“Do you really think an expert is worth it? Isn’t a DUI an open and shut case?”
This is a question I hear fairly regularly from my clients. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it is a popular misconception that if you’ve been charged with a DUI, there are very few ways to successfully fight the case. I know from experience that it is possible to fight a DUI case and win; I’ve done it more than once. And in more than half of those cases, the opinion of an expert was an essential piece of my defense. So, how can you successfully use an expert’s opinion to help defend your DUI? Here are just a few examples.
We know the law in Pennsylvania allows for a charge of DUI if you are found to have lawfully prescribed medications in your bloodstream, and it is believed that those drugs impair your ability to drive. This is true even if they are taken as prescribed and the levels are within therapeutic range. In these cases, I have used an expert in Pharmacology who reviewed the medical records of the client and the evidence. From this information, he was able to provide an opinion on whether or not the medications taken by the client would cause impairment. I’ve been lucky enough to have a dash cam video in each of these cases, and I was able to provide this video to the expert. He was then able to opine that the driving behaviors and inability to complete field sobriety tests would not be the result of the prescription medication.
In cases where there is bloodwork, a scientific expert, usually in forensic chromatography, can be invaluable. The scientific expert can review all the records for the machine, ensure that it was checked for accuracy and calibrated properly, then determine if there were any issues such as cross-contamination or other malfunctions. The expert can then testify as to the reliability of the BAC. If the number is unreliable, this could lead to a not guilty verdict.
In cases where there is no bloodwork or in cases challenging the probable cause to arrest, an expert in standardized field sobriety testing can be very helpful. The expert can review any video and/or reports to find mistakes made by the police that can help invalidate the results of the SFSTs. The expert can also provide more information about the reliability of the tests, including the fact that those tests are only accurate about two-thirds of the time. Essentially, the expert challenges the observations of the officer, creating reasonable doubt and assisting in obtaining a not guilty verdict.
William Reynolds, a consultant with Brighton Lewis in St. Louis, often serves as an expert witness in DUI cases. For him, there are two phases when he is retained – case analysis and trial. “During case analysis, I sit down and meticulously go through all the evidence. I’m then able to say, ‘here’s what you have, and here’s what it should be.’ 99% of my cases using this analysis never make it to trial.”
If the case does make it to trial, according to Reynolds, simply having an expert is beneficial to a defendant. “Experts have specialized experience and training necessary to give a different perspective on a case,” says Reynolds. “Few things are what they seem on the surface, and my testimony provides an alternative opinion that otherwise wouldn’t make it on the record.”
These are just a few examples of when I have successfully used an expert to challenge a DUI charge. An expert opinion can be invaluable in many different situations. A good DUI attorney will know if it is worth the time and expense to employ the services of an expert. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, contact The Fliszar Firm today for a free consultation, and let an experienced DUI attorney decide if you may benefit from expert testimony.