Tough Times Call For Tough Representation

Photo of Gary S. Bernstein

Harford County Not Guilty- Video Schtick

On Behalf of | Jun 27, 2019 | DUI |

Client was acquitted today of all charges including the minor traffic charges. It was an interesting case as there was CCTV from the Sheriff’s Office video-taping my client leaving a restaurant and walking to his car.  He meanders along is a zig zag pattern so they believe he is drunk and an officer goes out to catch him before he leaves the parking lot.  He is too late so he follows my client who drives exceptionally well with only a drift onto the turning lane when there was no other traffic on the road and the same to the shoulder.  Both of these occurred on curves.  The officer approximated his spped at about 50 in a 40.  He used radar but the prosecutor could not get that into evidence except for probable cause.  There was a battle over the radar, that was a complete waste of time because the case was about the DUI not the speed.  Some fights are not worth it.  The prosecutor is relatively new so I understood why she fought everything, but in the future she will move on.  He pulled into a parking lot where the right rear tire of his truck climbed the corner of the sidewalk.  It was a narrow entrance and snuck on him as the officer turned on his emergency light bar.

Now we had talked about the case because I expected to be trying a jury trial in Harford County starting yesterday but that case was postponed.  We agreed my client did well on the SFSTs and I thought his walking outside the car and standing during the tests rebutted any inference that his zig zagging was alcohol related.  The video did not show the extent of the swaying or slurred speech that the officer testified wrote in his report and testified to on direct. The State decided not to use the video.  The judge asked me if I was putting it in, but I said not yet.

Because on direct examination- for the third time in recent acquittals- the State left out SFST evidence that was crucial, the judge dismissed the DUI and most of the minor charges, but held in the DWI based on what the officer described about the entire episode from CCTV to the SFST performance.  I called the police officer as MY witness.  I introduced the video and asked him ONLY about the parts where he said my client swayed or his speech was slurred.  He said the swaying was there but the judge didn’t see it and the video is the best evidence.  I then had the audio played (it did not work during the SFSTs) when the client was in the police car as the in-car audio worked.  His speech was clear, intelligent, and there was NO slurring of any kind.  Now the State got to cross the officer.  She tried to go into the areas she missed on direct examination that I had pointed out on my Motion at the end of the State’s case and the judge sustained my objections because I NEVER came near those areas and her questions were beyond the scope of what she was allowed to ask.

The judge laughed when she started arguing with him and said I wondered if he (meaning me) was going to open that up for you, “but he kept it tight,” so no you cannot ask about any of that.  Much to my surprise the judge did not chastise her when he sustained my objections and she jumped up and asked him to explain why.  Most judges would have told her to sit down and ask your next question.  The judge owed her no explanation, but he was kind and patient and re-explained it to her a lot. Now that he saw the video and heard him speak, there was more than a reasonable doubt and he found him not guilty.  But for the video my client would be finishing his first meeting with the probation department.

I did not get a chance to talk to the prosecutor after the trial because she was not too happy.  When I see her next, I will tell her that I thought it was a smooth move not using the video and leaving it for me.  Fortunately for my client the move did not work.