THE ANATOMY OF A *DUI-OWI CASE (C) By Michael J. (Mike) Nichols ARREST You awake in the drunk tank. Your head hurts. You didn't sleep at all. Now what? The first thing to understand is that you are experiencing many emotions and will continue to feel those for a long time regardless of whether this is your first arrest until well after this matter is resolved. The officer's investigation is targeted at trying to convince you that you are guilty. You are not guilty until and unless 1 of 3 things occurs: 1) the jury convicts you; 2) the judge convicts you or 3) you plead guilty/no contest. You are presumed innocent and you should maintain that plea of not guilty until and unless you are able to negotiate a result in the case that you can live with in exchange for giving up your right to a trial. If you are reading this shortly after you were arrested, the best thing that you can do to help yourself is to retrace your steps on the day of your arrest. Everything that you did, including what you had to eat, any unusual activities in which you engaged, how much you drank if anything and what medicines that you ingested for starters: all of this information may create a trail of breadcrumbs to a defense for you when there seems to be only a path to a guilty plea. If you decide to look for a lawyer to represent you, make sure that DUI-OWI defense is a major portion if not THE major portion of his or her practice. BEFORE YOU MEET with the lawyer, you should assemble the following information to save some time and some money and it will help the lawyer with his or her analysis: 1. A written timeline of the events of the day of your arrest including any medicines taken, food and alcohol consumed with the time that you started and time that you stopped consuming each; 2. A complete synopsis of any medical history for you and your family back two generations as applicable; 3. Details about your stature and any recent fluctuations in your weight; 4. Anything unusual about any stage of the three phases of a DUI case. These include the: a. Vehicle in Motion: why did the officer stop you? Did he/she say why? Was there any problem with your driving? There are 24 cues of impaired driving according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Did the officer observe one of the cues? If not, the officer's basis for an arrest must be established by observations during the Personal Contact Phase or the FST/SFST phase. b. Personal Contact Phase: were you fumbling your papers? Did you stumble if or as you exited the vehicle or while outside the car? Did you make any admissions about consuming alcohol? c. FSTS/SFSTs and PBT: what tests did the officer ask you to do? Did you do them all or did you attempt to decline any tests? How did you perform those that you did take? Did the officer explain to you properly the rules about taking a preliminary breath test? Did you take one? Did the officer observe you for 15 minutes prior to taking the pbt? Was there anything going on that may have called the reliability of the pbt into question such as weather or any items in your mouth? The officer's observations will be preserved in a police report. If the officer testifies in court to things that he/she did not preserve in this report - the officer's credibility will be shattered by an effective cross examination. Once the officer is pinned down to only the signs of impairment that he/she did preserve in his report, a thorough cross makes the officer the defense attorney's best witness. That is because of all the signs of impairment by alcohol that he/she could have observed, a truly effective cross examination will bring out that the officer observed more signs of sobriety than of impairment. One more thing: the officer's claim that he/she detected an odor of intoxicants, and that raised his/her suspicion that the person may not be safe to drive home is some of the greatest testimony that I have ever had the pleasure to cross examine an officer about. There is nothing about ethyl alcohol (the active "intoxicating" component of an alcoholic beverage) that carries an odor. Moreover, the odor of "intoxicants" on someone's breath is a sign of "consumption" and nothing else. There are other reasons why this is a claim that can be turned around in favor of the accused citizen very easily. You can discuss this issue with me if we have the privilege of analyzing your case for you. Perhaps I will also have the opportunity to discuss it with the officer while he/she is on the witness stand.