Building a Defense in DC DWI Cases

The first place an attorney will want to look for a defense in a DWI charge is in the toxicology result and it’s reliability or credibility both of which can come under question in certain instances.

There are several things that police and prosecutors need to do in order to be able to use toxicology results, meaning a breath, blood, or urine score, as evidence against the person.

Before the police request that someone provides a breath sample after they’ve been arrested, the officer needs to observe a person for 20 minutes to make sure that that person does not burp, vomit or do anything that could cause excessive mouth alcohol to throw off the reliability of a breath alcohol content score.

The police need to do that 20-minute observation period in a very specific way. One thing that a defense attorney always wants to look for is if there is any evidence of improper methodology conducted during that 20-minute observation period. Any improper observation period or the lack of an observation period could mean that the resulting breath alcohol content score might not be admissible or may not be considered reliable.

There are many other things that a prosecutor would need to do in order to be able to use the results of a toxicology test as evidence in court. For example, prosecutors must file notices showing that a qualified person had regularly maintained and calibrated the breath testing machine used. Upon the specific request of a defense attorney, the prosecutors must also provide documentation on the results of all maintenance and calibration tests.

That is almost always the first place that a defense attorney will look to try and challenge the result of any toxicology result in a DWI case.

How a DWI Defense Attorney Can Investigate Your Case

The first place an attorney always looks to collect evidence is from the prosecutor. What that means is that a lawyer needs to pay very close attention to the discovery request that we file with the prosecutors to make sure that they are thorough, detailed and extensive so that we don’t miss out on any possible information that we would be entitled to.

An attorney will also need to make thorough requests for any calibration evidence and any maintenance documents regarding a person’s toxicology machine or breath testing machine such as the Dräger Alcotest or the Intoxilyzer. These are all machines that have extensive documentation regarding their maintenance and calibration that needs to be investigated thoroughly to see whether there could be any challenges for improperly calibrated or improperly maintained machines.

Also a lawyer will want to make sure that we make requests for any additional information that the police or prosecutors may have collected in their investigation. That can include any video evidence from a police station that could potentially help a defense attorney challenge the method by which police officers obtained toxicology results such as a urine sample or a breath sample.

Reviewing the Prosecution’s Case Against A Client

When a request is made, it’s not enough just to make the request. An attorney also needs to make sure that the prosecutor follows through on responses to every single request that is made.

If they don’t do that, then the lawyer will want to inform the judge of any improper filings, any failures on the prosecutor’s part to respond in a timely manner to any request that we make. And then once we’ve received all the information that we’ve asked for, it’s our job to make sure that we look through every single piece of evidence to see if there are any gaps, if there’s anything that’s been improperly filed, improperly maintained or any information that could potentially call into question the reliability of the prosecutor’s case.

The Role of Legal Research in Building a DC DWI Defense

Legal research can be important when determining whether or not there are any constitutional violations in a person’s DWI case. As an example, if a person provides a breath test and the resulting alcohol content is a .14. That’s well above the level for a DWI charge of .08.

In that situation, one thing that a DWI lawyer may want to look at is whether there was a constitutionally valid basis for the police officer to conduct a traffic stop in the first place. The reason why that’s important is because if there was a constitutional violation in the stop, then any resulting evidence might not be admissible at all.

So, even if the breath score that was received by the police might be valid and admissible in and of itself, a challenge to the underlying basis for the initial traffic stop could result in an otherwise valid score being deemed constitutionally inadmissible against the person.

That’s where research comes in to play. A defense attorney needs to find out whether or not there’s been any precedent by higher level of courts to determine that based on the facts of an individual person’s case, there may be a constitutional violation. So, lawyers needs to keep up with recent case law from higher courts and all case law that may be relevant to a current case that they have.