Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Another Outstanding Result in an OWI-Homicide Case; Client Pleads to Reduced Charge and Receives County Jail Time with Work Release

GC's case marked the fifth straight time Dennis Melowski successfully obtained a non-prison sentence for a client in a case that started out as an OWI-Homicide. In cases where lengthy prison sentences are a virtual given, even for first-time offenders, this is a remarkable success rate. Although GC's case had some very difficult facts (he ran a stop sign; broadsided another vehicle, killing the other driver instantly; and had both a .108 blood test result and marijuana in his system), Dennis focused on GC's otherwise impeccable character in crafting a sentencing proposal for 12 months in the county jail with work release privileges. Dennis hired an expert sentencing consultant (someone with vast experience in the Wisconsin probation and prison systems) to meticulously lay out all of the reasons why a prison term was unjustified in GC's case. In addition, Dennis was able to obtain just enough leverage in the case to negotiate a lesser charge in the weeks leading up to GC's jury trial. The prosecutor dropped the OWI-Homicide charge in exchange for GC's no contest plea to a reduced charge of Homicide by Negligent Operation of a  Vehicle**. At GC's sentencing hearing, Dennis was able to convince the judge to adopt his sentencing proposal in its entirety. The judge sentenced GC to just 12 months in the county jail (all with work release privileges), despite the District Attorney vigorously arguing for 5 years in the Wisconsin State Prison System. Given what was at stake, GC and his wife of 30 years wept with joy at this outstanding outcome.

**Having the charge reduced also lowered GC's mandatory license revocation from 5 years to just 1 year  

Thursday, June 11, 2015

June is Off to a Great Start: 3 Outstanding Outcomes for Attorney Murray's Clients

OWI-3rd Completely Dismissed

NK had driven off the road, crashed his vehicle into a ditch and suffered very serious injuries.  He was airlifted to the hospital where blood was drawn several hours later, returning a borderline result.  The prosecution decided they were still going to prosecute, believing they could use a process called retrograde extrapolation to prove that NK's blood was even higher at the time of driving.  However, retrograde extrapolation has many inherent flaws, which our firm is well versed in.  Upon realizing the difficulties he was facing, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the OWI-3rd completely if NK pled to the two other minor traffic tickets that were issued: Failure to Maintain Control of Vehicle and Operating Left of Center.  While NK is still healing from his injuries, he can now rest easier knowing he will not be facing a lengthy jail sentence, years of license revocation, and all of the other very serious consequences of an OWI-3rd.

Boating While Intoxicated Amended to Minor Boating Violations for Commercial Pilot Client

SL, a commercial pilot, was arrested for Boating While Intoxicated when the DNR stopped his boat for a lighting violation.  After the breath test returned a result of .12, SL was issued another charge of Operating a Boat with a Prohibited Alcohol Concentration.  As you can imagine, any alcohol related offense to a commercial pilot could mean the end of his career. With so much at stake,  SL hired Melowski & Associates and Attorney Matt Murray went to work raising various legal issues on SL's behalf, including a novel legal challenge to the implied consent procedure used in Boating While Intoxicated cases.  This challenge was particularly helpful as it had the potential to change the process for all Boating While Intoxicated cases in Wisconsin.  As the motion hearing approached, Attorney Murray successfully negotiated a resolution wherein SL pled to two minor boating citations: Failure to Yield - Boating Violation and Lighting Equipment Violation.  SL could not be happier.

OWI-3rd and Criminal Paraphernalia Charge Amended to Reckless Driving and Inattentive Driving Tickets

This case involved the use of synthetic marijuana, or "spice" as it is sometimes referred to.  SK was arrested after someone called in his vehicle for weaving all over the road.  When the officers found SK's vehicle, it was parked in a turning lane and it was alleged that SK started driving away once he saw the officers.  After failing the field sobriety tests, SK was arrested and officers found a pipe used to smoke the drug in SK's vehicle.  However, one problem that law enforcement have with synthetic marijuana is that the chemical structure is constantly changing.  That is, once the legislature makes one chemical structure illegal, a new version of spice is created with a different chemical structure.  This is the reason SK was charged with OWI and not Operating with a Detectable Amount of a Restricted Controlled Substance.  This created a problem for the prosecution with regards to the Drug Paraphernalia charge also.

The problem for the prosecution with the OWI charge was that the lab where SK's blood was sent could only say whether or not SK's blood was positive for spice and not what level of the substance was in SK's blood.  However, the prosecution persisted because of the bad driving and the performance on the field sobriety tests.  Motions were filed and the case was headed to trial.  Two weeks before trial, the prosecution came around.  They agreed to amend the OWI-3rd to a charge of Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle, but agreed to dismiss this charge if SK committed no new crimes for a period of two years and completed some drug counseling.  The Drug Paraphernalia charge was amended to a ticket for Inattentive Driving and SK also agreed to plead to a ticket for Reckless Driving.  Thus, SK has the opportunity to walk away from this with no jail, no license revocation, no criminal conviction and only two traffic tickets.  Another very happy client.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

May 7, 2015: An Absolutely Amazing Result in an OWI-7th Case (with .182 blood test result)

An OWI-7th is very serious business. It is at this level of offense that a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years in prison kicks in. The judge has no authority to give anything less, under any circumstance. And 3 years is just the minimum. The sentence can be increased by several years if the judge thinks it's warranted. This was the dire situation that our client, ME, found himself in when he was picked up for his seventh time. Although it had been several years since his last arrest, and ME had made many positive changes to his life in the interim, that did nothing to lessen the severity of the penalties he was facing if convicted as charged. Knowing that such a lengthy prison sentence would effectively end his life as he knew it, he had to find the best possible attorney to do something about it. After hearing his name from several different people, ME called Dennis Melowski and hired him on the spot.

ME's preliminary hearing is where Dennis laid the groundwork for what would ultimately be the key to ME's outstanding resolution. While many attorneys (even some very reputable ones) routinely waive these hearings, our attorneys rarely do.* They can be very valuable, especially if you can catch a police officer off guard on a key point. ME's case is a textbook example of this. While delving into the reasons for the officer's initial encounter with ME, Dennis got the officer to admit that he approached ME shortly after he exited his vehicle because he believed the vehicle was illegally parked. Only Dennis knew the vehicle was not illegally parked. The officer had a mistaken belief of what the parking statute prohibited. Based on the officer's testimony, Dennis filed a motion to suppress all evidence in ME's case because he had been initially detained illegally...he had done nothing wrong to warrant police questioning in the first place. Dennis filed an additional motion to challenge one of ME's prior convictions based on problems Dennis and his team were able to unearth in a case that was nearly 24 years old.

After months and months of legal wrangling, hearings and negotiations, Dennis was able to negotiate a truly outstanding settlement for ME. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the original drunk driving charges were dropped. In exchange, ME plead no contest to a non-alcohol-related, non-traffic misdemeanor that will not even appear on ME's driver record. ME was simply placed on probation for one year and was ordered to pay a fine, but suffered no other penalties. He did not spend even one day in jail, much less prison, and completely avoided any license loss. It was about the best possible outcome ME could have hoped for and he is absolutely thrilled with the result.

*While there can occasionally be a valid strategic consideration for waiving a preliminary hearing, far too often we have seen lawyers do so for no apparent reason, other than convenience or fear of ruffling a judge's or prosecutor's feathers.  This is an example of what separates poor or average lawyers from exceptional ones. Exceptional lawyers are absolutely committed to leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of their client's goals, even if  it means sometimes not being the most popular lawyer in the courtroom. Exceptional lawyering is what people have come to expect from our firm and it's what we aim to deliver to every client. Just ask ME.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Complete Dismissal in Fond du Lac County

SR was arrested for her second offense OWI.  The blood  test came back at .102.  Unfortunately, this occurred in Fond du Lac County where the District Attorney's Office has a strict policy of not amending OWI cases. The policy left the assigned prosecutor without an ability to do much other than slightly reducing the jail, fine and license revocation period.  This left SR and Attorney Matt Murray with an easy decision: fight the case.

Attorney Murray went to work and noticed that the arresting officer had made very minimal observations regarding any impairment before dragging SR out of the vehicle for a full-blown OWI investigation.  Attorney Murray filed a motion challenging whether or not the officer had the requisite reasonable suspicion to do this.

On the day of the motion hearing, the officer failed to show and the judge dismissed the case.  The District Attorney's Office then refiled the case with a different judge.  Attorney Murray filed the same motion and the officer failed to appear again.  As the judge said, "two times is too many" and the motion to suppress was granted.  Without any evidence remaining, the District Attorney's Office completely dismissed the case.

Sometimes you get lucky, but you will never know if you don't fight it.  SR is sure glad she did.  Another very happy client.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Fantastic April So Far: 3 More Clients Avoid Drunk Driving Convictions

Case #1: OWI-1st/PAC-1st (with .16 breath test result) Reduced to Two Citations for Improper Parking Off Roadway; A CDL Owner/Operator's Business is Saved

Since 1999, MK has been the owner/operator of a small trucking business that transports oversized machinery nationwide. It's a very successful business, but one that depends entirely on MK possessing valid CDL privileges at all times. As everyone in MK's field knows, a drunk driving conviction is like a professional death sentence, as a conviction on such a charge results in immediate CDL disqualification and skyrocketing insurance rates. So when MK picked up his first-ever drunk driving charge, he had to fight it. His livelihood was directly at stake. Fortunately, MK was referred to Dennis Melowski by a former client whose trucking career Dennis had saved a few years before. Dennis knew the first order of business was to obtain a stay of MK's administrative suspension, which was set to take effect just 30 days after MK's arrest. After a contentious hearing in which the prosecutor vehemently objected to the requested stay, Dennis was able to persuade the judge to side in his favor. This meant that MK would be able to maintain fully valid privileges while Dennis fought the case in court. As it turned out, this was just the first of many victories in MK's defense. After several months of investigation and hearings, Dennis was ultimately able to convince the prosecutor that there were sufficient problems in the case to warrant the original charges being dropped. Dennis was able to negotiate an incredible outcome. MK would plead no contest to two citations for Improper Parking Off Roadway, an offense that is so minor that it carries zero points. Aside from paying fines, MK suffered no consequences from his arrest. He never lost his license for a single day and his trucking business continues to thrive.


Case #2: OWI-1st/PAC-1st (with .182 blood test) Reduced to Two Minor Traffic Offenses

This was another case where our client needed to avoid a drunk driving conviction at all costs for employment concerns, as his job required him to travel at unpredictable hours and his employer required him to maintain valid driving privileges accordingly. He also needed to travel to Canada several times per year and a drunk driving conviction can provide a major impediment to crossing over the border. In short, JS needed to fight the case.  Like most clients, JS was referred to Dennis Melowski by a former client whom he helped save from a drunk driving conviction. Despite some very difficult facts to overcome, including a blood test result of .182, Dennis was able to do just enough with the case to negotiate a fantastic deal. Interestingly, the prosecutor  probably would not have agreed to the deal if Dennis had not been able to convince the arresting officer to approve a non-drunk-driving resolution. How was Dennis able to do that? This particular officer was someone against whom Dennis had success in the past and the officer confided to Dennis that he didn't feel like being dragged into court for the next 6 months to go through the same thing again. The officer actually encouraged the prosecutor to settle the case! As we make clear on our website, there is no substitute for courtroom success. It is only an an attorney with a well-known reputation for winning who can consistently obtain these types of results for their clients...and garner that type of respect from officers. JS's case is the perfect example of that. After coming to Dennis with a case that looked like it had long odds, JS walked away from this horrible situation with only two minor traffic citations: Inattentive Driving and Improper Parking Off Roadway. Another real result from Wisconsin's most successful drunk driving defense firm.

Case #3: OWI-1st/PAC-1st (with .154 blood test result) Reduced to Reckless Driving for Attorney Client

As we also make clear on our website, other lawyers know who the best lawyers are in their respective fields. And we have had countless lawyer clients over the years. For many lawyers, their professional reputation is the most important thing they have going for them, and nothing can damage a professional reputation more than a drunk driving conviction. Rightly or wrongly, the stain of a drunk driving conviction can scare away potential clients and result in diminished esteem by judges and other attorneys. As a partner in a small-town law firm, these concerns were front and center in DC's mind when he picked up his first-ever drunk driving charge, Although in his 60's, DC couldn't bear the thought of having a black mark on his otherwise impeccable reputation in the legal community. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, DC called the person whom he knew was the best DUI defense attorney in the state, Dennis Melowski. And Dennis delivered in a big way for DC. Despite some difficult video evidence and a blood test that was nearly twice the legal limit, Dennis was able to negotiate a resolution that completely avoided any type of alcohol-related offense. Under the terms of the  deal Dennis worked out, the original OWI charge was reduced to Reckless Driving and the remaining PAC charge was dismissed completely. Aside from paying a fine, DC suffered no consequences form his arrest and his outstanding reputation remains fully intact. To read DC's review of Dennis' work on his case on the independent lawyer rating website Avvo, click here (the review is titled "Reputation Saver"): http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/53081-wi-dennis-melowski-1523763/reviews.html

Thursday, March 26, 2015

March 18, 2015: OWI-1st (Prescription Drugs) Reduced to Reckless Driving

Many of our clients have much more at stake than just the court-imposed penalties for an impaired driving conviction. Often, the far greater consequence is on their professional reputation. There may not be a better example of this than our physician clients. Not only do doctors face potential sanction by the state medical board if convicted of such an offense, they also face the loss of hospital privileges. Even worse, the stigma associated with such an offense can shake the faith of patients and scare off future employers. Simply put, an impaired driving conviction has career-ending potential for doctors.

This is the situation our client, MR, found himself in when charged with his first-ever impaired driving offense. Although highly-regarded, and with more than two decades of impeccable care under his belt, MR found himself facing a professional setback that he couldn't imagine. Initially, MR's chances of avoiding a conviction on the original charges seemed quite slim, given the initial allegations. Witnesses had observed MR's car swerving all over the road, striking a yield sign, and ultimately rear-ending another driver. On top of that, MR performed very poorly on the field sobriety tests...on camera. A subsequent blood test revealed the presence of several impairment-inducing prescription medications. Despite the very damning evidence, however, MR had a viable defense. As it turns out, MR's nighttime medications were mistakenly placed in the morning compartments of the pill tray laid out by his wife. He had inadvertently taken them in the morning before driving to work, believing he had correctly taken his morning pills. In short, MR had a defense of involuntary intoxication. But getting the prosecutor to believe MR's claims turned out to be no easy task. In fact, it took Dennis Melowski more than a year. Finally, however, Dennis won the prosecutor over as the case was gearing up for trial. And it was an outcome that was definitely worth the wait for MR. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the impaired driving charges were dropped, in exchange for MR's plea to a reduced charge of Reckless Driving. Aside from paying fines, MR suffered no license loss and completely avoided any type of drug or alcohol related impaired driving conviction. Most importantly, he is facing no professional repercussions and his outstanding reputation is still fully intact. Needless to say, he is thrilled with the outcome.  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Four More Clients Avoid Drunk Driving Convictions in the Last 30 Days

Case #1: OWI-1st/PAC-1st (with .118 Blood Test Result) Reduced to 2 Minor Traffic Tickets for CDL Client

Our client, TK, absolutely had to get out of his first-ever drunk driving charge. A conviction would have resulted in the immediate loss of a well-paying over-the-road truck driving job, with little chance of being hired again in the future. In the commercial driving field, a DUI conviction can haunt a driver for years, long after the period of license revocation has been served. TK was referred to Dennis Melowski by a very loyal referral source, the owner of a trucking company for whom Dennis has helped countless drivers over the years. Fortunately, TK can add his name to that long list. Based on some significant legal issues Dennis was able to leverage in negotiations with the prosecutor, the original drunk driving charges against TK were dropped. Instead, TK pled no contest to 2 completely non-alcohol-related, minor traffic tickets: Inattentive Driving and Failure to Display Front License Plate. TK never lost his license for a single day and his commercial privileges are all full intact. Another commercial driving career saved.

Case #2: OWI-1st/Refusal of Chemical Test Reduced to Reckless Driving

SR has a great job out-of-state that requires her to have fully valid driving privileges at all times. Like many of our clients, SR's job was on the line if she were found guilty of the charges she was facing when she came to us. On top of that, SR's home state would impose very drastic penalties if she were convicted of DUI or Refusal in Wisconsin, making it very difficult for her to find similar work. Not knowing where to turn for help, SR sought advice from her personal attorney, who referred her to Dennis Melowski. As of two weeks ago, SR has nothing more to worry about. As it turns out, Dennis' review of the squad video revealed several deficiencies in the officer's administration of the roadside sobriety tests to SR, along with some significant contradictions between what was on the video and what was described in the officer's report. In short, the officer's credibility was very much in question. Dennis brought what he found to the attention of the prosecutor and was able to negotiate a very favorable settlement for SR, despite some VERY difficult facts in the case, including a call-in by another driver. Under the terms of the deal, the drunk driving and Refusal charges were dropped, in exchange for SR's no contest plea to Reckless Driving. Aside from paying a $313.00 fine, SR suffered no consequences from her arrest. Not only did she avoid any loss of her license, she avoided a drunk driving conviction altogether. 

Case #3: Another CDL Client's Career Saved: OWI-1st/PAC-1st (with .16 Breath Test Result) Reduced to 2 Minor Traffic Tickets

AB was actually referred to Dennis Melowski by one of Dennis' competitors in the Milwaukee area, a somewhat regular occurrence at our firm. Although having an excellent reputation of his own, this attorney though AB would be in better hands with Dennis, given the stakes involved and some difficult facts to overcome in AB's case. No doubt, AB had a tremendous amount on the line. He is the sole proprietor of his own trucking company in a state out West. If convicted of drunk driving, AB's CDL privileges would be completely disqualified, causing him to go out-of-business. With a wife and children to support, this was an unimaginable outcome for AB. But thanks to a significant breach of protocol in the administration of AB's breath test was revealed at AB's DOT suspension hearing, Dennis was able to create just a big enough hole in the case to negotiate a fantastic settlement. The drunk driving charges were dropped. Instead, AB entered no contest pleas to 2 minor traffic tickets: Inattentive Driving and Deviation from Lane. Bot of these minor offenses are completely non-alcohol-related and would have no impact on AB's regular or commercial driving privileges. His trucking business was completely saved and AB is a VERY happy man.

Case #4: OWI-1st/PAC-1st (with .098 Blood Test Result) Reduced to 2 Minor Traffic Tickets

3 years ago, Dennis Melowski was able to help JK's twin brother avoid a drunk driving conviction, an outcome that saved his commercial driving career. So when JK picked up a first offense of her own, Dennis was the first person she called. And Dennis delivered again, in a county in Southeastern Wisconsin that is notoriously difficult to deal with in drunk driving cases. After laying the groundwork for some very favorable legal issues at JK's DOT suspension hearing, Dennis was able to ultimately convince the prosecutor to drop the drunk driving charges in exchange for reduced charges of Inattentive Driving and Lane Deviation. These two completely non-alcohol-related, minor traffic offenses did not impact JK's driving privileges in any way and she was able to completely avoid the stigma of a drunk driving conviction. Another very satisfied client.