At first glance, the facts looked bad. The Officer’s police report indicated that the client had red, bloodshot eyes, and smelled of alcohol. On the Field Sobriety Tests, the defendant “failed” the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test and the officer stopped the Walk and Turn Test for the “suspect’s safety,” after she stumbled and almost fell. In court, the arresting officer testified that the defendant smelled of alcohol, and used the car for balance. He believed she was drunk, so he placed her under arrest, and gave her a breath test back at the station. How surprised do you think the officer was when the breath test came back with a 0.0 reading? Maybe a little?
But because PCP was found in my client’s car, a blood test was also taken that came up positive for PCP. However, for some reason or another, the government never introduced the test results at trial. Instead, they chose to rely on the testimony of the officers on the scene regarding my client’s behavior. But here was the government’s problem: the arresting officer continued to assert that my client seemed to be under the influence of alcohol, even though the breath test clearly showed otherwise. Although the prosecutor was trying to make a case for DUI PCP, the officer didn’t seem to be on the same page. When cross-examined, the officer admitted that he didn’t witness one single symptom of PCP usage displayed by my client.
In my closing argument, I urged the judge to find my client not guilty of DUI, based on the 0.0 breath test score, and the lack of testimony that my client showed any signs of having used PCP. And she agreed. What the prosecutor thought was a slam-dunk case, turned out to be a surprising loss. And this is why it often makes sense to go to trial on Washington, D.C. DUI charges.
While the choice to accept a plea offer or go to trial belongs solely to a defendant, your D.C. DUI lawyer can help you make an informed decision based on his or her experience with these types of cases. Facts that often look bad can result in not guilty verdicts in certain cases. This is often caused by prosecutors having too many cases to pay attention to the details of yours. But sometimes your lawyer will urge you to take a case to trial just because you have nothing to lose. Prosecutors rarely make a plea offer in a Washington, D.C. DUI case that is compelling enough to take. Sometimes, mandatory minimum jail times make it a no-brainer that a case should be tried. And even if the offer includes no jail time, your D.C. criminal lawyer will likely know whether your judge would even consider a jail sentence if you lost at trial.
Of course, the facts and circumstances of each case are different. That means that going to trial or taking a plea offer is a personal decision made after consultation with your DUI attorney. Defendants often have personal reasons why they might wish to take a plea offer, and your lawyer will respect those. In addition, a plea offer will occasionally be good enough to consider, making a trial an unnecessary risk.
But if you are arrested for DUI in Washington, D.C., make sure you go to court with a criminal lawyer who you trust to help you make this important decision. Contact Jay Mykytiuk at JPMLegal for a free consultation.