We defended a young Bellingham, WA man on a refusal DUI charge in the Whatcom District Court. My client was stopped by a Washington State Patrol Trooper in downtown Bellingham. The reason, driving 40 miles an hour in a 30 mph zone. The trooper was a brash and forceful person. The trooper alleged in his report that the defendant was “obviously impaired.” The client refused to perform sobriety tests at the roadside. He did not provide a sample of his breath for the trooper’s hand-held breath tester. The video showed my client driving normally. He could be heard speaking normally without any repetition or slurring. After his arrest, the client spoke to an on-call public defender and then decided to refuse to take the breath test. Despite this, he was cited for a refusal DUI.
The client had a lot riding on this. He had been convicted of a DUI-related offense in the past seven years. If convicted he was facing at least 30-days in jail, five years on probation, five years with an ignition interlock, and thousands of dollars in fines.
The client started out with another local attorney, who read the police reports and immediately advised him to plead guilty. He was encouraged to accept a plea bargain for 30 days in jail, plus fines and other penalties.
When the client came to us, we told him that he shouldn’t have to plead to anything, and that we’d take the case to a jury. And that’s exactly what we decided to do.
SOLUTION & RESULT:
On the eve of trial, the prosecution offered a different plea bargain for no jail. Our client stood his ground on principle.
At trial, the prosecutor used the consciousness of guilt argument. “If he only had one drink, they why not take the breath test?” she told the jury. “What did he have to lose by taking the test,” she argued.
Our defense highlighted the lack of evidence needed to prove that the client was impaired that night beyond a reasonable doubt. In fact, very little evidence of the client’s impairment existed. We called the public defender to testify about her observations when she spoke to the client that night on the phone.
A jury of six people in Whatcom County District Court only took 20 minutes to find our client not guilty. The jurors followed the law, and determined that the prosecutor had insufficient proof of driving while intoxicated. “Speeding” was not sufficient cause.