What Factors Determine Whether Or Not A DWI Case Should Be Taken To Trial?
There is no cookie cutter template for deciding which cases should or should not go to trial. Every case carries its own set of facts. Some of those facts are quite overt and some are nuanced, so it comes down to a number of considerations. One of the primary factors would be the strength of the people’s case compared to the strength of the defendant’s case. Sometimes a relatively small procedural issue can provide the basis for a motion to preclude People’s evidence later, which would help the defense and weaken the prosecution’s case. Since January 1, 2020 Congress enacted new discovery laws which benefit (and, slightly burden) a defendant or Principal of the Case by affirmatively obligating the prosecution to turn over all materials and information relating to the case. This change favors full disclosure of all issues which heretofore were only made available by the People, if at all, literally on the eve or day of trial.
It takes lots of research and review to find out exactly what happened and develop a theory of the defense which will guide you through the end of the case. Starting with a thorough review of all accusatory documentation to see if there are any glaring deficiencies as a matter of law. DWI cases are taken very seriously in the State of New York by both the defense attorneys and the prosecutors, and therefore the police are trained extensively for these cases, probably more than any other area of law. Most of the time they can establish a prima facie case or legally required rebuttable presumption against the accused at the outset of a criminal proceeding, so then it’s a matter of discovery – looking behind the scenes, seeing the paperwork such as a police notes, narrative report and arrest report, among others.
It comes down to a sobering analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the case. That’s something that an attorney who has experience with the courts could tell you – what kind of meaningful shot you might have at trial. That is all done in every case, but around 9 out of 10 cases are resolved effectively without a trial. In that one out of 10 cases that do go to trial, that is usually premised on the motorist’s arrest history. For example, where they have a prior DWI or alcohol related offense which may preclude a good plea bargain.
Counsel would explore whether there was a refusal, whether the officer’s case is weakened in some fashion in their administration of the SFSTs, whether there was a problem with the DataMaster or Intoxilyzer or the administration thereof, whether there are any facts which stand out that would excuse some of the behaviors that were observed, and whether the people are pursuing an argument that just doesn’t seem to have merit. These factors would all be reviewed and discussed with the client to make a calculated decision as to whether a certain case should go to trial. In most instances we can put together a defense that will bring about the result we sought.
The motorist should always be aware that time is a factor. It can sometimes take more than a year before the case even gets to trial. As such, there are additional expenses. Sometimes a hearing or an expert is required, which adds costs to the case. Transcripts of hearings add costs to the case. There are additional legal fees for hearings and trial work, and consideration of potential enhanced penalties if a case were unsuccessful at trial. This penalty could be greater than the offer that was made prior to trial. So, these are all some of the factors that are considered and discussed with the motorist before making a decision as to how best to proceed with the case.
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