This article is from an interview with Utah DUI defense attorney Jason Schatz. In this segment, Jason tells a story about an actual physical control DUI case he defended.
Interviewer: Can you tell me about a case that was memorable, what strategies you used in the defense, and how it was resolved?
Attorney Schatz: I think one of my favorite cases is that I had a client who was actually found parked sitting in his vehicle with the car running, in the driver’s seat at the drive up window at Wendy’s at 6:30 in the morning when the employees came to work in order to get things going for the day.
He had a very interesting story. He had gotten off work the night before, a friend had called him and wanted him to come to the bar and said, “I have to work tomorrow, so you can drink and I’ll drive you home.” Between about midnight and closing time, he had six beers and six shots of Jaeger. The two of them hop in the car. They were cruising around looking for girls and met up with some girls.
They pulled into the parking lot of the Wendy’s to talk to them, while his friend, who had agreed to be his driver, decided he wanted to go and spend time with the girls and left him there all by himself. Doing the smart thing, he knew he was too drunk to drive, so he just left the car parked where it was and turned it off. At some point in the middle of the night, he got cold, so he scooted over into the driver’s seat, turned the car on in order to turn the heat on, and that’s exactly where they found him the next morning.
The next morning, when the police arrive at about 7:00, according to the officers, they had to physically assist him out of the vehicle and he still blew a 0.17 blood alcohol level. I convinced the jury to find him not guilty based on the fact that he was not operating or in actual or physical control of the vehicle. He was simply sleeping. There are different aspects to a defense.
Probably the most common way that cases are fully dismissed is arguing motions to suppress, arguing that the officer didn’t have a legitimate reason for stopping the vehicle in the first place, he didn’t observe a traffic violation or equipment violation or other reason to believe the person was impaired.
Motions to suppress based on lack of probable cause to arrest: There was evidence that the person had consumed alcohol but, for example, the officer administered the field sobriety test so poorly that they weren’t a reliable basis for determining that he had consumed alcohol to a degree that he was impaired to drive, and therefore the officer didn’t have legal justification to arrest him in the first place.
There are numerous different motions to suppress the breath test for various different reasons. These include improper calibration of the machine, the officer’s certification to operate the machine had expired, and they didn’t follow the observation period in what’s referred to as the Baker rule. There’s a lot we can do to defend a case.