Wednesday, December 5, 2012

November 20, 2012: OWI-Homicide Charges Completely Dismissed

In the realm of drunk driving charges, there is no offense more serious than homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle. With potential penalties of 25 years imprisonment, 5-year license revocation and a fine of $100,000.00, the stakes don't get any higher. Even worse, since these cases can involve significant media attention, prosecutors and judges view them as opportunities to send messages about the risks of drinking and driving, often imposing very harsh sentences as a result. This is on top of the already enormous, life-long emotional consequences that come with the brutal realization that you have taken another person's life. It was this tragic circumstance that our client, CLF, found himself in when he crashed his motorcycle, causing the death of his passenger in the process. Sadly, this tragedy was compounded by the fact that the passenger was also CLF's fiancee'.

When the police came to the scene of the accident that fateful night, they asked CLF if he had been drinking. With each question, it soon became clear the police were investigating this case as a possible drunk driving homicide. As part of this investigation, blood was drawn from CLF and was sent to to the State lab in Madison for testing. The result was an alcohol level of .118, considerably higher than the legal limit of .08. Needless to say, CLF was terrified at the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence. He quickly hired a lawyer to represent him. In preparing its case, the District Attorney's office took the next 8 months to formally charge CLF while they "considered all the evidence". Unfortunately, the lawyer CLF initially hired failed to timely view and preserve certain evidence from the scene, which in turn severely hampered CLF's ability to prove how the accident may have happened. With each passing day, CLF grew shorter on time while his attorney made no headway in the case. With so much at stake, CLF finally took the advice of numerous friends and family and hired Dennis Melowski.

Dennis got to work immediately to make up for the lost time. His first step was to hire an expert accident re-constructionist,  a former sheriff's deputy, who found serious deficiencies in the police investigation of CLF's case. Even more significant was the fact that Dennis' expert discovered that the speed limit for the curvy stretch of road where the accident occurred was reduced shortly after CLF's crash. As it turns out, CLF wasn't the only one who had a serious accident going around this dangerous curve. As Dennis' investigation of the case continued, it became increasingly evident that CLF wasn't at fault. Dennis took what he learned and filed a motion challenging the State's evidence against CLF. A lengthy hearing was held where Dennis cross-examined the lead police investigators. With question after question, Dennis perforated the State's case so badly that by the hearing's end, the judge wondered aloud how the prosecutor would prove its case against CLF beyond a reasonable doubt. Two weeks later, the prosecutor realized he couldn't. He filed a motion to dismiss all charges against CLF, which the judge quickly granted. Case dismissed. After more than a year of having this tremendous weight on his shoulders, CLF walked out of the courthouse completely exonerated. And while the loss of his fiancee' will stay with CLF forever, the sense of relief he experienced cannot be imagined. [The Green Bay Press Gazette account of the dismissal of the homicide charges can be read here:]