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State v. A.M.

Tom Richard Case Results: State v. A.M.

Charge: OUI Refusal

Maximum Penalty: 364 days in jail; 14-month loss of license (including 275-day BMV suspension); $2,000 fine

Mandatory Minimum Penalty: 4 days in jail; 150-day loss of license; $600 fine

Summary: A store clerk reported that our client appeared intoxicated at a convenience store in after midnight.  Based only on that report, a police officer stopped our client’s vehicle.  Claiming her speech was slurred (it wasn’t) and that she had glassy eyes, he subjected her to field sobriety tests.  On video, our client did not appear intoxicated, but the officer claimed he saw 6/6 “clues” on the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, and claimed that she performed poorly on the Walk-and-Turn Test.  At the police station, our client ultimately decided not to take a breath test.

We submitted a request to reopen the Bureau of Motor Vehicles administrative decision suspending the client’s license for a refusal to submit to a chemical test after video evidence revealed that the police officer provided the client with false and misleading information about the consequences of a refusal, including telling her she had the right to refuse a chemical test.  The BMV Hearings Examiner, after reviewing our written argument and watching the video evidence, overturned the decision to suspend the client’s right to operate for 275 days for a refusal.

We used this same video evidence to convince the district attorney not to move forward with a refusal in the criminal charge.  This eliminated the risk of a mandatory minimum jail sentence if our client was convicted of OUI at trial.  The district attorney was unwilling to make our client an offer that avoided a conviction for OUI.  At jury trial, the store clerk testified that our client had stumbled while in the store.  We used video footage from the store’s surveillance cameras to show that our client had no difficulty walking throughout the store from multiple camera angles.  The police officer made several mistakes when he gave our client the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, and we revealed all of those mistakes using the video footage from the officer’s camera and cross-examining the officer on the proper procedure for administering the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test.  We also cross-examined him on all of the things our client did correctly on the Walk-and-Turn Test.

Result: The jury deliberated for just 15 minutes, and returned a verdict of not guilty.

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