Many clients ask me after they were arrested for DWI or a criminal matter if they should have asked for a lawyer. My simple answer is YES every time. Recently, a client of ours was arrested for a second offense DWI in West St. Louis County. This client, J. I., was traveling on highway 64/40 heading home around 3 a.m. when he was pulled over for driving erratically. The officer claimed that he was driving on the shoulder and changed lanes without signalling. J.I. had been drinking earlier in the day at a social function but had not drank anything for 3 hours. The officer pulled him out of the car and had him participate in the three standardized field sobriety tests. J.I. is an American citizen but English is his second language so it was difficult for him to understand the directions given by the police officer. According to the police officer our client failed all three of the field sobriety tests. Furthermore, the officer indicated that the client was swaying, confused and mumbling his words while talking to the police officer. The officer indicated that J.I. was arrested, advised of the Missouri Implied Consent and refused to take the breath test to determine his blood alcohol content. J.I. was served with a notice of suspension of his driving privilege for one year. Our firm filed an appeal and requested a trial to determine if our client refused to take the breath test.
It is important to understand that the police are not required to tell a defendant that they have the right to attempt to contact an attorney before they decide to take the breath test. If a person requests to speak to an attorney then the police officer must provide the person with 20 minutes to contact an attorney. You do not have a constitutional right to an attorney before you take a breath test in Missouri because this is a civil proceeding.
When J.I. hired our firm we did an extensive interview with him having him recall everything about his stop and eventual arrest. What we found interesting is that he indicated that the officer was very angry towards him as he asked the officer a lot of questions regarding how to do the field sobriety tests. He said that he was confused and even asked to speak to an attorney at one point. When we received the police report the officer never mentioned in the report that the client ever asked to speak to an attorney. The police report was very different from what our client had told us happened.
What most people don’t know about a criminal case is that you are entitled to conduct a deposition of any of the witnesses in the case. A deposition is when the witness or police officer is required to appear at a specific place and time to be questioned regarding the incident. In this specific case we conducted a deposition of the arresting officer because the police report was completely different from what our client claimed happened. During the deposition the police officer testified that our client was refusing to follow his directions and was argumentative. I asked the police officer if my client ever asked to speak to an attorney and the police officer indicated that he did not and if he did he would have given him the opportunity. I went a step further to ask the officer if there was an video of the arrest and he indicated there was. I asked him if he reviewed the video and he indicated that he had. What is interesting in this case is that when we reviewed the video in the case before the deposition we saw on the video that our client did request to speak to an attorney.
Based on the information that we discovered during the deposition we set the case for trial on the appeal of the drivers license suspension. On the day of the trial the prosecuting attorney stipulated and agreed that J.I. requested an attorney and was not given the opportunity to speak to or contact an attorney. The Judge in the case ruled for our client and fully reinstated his license and removed the refusal from his driving record. This case is a perfect example of how police officers do not pay attention to the details of the case. In every case we handle we make sure that we take the time to fully investigate your case to determine if the police officer did his job correctly. Many attorneys that handle DWI cases do not spend the necessary time to fully investigate cases to make sure that you get the results that you deserve.
If you or family member has a pending DWI please give Sansone/Lauber a call at 314-863-0500 to discuss your case. We offer a free consultation on every DWI and Criminal matter.