Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 15, 2013: OWI-1st (with .108 Blood Test Result) Reduced to Reckless Driving

As a power lineman for a large electrical company, GTK is required to operate all manner of heavy equipment, which requires him to have fully valid commercial driving privileges at all times. As a CDL holder, GTK is well aware of the brutal consequences a DUI charge can have. Professionally, it's like a death-sentence. Once you're a convicted drunk driver, most company's won't touch you with a ten-foot pole, even years down the road. In the commercial driving world, convicted drunk drivers are viewed as little more than damaged goods. So when GTK was stopped for speeding after a night out at the bar with some co-workers, his professional life literally flashed before his eyes the moment the cop asked him if he'd been drinking. He honestly thought his lucrative career as a lineman was over. GTK's fear only grew as he struggled through the roadside tests the officer had him perform. Even worse, when the cop searched GTK's vehicle post-arrest, he found an uncased handgun, so GTK was also arrested for Carrying a Concealed Weapon, a serious charge. The result of the blood test after GTK's arrest was like the final nail in his professional coffin: .108, over the legal limit and "scientific proof" that GTK was guilty. GTK knew he needed help, but didn't know where to turn. As it turns out, one of GTK's co-workers knew that Dennis Melowski had gotten two other linemen in the company out of their DUI charges and kept one of Dennis' cards in his wallet--just in case. GTK jotted down Dennis' number and gave him a call. It turned out to be the smartest phone call GTK ever made. After months of relentless litigation, and just an hour before GTK's trial was about to start, the prosecutor, well aware of Dennis' track record in trial, finally decided it would be better to just settle the case. A very favorable deal was reached. The drunk driving charges were dropped. Instead, GTK plead no contest to a reduced charge of Reckless Driving, which would have no impact on GTK's regular or commercial driving privileges. In fact, GTK didn't lose his license for even a single day. Aside from paying a fine, GTK suffered no consequences from this incident. And the Carrying a Concealed Weapon Charge? It was resolved as a simple municipal ordinance violation carrying a small fine. GTK's career as a lineman was saved. Another Real Result in the books.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 11, 2013: OWI-1st/Refusal of Chemical Test Case (with .194 blood test result) Reduced to County Ordidnance Violation

At Melowski & Associates, we don't take anything lying down, especially if it involves the questionable actions or tactics of a prosecutor. Perhaps there is no better illustration of this than the nearly two-year-long odyssey of our client's case in County of M. v. AMO. AMO had been involved in a one-vehicle rollover accident in which her husband was injured. To protect her commercial-driver husband from possible DUI charges that would end his driving career, AMO told the police at the hospital that she was driving at the time the accident occurred, even though the truth was she wasn't. As a result of her "confession," the police arrested AMO and requested that she submit to a blood test. Like many people, AMO believed saying no to such a request was within her rights. Unfortunately, that is not the case under Wisconsin's tough "Implied Consent" Law. Despite her refusal of consent, the police forced her to submit to the blood draw. The result was .194, more than double the legal limit. With all of this evidence against her, things were looking bleak for AMO. Although she sacrificed herself to save her husband, she had her own career to worry about and being a convicted drunk driver had the potential to be devastating.

When Dennis Melowski took over AMO's case, his mission was clear: convince the prosecutor that AMO was not driving when the accident occurred, despite her confession to the police. This would be no easy task, since prosecutors hear these sorts of claims all the time and rarely believe them. So Dennis would have to make his case to the prosecutor with cold, hard facts. To do this, Dennis approached the case like a police officer investigating a crime, looking for any small clue that would establish AMO's innocence. After months of relentless examination, Dennis had uncovered plenty of evidence to prove that AMO was not the driver. He was ready to make his case to the prosecutor. And he did exactly that at AMO's first pretrial conference. In fact, the meeting with the prosecutor went so well that at the end of the negotiations a very favorable plea agreement had been reached. The prosecutor agreed to drop the drunk driving and refusal charges if AMO agreed to plead no contest to a very minor, non-alcohol-related county ordinance violation, which would carry no loss of license and would not even appear on AMO's driver record. AMO would pay a very small fine of $50.00 but would otherwise suffer no consequences. On his way back to his office that day, Dennis called AMO with this terrific news. Needless to say, she was elated with the outcome. All Dennis had to do the next day was draft some paperwork for the plea agreement and the deal would be done.

But when Dennis got to his office the next morning, there was a startling email from the prosecutor waiting for him. Not only was she withdrawing her offer from the day before (after it had already been accepted), she was now threatening AMO with the issuance of criminal charges for the injuries her husband sustained in the accident. The prosecutor gave AMO an ultimatum: plead guilty to the charges she was already facing or criminal charges would ensue. Little did this prosecutor know, however, Dennis doesn't respond well to threats, nor will he sit idly by when a prosecutor reneges on a plea agreement that had already been accepted. Dennis rejected the prosecutor's ultimatum in no uncertain terms. The gloves were now officially off.

For the next 14 months, there was no court activity in AMO's case. No hearings were scheduled and there was no inquiry from the court as to the status of the case. Everyone was waiting for the prosecutor to prepare and finalize the criminal case against she had threatened against AMO. As it turns out, however, the prosecutor never did anything to prepare a criminal case against AMO. Not one thing. The case simply languished in a file drawer somewhere for more than a year. The prosecutor's explanation? She's a "busy prosecutor" and the case "slipped through the cracks." Dennis had had enough. He filed a withering Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Prosecute, arguing to the judge that AMO's Due Process rights had been violated repeatedly by the actions of the prosecutor. The judge scheduled a hearing on Dennis' motion. But the day before the hearing, Dennis received a surprising phone call. It was from a different prosecutor in the same office. This prosecutor very humbly explained that the old prosecutor was "no longer with their office" and that he had been assigned to take over AMO's case. The new prosecutor apologized for "all of the problems with the case" and agreed to reinstate the original plea agreement that had been reached more than a year before. The drunk driving and refusal charges were dropped. AMO paid a $50.00 fine and has no trace of these charges on her driving record. Justice was finally done. The lesson? Given the choice between standing up and lying down, always stand up. Especially for your clients.