Why Visit A DWI Arrest Scene?

Investigation of the DWI

Always Visit the Scene of the Incident.

The below is one example of how visiting the scene of an arrest can benefit your case, your client, and the jury’s full understanding of what occurred.

Often, we’ll use the services of a private investigator to assist us in investigating a DWI case.  In addition, we’ll want to view the area ourselves, and if possible take relevant photos, measurements, and take landscape diagrams.  Often, there evidence at the scene where a DWI stop occurred that many do not even think about.  Throughout the St. Louis area and all of Missouri, the facts in any individual DWI case vary greatly.  It is important for us to gain a thorough understanding of exactly what occurred.  Following our initial discussion with the client, after we want to go to the scene ourselves, to see where the stop occurred, to see where the driving happened, to take every step possible to put ourselves on the scene.  In addition, if necessary, we’ll include a private investigator in the defense team to dig for any additional information that we may not have notices, or to interview key witnesses.

Case Example:

Facts:    Client was charge with DWI.  The stop occurred on a secluded part of a state road.  It was cold, and snowing heavily.  Officers had been working the scene of a minor accident, and were waiving cars around the two vehicles involved in the collision.  To do so, they had been using hand signals, but the evening was getting dark, and they began to use flashlights, in a waiving fashion, indicating to the passing vehicles to go around.

My client rolled up on the scene driving a Chevy Suburban.  Noticing the officer  appeared to be waiving his around the scene, he proceeded on.  As he passed the officer with the flashlight that had appeared to be waiving him around the scene, the officer banged the flashlight against the Suburban aggressively, client immediately stopped, afraid he had actually hit the officer unintentionally.  Upon the stop, the irate officer began to handle him, take him into custody, and handcuff him for failure to stop at the demand of an officer.  Because client had had a beer before driving while out with a friend, the Officer charged him with DWI as well.  No breath test was ever offered nor taken due to the location and the officers involvement with the accident scene.

A trip to the scene several nights later gave us a very good impression of what it must have been like that evening.  It was still cold, and snow was blowing.  I asked my client to step outside the vehicle with a large Mag-Light, the type the officer had used on the evening in questions.  It was very apparent that waiving the light in a fashion looked exactly like waiving a light to indicate to a driver to stop his vehicle (which is completely the inappropriate way to do it by the way).

Several months later when I asked the officer to do that motion, while in trial, with the lights turned off (with the permission of the Judge of course), the jury agreed that the motion used by the officer, seeing only the light from the flashlight appears to be waiving drivers around the scene, not halting them.  On a dark snowy night, an officer near a crash site waiving a light is not indication to stop a particular driver, and the fact that he had alcohol on his breath, without more evidence was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt that my client was driving while intoxicated/  Not Guilty!

Lesson to Learn:  Go To The Scene.

By Guss Markwell