Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December 2, 2012: Complete Dismissal of OWI-1st/Refusal of Chemical Test Case (with .12 Blood Test Result)

At 63 years of age with a spotless driving record, a drunk driving arrest was the last thing MDH ever thought would happen to him. It was certainly the furthest thing on his mind when he came up to Wisconsin for a day of boating on Lake Michigan. After all, this was something MDH had done countless times before without incident. But as he made his way back to his Dad's place to spend the evening after his day on the lake, a police officer noticed that one of MDH's headlights was burnt out and he was pulled over. After the officer smelled alcohol on MDH's breath, this routine traffic stop soon turned into a full-blown drunk driving investigation. MDH was put through a battery of field sobriety tests and arrested on the spot. He was taken to the local police department for a breath test, which he allegedly refused. "Why should I consent?," he thought. "I shouldn't even be here." The police, however, wouldn't take "no" for an answer. They forced MDH into a squad car and drove him to the nearest hospital for a blood draw against his will. Shockingly, such a procedure is considered lawful in Wisconsin, even for a 63-year-old first-time offender. When they got to the hospital the police made it very clear to MDH: submit to the blood test or we will tie you down and take it from you anyway. Terrified at the presence of what was now several officers, MDH reluctantly stuck out his arm and allowed his blood to be taken. The result was hard for MDH to fathom: .120, one and a half times more than the legal limit of .08. Suddenly, MDH's world seemed to be crashing in on him. As a result of a minor equipment defect of which he wasn't even aware, he was now facing charges of OWI-1st, PAC-1st and Unlawful Refusal of Chemical test, based on his refusal of the breath test at the police department. Very serious charges, especially for someone who has been a law-abiding citizen his entire life. None of this sat very well with MDH. He was horrified at how he had been treated by the police and did not believe for one minute that he was drunk behind the wheel. He knew how much he had to drink that day and knew darn well it wouldn't add up to a .12 alcohol level. Something just wasn't right. MDH was determined to fight these charges, on principle alone.

MDH came to see Dennis Melowski after being referred by a local business owner. When Dennis heard him tell his side of the story, he knew MDH was right to be upset. There were many things the police did improperly and even more that just just didn't add up. Through his investigation, Dennis learned the police had followed MDH for a considerable time before stopping him for the headlight violation. During that whole time (captured on video) there wasn't one thing wrong with MDH's driving. He was going precisely the speed limit, stopped at every stop sign, signaled every turn, and never once deviated from his lane. And although the cops insisted that his speech was slurred, it sounded clear as a bell on the video. And the inconsistencies didn't end there. The cops also claimed that MDH "stumbled" when he exited his vehicle, a fact that was flatly contradicted by the video evidence. Even more troubling was the fact that the cops deliberately moved MDH out of camera range to perform his sobriety tests, thereby making it impossible for him to contradict the officers' version of how he did on them. To top it all off, despite repeatedly telling the cops that he had recently undergone a hip replacement, they made MDH perform the tests anyway, a nearly impossible task for someone still recovering from such a procedure. Sound fair? Dennis didn't think so either, so he filed a motion to dismiss the charges. A hearing was held in front of the judge assigned to the case and Dennis took the officers to task about all of the problems with the case. They had no explanation. At the close of the hearing, the judge had heard enough. It was as plain to him as it was to Dennis that MDH should never have been arrested in the first place. All charges were dismissed. MDH walked out of the courthouse completely exonerated. And he still has a spotless record. Sometimes there is no better reason to fight a case than principle.