The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contains within it many basic rights for people who are on trial for alleged crimes. This is the Amendment from which the accused derives his right to present a defense at trial. That right to present a defense is very broad and significantly limits what the prosecution and/or the courts can do to keep out relevant proof that you think can strengthen your defense case. Recognizing what you can and cannot present in your defense, as well as making the arguments necessary to get that evidence in front of your jury, are just two of the countless critical areas where the experience and knowledge of a skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney can pay invaluable dividends to you.
Take, for example, a DUI homicide case where you are the driver on trial. That state has evidence that your blood alcohol level was well above the legal limit. But, to convict you of the homicide crime, the state needs proof that you caused the crash, not just that you were driving drunk.
Now imagine if you had proof that the other driver involved was legally drunk, as well. Would not that piece of evidence be valuable to your defense?
Yes, it potentially would and, as a recent case from Lee County illustrates, you’re entitled to use that evidence.
In that case, M.G. was alleged to have driven drunk and caused a fatal crash on Pine Island Road in Cape Coral. At around 11:00 p.m., M.G.’s Kia sedan collided with a utility van. The van flipped and landed in the median. The Kia went off the road to the right and hit a tree. M.G.’s passenger died as a result of his injuries.
After the crash, police tested M.G.’s blood-alcohol level and the test yielded a result of .209. The state charged M.G. with DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and DUI with damage to person or property.
There was, however, a wrinkle in M.G.’s case that his defense sought to use on his behalf. Test results showed that the driver of the utility van had a blood-alcohol level of .203. The defense wanted to use the testimony of that van driver, who would have stated on the stand that he had been drinking that night, that he remembered nothing about the crash and nothing about the events that took place immediately after the crash.
The trial judge disallowed this testimony, but the appeals court granted M.G. a new trial, determining that the defense should have been allowed to put on the van driver’s testimony.
In a vehicular homicide case, you can use the driving or other conduct of another as a defense against the crimes charged against you but, to be entitled to that defense, you have to prove that the other person’s conduct was the one and only cause of the crash.
The van driver’s testimony was not admissible in support of this defense because it did not clearly establish that the van driver was 100% to blame for the crash.
Proof that Might Be Enough to Establish Reasonable Doubt
As the appeals court pointed out, M.G. was entitled to put the van driver’s testimony before the jury even if it wasn’t enough to demonstrate that the van driver was 100% at fault in the accident.
Notwithstanding the affirmative defense, denying M.G. that important evidence potentially was an unconstitutional infringement of M.G.’s Sixth Amendment right to present a defense. While the van driver’s testimony wasn’t enough to prove definitively that the van driver alone caused the accident, it was enough to potentially establish reasonable doubt about M.G.’s having caused the crash. Therefore, M.G. was entitled to use it.
When you (or a loved one) are facing criminal charges – especially very serious charges like a DUI homicide crime – the consequences of a conviction can permanently change your life. To make sure you have the best defense possible, count on the experienced DUI crime attorneys at Blake & Dorsten P.A. Our attorneys have the skill and knowledge you or your loved one needs on your side. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation and get the answers and assistance you need.