Monday, October 29, 2012

October 23, 2012: Aggravated OWI-1st with .13 Breath Test Result Resolved with Reckless Driving Ticket

When our client, JMP, was initially stopped by police, the arresting officer immediately conducted a felony arrest because he claimed that JMP's driving was so reckless that it endangered several pedestrians who were standing on a nearby sidewalk. The officer claimed that JMP had been doing "donuts" in the middle of an intersection and then accelerated away at a very high rate of speed, nearly going up on the sidewalk in the process.

Things got even worse for JMP at the police department when the officer smelled alcohol on JMP's breath. Ultimately, he was put through field sobriety tests and arrested for drunk driving. A breath test JMP submitted to revealed an alcohol level of .13. In addition to the "felony" JMP had been arrested for, he was also charged with a first offense drunk driving. JMP, in short, was in a lot of trouble. He knew he was going to need a very good attorney on his side in court. After asking around, JMP was given Dennis Melowski's name by a friend of JMP's dad, who was a former client of Dennis'.

When JMP first spoke to Dennis, he was despondent. He thought he had a hopeless case. JMP knew the officer was greatly exaggerating his driving behavior, but who would believe his side of the story? Fortunately, Dennis Melowski is well-accustomed to hearing embellished (if not fabricated) stories by the police and knows how to deal with them. JMP's case is a textbook example of this. At a hearing early on in JMP's case, Dennis had a chance to cross-examine the arresting officer. By using the officer's own squad video, Dennis was able to catch the officer in various inconsistencies and half-truths. In fact, by the time Dennis was done with him, the officer was telling an almost entirely different story than the one in his report. It became clear that there was no felony committed, despite the officer's original claim.

That left the OWI and PAC charges. Once again, the officer's credibility took center stage. All along, JMP had insisted that he asked for a blood test after taking the breath test, which is a person's right under Wisconsin's Implied Consent Law. Conveniently, however, the audio portion of the police department video was "not functioning" when this conversation took place. Despite assurances by the officer to JMP that his repeated requests for a blood draw "were being recorded," this turned out not to be true. Although all of the other interactions at the station were audio recorded, JMP's request for an alternative test was not. Knowing what Dennis had already done to the officer's credibility on the driving allegations, it was clear to Dennis that the prosecutor knew what would happen to the officer's credibility regarding the "non functioning" audio. This gave Dennis the opening he needed to negotiate an outstanding deal. In exchange for the complete dismissal of the drunk driving charges in circuit court, JMP plead no contest to a municipal charge of reckless driving and another municipal ordinance violation for revving his engine within the city limits. JMP paid a fine, but otherwise suffered no consequences. He never lost his license for a single day; did not have to complete alcohol counseling; and was able to completely avoid the life-altering stigma of being a convicted drunk driver.