph.
Our client was a 35 year old mother who had no criminal history. She happened to be black, wore her hair in dreadlocks, and was wearing a tie-dye shirt on her way to Bojangles for Sunday morning breakfast. For some reason, responding officers assumed that she caused the wreck. This despite the other driver, who was not black, telling the cops that she didn't know what happened and she *thought* she had a green light. There was no evidence that our client was even asked what happened. There were no drugs found in her car or on her person, and the arresting officer did not notice any incriminating odors such as cannabis or alcohol. However, our client was arrested, based solely on the officer's subjective scoring of her performance on field "sobriety" (really balance and multi-tasking) tests.
During an all-day hearing regarding probable cause to arrest, we were able to establish that the arresting officer did not see the wreck happen, and had no factual basis for assuming that our client caused it, despite multiple assertions in his report that she ran a red light causing the accident. We also established that there was no reason to suspect drugs, that there was no factual basis for his assertion that she seemed confused when he first arrived (while she was still in the car being checked by EMS), that he did not ask her what happened, that he did not ask the other driver to perform field tests, and that he neither found nor smelled weed or any other indication of an impairing substance.
After an all-day hearing, the judge ruled in our client's favor. Although the ruling was a relief, it was nothing to celebrate, because she never should have been subjected to criminal treatment based upon the evidence. Drug DWIs can be terribly frustrating to defend, especially if the witness for the state is a DRE (drug recognition expert) like in this case. They perform a battery of tests, mostly open to subjective interpretation, and know all the right things to say to make it sound like a defendant is guilty as sin. Luckily we were able to break down the smoke and mirrors and establish that indeed the emperor was nekkid. We also benefited from a smart and neutral judge, which unfortunately is not always a given.
If you or a loved one is charged with a drug DWI give us a call to discuss whether we can help you.
Practice area(s): Criminal Defense