Yes. A good defense attorney can absolutely convince a prosecutor to drop a DWI charge without needing to resort to a trial. Prosecutors don't like to waste time, and they definitely do not like to lose trials, so if a defense attorney can show that there are serious holes in the state's case, a reasonable, smart prosecutor will dismiss the charges.
DWI law is extremely complicated. There have been endless volumes written about it, countless seminars given, and there are even specialized schools for lawyers to attend mid-career to become “specialists.” In reality, though, it all comes down to two simple things: finding problems with the case and convincing the prosecutor.
Examining the Evidence
One of the first orders of business for an attorney newly hired on a DWI case is filing a motion for discovery. This compels the state to show the attorney any evidence they have against the defendant. This includes all police paperwork from the arrest, dashcam videos, bodyworn camera videos, booking videos, breathalyzer maintenance reports and permits, officer certifications, and more.
There will, hopefully, be a lot of information in this discovery. An experienced DWI lawyer knows where to look to find the mistakes. Some of these mistakes can be very subtle, as little as a few wrong words here or a few minutes off there. There is a lot to look for, too much to list here, but below are a few examples.
Police officers need to have a reason for their actions. They need a reason to pull you over for the initial stop, and they need a reason to arrest you for DWI. These reasons must be articulable. That is, the officer needs to be able to explain clearly why they did what they did. If a police officer pulls you over for no reason and then conducts a justified DWI arrest, the whole thing can be thrown out.
The same logic applies to the officer requesting a breath test or arresting you for DWI; they must show a reason. Missouri law (RSMo 577.020) says that anyone operating a motor vehicle on public roads automatically consents to a test for alcohol or drugs in their blood, but only when an officer has reasonable grounds to believe they are operating a vehicle in an intoxicated condition. If they do not establish those reasonable grounds, a case can be thrown out.
Chemical tests to determine the alcohol or drug content of a person's blood are complicated. The machines and testing materials must be maintained in a documented fashion, and everyone involved must have the proper permits and certifications. More importantly, from a defense attorney's standpoint, the process must be done in a carefully prescribed manner.
In most cases, police must read aloud to you what is known as “Implied Consent,” a sort of explanation that they think you have been driving while intoxicated, along with an official request for a drug or alcohol test. If they are doing a breath test, they need to perform a 15-minute “observation period.” Mistakes with any of these can seriously damage a DWI case.
Experienced defense attorneys will have a variety of additional defenses available, depending on the circumstances. For instance, in a surprising number of cases, law enforcement fails to adequately show that the person arrested was actually operating a motor vehicle. Police officers sometimes appear to think that it is obvious that the arrestee was driving and fail to provide any evidence to show that this is true.
Police officers sometimes fail to prove that there was not an opportunity for the arrestee to have consumed alcohol after having driven but before the arrest. A hypothetical example of this could occur if a police officer passes a suspected drunk driver in the opposite direction close to the driver's home. If by the time the officer gets turned around and catches back up to the driver, he or she has made it back into their house, the officer will have a hard time proving that they did not drink in the house.
Convincing the Prosecutor
Prosecutors have a duty to not only seek convictions but to seek justice. They are taught to look at a case with an eye toward doing the right thing instead of looking to punish. As such, if a DWI arrest is bad, they have a duty to dismiss the charges. Unfortunately, convincing a prosecutor to do this is often hard work.
It is important for a defense attorney to have a reputation for being a hard fighter when the time comes and for having the experience and wisdom to know when that time is. Not every DWI case is a winner. In fact, most aren't. When the arresting officer has crossed every T and dotted every I, fighting the prosecutor with no ammunition is not going to help you or your lawyer. In these cases, if your lawyer has a reputation for knowing how the law works and having their clients prepared for court, they can negotiate to avoid or ameliorate some of the stipulations that are most burdensome and make the process as painless as possible.
In cases where law enforcement has made mistakes, having a reputation for being a skilled fighter can make all the difference. Having decades of experience talking to prosecutors doesn't hurt, either. It is important to be able to forcefully, clearly, and logically explain exactly where the faults with the case lie and show the precise reason they are fatal to the case. When this is done correctly, a prosecutor will decide not to pursue charges.
If you are facing DWI charges, don't face them alone. Call Ruth Beerup at 636-940-1111 for a free case evaluation. She has more than 25 years of experience defending every type of DWI case. She has a solid reputation and charges reasonable fees. Most importantly, she knows how to negotiate, and she knows how to fight. Talk to her to get the best outcome on your case possible.