In February of 2010, I tried the most exciting case of my 20 year career as a criminal defense attorney. Who ever said you don't learn anything in victory? Of course you do and it is distinctly sweeter-tasting than defeat.
The trial, a DUI with a breath test result of .084, (.004 over the legal limit of .08), lasted for two days, scaling the depths of tortuous tedium along the jagged pangs of constant worry to the surreal plateau of triumph, a destiny which was never assured and always in doubt.
My client had a prior DUI, which precluded the state from offering us a reckless driving plea, which often happens in a case with such low blows.
I was able to get the state's breath test machine expert to concede a 2 point margin of error in the machine and the state never really sought to rebut it.
I also argued to the jury that it was their job, not the role of the arresting officer, to grade my client's performance on the roadside sobriety tests such as the heel to toe and the one legged stand. It is always important to remind the jury that you do not necessarily need to be able to walk heel to toe in order to drive a car and there is usually plenty of evidence of non-impairment during these tests.
It is equally important to remind a jury that things such as fatigue (especially in an arrest done at three in the morning) may account for factors that the arresting officer just robotically checks off as a sure-fire sign of impairment.
My client testified and performed the tests flawlessly despite admitting that he actually had three beers, not the one he had insisted upon to the arresting officer.
It took the jury four hours, an unusually long period of time for deliberations in a misdemeanor case, to arrive at a verdict. They had a question at hour 2, were deadlocked at hour 3, and finally rendered a verdict of Not Guilty by the end of hour number 4.
Florida DUIs are difficult cases to win. The public seems inclined to believe in breath test results as well as the problem of drunk driving and their role as jurors to do something about it. In this case, a confluence of favorable factors, some planned, some variable, stuck and justice prevailed.
Joseph T. Hobson is a Criminal Defense attorney specializing in DUI charges in Clearwater, Florida.