The First District Court of Appeals recently upheld a DWI conviction in a hotly contested case. Sustaining a lower court’s ruling is not uncommon, in fact, chances of winning on an appeal are slim in any case. But the issue presented in this case stood a chance for winning, even though the court ultimately decided not to overturn the conviction.
The primary issue in this case was whether the convicted man’s confrontation rights were violated. Under the U.S. Constitution, the Confrontation Clause of of the Sixth Amendment guarantees each person accused of a crime the right to confront the witnesses against them. This means that if a person is going to present evidence against an accused, the accused gets to confront them in court, cross examine them, and ask any relevant questions.
What Happened in This Case
In this case, a local police officer was patrolling, looking for DWI suspects. The police officer testified that he patrols near areas with a lot of bars, and looks for certain signs that a driver is intoxicated. Early in the morning, the police officer noticed that a driver failed to turn on his taillights, and then the driver could not maintain his car in one lane. This was the kind of suspect the police officer was looking for.
Soon after pulling the man over, the police officer began his investigation and determined he had enough to arrest the man for DWI. The man was arrested, taken to the police station for booking, and had his breath tested for alcohol content. Later on, the went to trial and was convicted of DWI. But at trial, the person who testified about the results of the breath test was not the actual technician, but a supervisor who signed off on the results.
The man’s appeal revolved around this issue, that the supervisor and not the technician testified about the results of the breath test. According to the man, this violated the Confrontation Clause because he did not get a chance to challenge the process by questioning the actual technician.
Court Sustains Conviction
The court acknowledged the man’s argument, but declined to agree with it. Under recent Supreme Court opinions, it is a general rule that the person who conducts a test is required to be present at a trial to present evidence of the test. But in cases such as these, when the supervisor was present and signed off on the test, the accused does not have the right to confront the actual test taker.
This case presents an important lesson for those accused of DWI. There are many rights that exist for defendants, but it takes an experienced and able lawyer to defend those rights. Confrontation rights and others are at the center of every defense, and must be advanced in a way that protects defendants from being abused by the state.
If you are charged with DWI in the Dallas area, contact us. At the Wilder DWI Defense Firm we will give you a free case evaluation and provide you with your legal options. No case is too small or too difficult for us to handle for you.