I had a DWI bench trial few weeks ago and received a directed verdict of not guilty. I respect the ADA involved so I’ve waited until now to write about it. I don’t want to appear like I’m scoreboarding anyone. It was a unique case that played out very strange at trial.
It offers a lesson for DWI defendants. The information contained in a police report may very greatly from the evidence at trial. Cross examination is still the best way to test the veracity of evidence.
What is a directed verdict?
In general, at trial after the State rests (finishes presenting their case in chief) the defense will move for a directed verdict. The defense is asking the judge to find the defendant not guilty because as a matter of law the State has failed to produce any evidence on an element of the case. I’ve seen and made dozens of directed verdict motions. They are routinely denied.
Why was mine granted?
I made a motion to suppress all the State’s evidence during trial. The judge granted that motion. That meant that the State had not put on any evidence of DWI. Therefore, a directed verdict was required.
Why was my motion to suppress granted?
The arrest report listed one set of facts regarding the initial traffic stop. At trial, the officer testified to a complete different reason for the traffic stop. However, that reason was factually impossible. It couldn’t have happened. Evidence from an illegal traffic stop can’t be used against the defendant (38.23). Ergo, all the State’s evidence vanished.
Why did I have a bench trial instead of a jury trial?
The decision to have a judge or jury trial is always up to the defendant. I provide advise of what to do. But if the client and I disagree, it’s his/her decision.
Going into trial I thought there was going to be a legal defense of necessity. DWI necessity is a strange animal. I thought allowing the judge to rule on the facts and the law would be most beneficial in that situation. However, with the directed verdict the necessity issue was never raised.