Tough Times Call For Tough Representation

Photo of Gary S. Bernstein

I prayed a Jury Trial in a DUI in the City.  There are posted protocols for selecting a trial date and they were ignored by everyone so the case gets randomly set for yesterday.  The prosecutor’s file from the District Court did not have the Motions I filed to suppress the arrest and the breath test so I sent them to her on Friday.  The court file did not have them either.  Until electronic filing comes to the City, papers filed go into a black hole.

Now the first Motion is to suppress the arrest.  There is one police officer in Baltimore City who does the DUI arrests- Lt. Charles Smith.  He is former military and does it by the book.  He is scrupulously straight forward and honest.  He is not “cute” when he testifies.  There were a minimal amount of clues on the SFSTs and he told the judge my client’s one clue during his  performance on the One Leg Stand provided no clue towards probable cause.  On cross-examination, I asked him about everything my client did from the moment he first observed his driving up and including his taking the breath test.  To each question he answered, he did it perfectly, he had no problem, there was nothing done improperly.  This included, driving (stop was for not having a tag), turn signal, speed, parking, walking, standing, etc….. To my surprise the judge upheld the arrest.  Now I need to keep the breath test out to win the case.

There was a second officer who told my client absolutely 100% the wrong information about getting a new license if my client refused the breath test.  He sat there playing on the phone just spouting bullshit advice.  As a result after Lt. Smith arrived and read my client the form, my client relied on his conversation with the other officer to make his decision.  He took the test because the other officer induced him to take the test, otherwise he might not get a license and would be suspended unless he begged the MVA to give him one!  You just get an interlock and go get a new license- no begging required.  Because prosecutors never deal with the MVA side of the case, she did not fully understand the inducement issue.  The judge read the cases and looked at the law and said it was a no brainer that the test would be excluded because of the misleading advice.  Well based on Lt. Smith’s earlier testimony, they had nothing to win a case in front of a jury.

The judge asks if there is possibility of a plea and I say nope and we want a jury.  We are ordered to report on Zoom to the Administrative Judge the next morning (today) to get a new trial date.  I tell my client there is no way they can try this case after I had Lt. Smith admit to everything that was done correctly, and I can’t believe they would even try.  Now after a 1/2 dozen emails between the prosecutor and I over the last few days, I expected to hear from her if she was going to drop the case.  Instead I get on the Zoom early and I turn on the video so the Judge can see me when the other 50 lawyers, etc. log in with no photos.  She asks if any cases are being dismissed and no prosecutor answers.  I figure we are going to be there most of the morning to get a date.  After the judge does the incarcerated Zoom defendants, she sees me and calls my case.  I tell her we need a trial date.  At that point the prosecutor tells the judge she is dropping all the charges.  I guess she was so pissed she wanted my client and I to sit all morning on Zoom as punishment for blowing her case up.

Maybe she is also mad at Lt. Smith for his professionalism and honesty.  He did what he is duty bound to do.  One of the great people in this world is Cpl. Jefferson Schaub of the Baltimore County Police Department (soon to be a Sgt.).  We have had many, many cases and he is one of my favorite people in the world.  His decency and honesty are admired by everyone.  After a not guilty last year he said to me that his job on the street is to assess Probable Cause, not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  He told me that when he see my name or another lawyer’s name, he knows which cases will result in a not guilty.  He doesn’t’t get upset.  He said his responsibility is to testify honestly and if the judge says it does not meet the beyond a reasonable doubt standard he is fine with it.  He did what he was required to do based on his observations on the street, and he does not have a dog in the fight in the courtroom.  I assure you Lt. Smith knew that without the breath test his case was going into the toilet.  He didn’t know how I was going to keep it out, but he knew I had something.  His responsibility was to testify to exactly what he saw and that is exactly what he did.  This is how justice is served.