Case Result: Lauren Scardella Gets NJ DWI Charges Dismissed
Why Experience and Tenacity Make a Difference in Your DWI Case
Certain types of cases are particularly difficult. Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) cases are always hard. Why? It’s rare to find a New Jersey Appellate Division or Supreme Court case about DWI that doesn’t talk about the strong public policy of “ridding the roads of the scourge of drunken driving.” Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have done a very effective job of pressuring state legislatures to make the DWI penalties for even a first offense DUI conviction extremely onerous. There is even a prohibition on plea bargaining DWI/DUI cases in New Jersey municipal courts.
With that in mind, I want to tell you a story that illustrates why it is so important to choose a lawyer for your DWI case who is experienced, tenacious, and successful, rather than choosing your lawyer simply based on the fee that they charge (and that advice goes for whether you are searching for the lowest priced or the highest priced lawyer).
Recently, I defended a case in a New Jersey municipal court that had been going on for nearly a year. This was a DWI and possession of marijuana case. While the marijuana portion of it isn’t relevant to the DWI, it will become important later in the story.
My client had two prior DUI convictions, and as this was then a third offense, she was facing a mandatory 6 months in jail and a 10 year license suspension, along with all of the other penalties for a third offense, which you can view here. After determining that my client was not eligible for a “step down” in sentencing (which happens when a person has first or second DWI conviction that occurs more than 10 years prior to the subsequent violation and entitles that person to be sentenced one level below the offense level they are at, i.e., a second sentenced as a first or a third sentenced as a second), I investigated the prior offenses themselves. Due to the age of the first, no transcript of the guilty plea was available anymore, leaving me no way to attack it in court. After obtaining a transcript of the guilty plea for the second offense, I determined that there were no grounds to reopen it.
So, we were stuck with this being a third offense, and if convicted, my client would be sentenced as a third offender and spend those 6 months in jail and lose her license for those 10 years.
That’s when the work really began. When the discovery arrived from the State, it turned out that the client had given breath samples on two different Alcotest machines. On the first, the machine failed its second control test, performed after my client had given both of her breath samples on that instrument. Great news! That meant the readings from that machine couldn’t be used! Then she was taken to a second police department and asked to blow again into a different Alcotest. Since this one didn’t fail its control test, the reading could be used as evidence against my client. But something looked kind of funny when I was looking at the individual readings. As described here, the Alcotest actually measures the alcohol in your breath using two different technologies. Since you must give two acceptable breath samples, each Alcohol Influence Report has 4 readings on it. Those 4 readings must agree within a certain amount, or they are considered out of tolerance and can’t be used as evidence due to the high likelihood that they are not accurate. After more than 8 years of doing this, I can usually tell whether the readings are in tolerance just by eyeballing it, though I always check it on my tolerance calculator program. These readings looked to be out of tolerance to me, but to be sure, I ran the numbers through my tolerance calculator and…. EUREKA! The readings were not in tolerance. They couldn’t be used!
That made my job significantly easier, because now the State had lost its most compelling and least assailable evidence in proving my client guilty of DWI. They were only left with the “observations” case meaning, in layman’s terms, did my client look and act drunk?
I turned to the video and the police reports. I’ll be honest. The police report made my client sound pretty drunk. So I loaded up the video and pressed play. And nothing happened. So I tried a different program, with the same result. After attempting to use about 3 more programs to play the video, I determined my copy was corrupted. The question was whether the State’s video was also corrupted, or if the corruption happened when they copied it to send to me. In the end, it turned out that the State didn’t have a usable video either. Another step in the right direction!
My client also informed me that she had long term knee problems from her days as a college athlete. That was helpful information because it could be used to explain her poor performance on the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.
I don’t want to make this story any longer than necessary, so I’ll get to the point. How did my tenacity and experience help my client get the best result possible? Well, when we went to court and I explained all of the problems to the prosecutor, we agreed on a resolution wherein my client would plead guilty to a traffic offense for Reckless Driving, and receive a 2-year license suspension. She would also plead guilty to Possession of CDS in a Motor Vehicle (N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1), which carries a mandatory 2 year license suspension. That’s where the marijuana charge fits back in. The prosecutor requested that the judge run these suspensions consecutively, and the judge agreed. Most significantly, my client did not have to serve a SINGLE DAY in jail.
Contact an Experienced Robbinsville DWI Attorney Today
This is why it is important to hire someone to defend you on your DWI case that is experienced and more than that, tenacious. As I said at the outset, these are hard cases, and you will need someone to overturn every rock possible to get you the absolute best result possible. The Law Offices of Lauren E. Scardella can help you. Call (609) 587-1144 or fill out the online from. We have an office at 2653 Nottingham Way STE 1, Hamilton Township, NJ 08619.