The consequences for a drunk driving conviction can be pretty severe in Minnesota, including fines, a revoked driver's license and even jail time. In many cases, however, the evidence in drunk driving cases is not actually that strong. Breath test results are frequently skewed and police observations are not always sound.
A Mequon, Wisconsin, man recently obtained an acquittal in his drunk driving case after the arresting officer admitted that he does not remember key details from the night of the arrest, according to a Star Tribune report.
The defendant, who is now 70, was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated in 2005. He was initially convicted, but the conviction was overturned after he appealed. A second trial in the case resulted in a mistrial, and he was finally acquitted during the third trial after the arresting officer read from his arrest report while testifying.
After reading the police report, the presiding judge asked the police officer if he would have been able to testify without reading his notes. The officer said that he would not have been able to do so because his memory of the events had faded. Allowing the testimony, the judge said, would then be unfair because the officer's memory would not allow for cross-examination. So, he granted the acquittal.
This drunk driving case is odd in some ways because DWI and DUI cases rarely drag on for so many years. Nonetheless, the case is an example of an evidentiary issue that can exist in drunk driving cases. Even in more routine cases, a police officer's recollection of events may not be solid.
The best defense options available in a drunk driving case depend on the circumstances of the arrest, among a few other things. Defendants of drunk driving charges should seek criminal defense counsel to ensure they understand their options.
Source: Star Tribune, "Wis. man acquitted of drunken driving after officer says his recollection of events 'limited,'" Sept. 1, 2013