DWI’s: strong case vs. weak case

A lot of times the penalty for a DWI will come down to whether your case is strong or weak in the eyes of the prosecutor. This article will break down some of the factors that make a strong DWI case, and conversely what makes a weak case..


Initial stop

A strong case for the prosecutor starts with the stop. If the State cannot show that the initial stop was valid for some reason, they will usually lose the entirety of their evidence in a suppression hearing. Without any evidence, the case will be thrown out.


The reason for the stop doesn’t have to be drinking. It could be an expired registration, speeding, rolling through a stop sign, changing lanes without signaling, or any number of the things that sober drivers do all the time. Of course, these are technically violations, but ones that most drivers will break from time to time. Even though it’s easy to get a a pretextual reason for the stop, police officers still occasionally mess up, so it is always important to look at the reason for the stop.


STRONG: The prosecutor has a strong case if the reason for the stop is obvious. Maybe there is a collision, or an obvious red light run. Maybe there were multiple 911 calls of a reckless driver. It also helps the state if the dashcam video not only shows the violation, but reckless driving or weaving as well.


WEAK: A weak case can be when the officer stops a driver on a clear technicality when they are using it as a pretext for a DWI stop. Often police officers think they know the law better than they actually do, and the pretextual stop is not actually valid. Even when it is technically valid, judges are still sometimes leery to give leeway to officers who toe this line. In these cases, it is worth it to have a suppression motion to see if you can gain leverage. Even if you lose, you still gain the chance to cross-examine the arresting officer.



The next part of the prosecutor’s case is usually the DWI Standard Field Sobriety Tests. Most people think that they have either passed or failed these tests, but that’s simply not the case. Most times when you are doing a SFST, the officer has already made the decision to arrest you, so there’s no way you can pass! The video of the SFSTs will be used to show how drunk you are.


When watching the video of SFSTs, rarely does anyone take into account the preexisting conditions of the driver. Everyone is a little bit different, but they are compared to the perfect test taker. For example, what if a person has a speech impediment, or a disability that causes a limp? Maybe they are like most of us, and get nervous when talking to police on the side of the road. Factors like these can cause a person to appear drunk when they are not.


STRONG: A SFST that will strongly help the prosecutor’s case is one where the driver is noticeably drunk. Maybe the person is slurring their words and being overly friendly or angry. Basically, they are exhibiting all the signs we know when we see one of our friends drunk. If a driver is acutely intoxicated, officers sometimes skip the SFST because the driver is so obviously impaired, and it’s already documented.


WEAK: A weak SFST video would be one where a person is polite and obeys commands. Sometimes the officers come off as extremely rude to a jury, who can then put themselves in the position of the defendant and consider how they would react in a similar situation. Maybe the tests are not performed perfectly, but the tests are completed adequately for the layman. If the officer then tries to explain in detail all the ways the person failed the test, he will not appear to be genuine.


Even better is a video that shows a person politely refusing to perform the tests, and sticking to their guns even when the officer tries to claim they are required to do it (in other words lying), or begins attempting to shame the person into complying.


Blood Alcohol Content:

The third major part of the prosecutor’s case is the Blood Alcohol Content, or BAC. This is determined with either a blood or breath test. This is determined with a blood or breath test. While the number that everyone knows – .08 – is per se intoxication, it is not the only way the state can prove impairment.


STRONG: This is rather obvious, but a strong case for the prosecutor is when the breath test is extremely high – as much as .25 or even higher is possible. A breath or blood test over .15 bumps a first time DWI from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor. Additionally, the state must show that they were impaired at the time they were driving, so the further away in time the test occurred from the stop, the better for the defendant.


WEAK: A weak case would be if the BAC is below .08, or barely above. The BAC is constantly rising or falling, so a blood test result of say .09 could easily mean that at the time the defendant was driving, he or she was below that limit and not impaired. If the state does go forward on a case where the BAC is below .08, they will need to prove impairment in other ways, and this can be an uphill battle for them.


Of course, it is always weaker for the state if they don’t have a BAC test at all- either because the evidence was never obtained, or was not properly obtained.


Don’t go into battle alone. If you are facing DWI charges, call an experienced defense attorney that can parse out these issues and present your case in the best possible light, whether you take a plea or take the case to jury trial. Call 512-677-5003 for a free consultation.

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