Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

That which interferes

This last week has been Drunk Week. Three DWIs and one P.I. in four shifts. The paperwork for a DWI can be routine, but fairly involved. In such circumstances, an open-and-shut DWI can be a pretty high likelihood of a conviction, with a medium likelihood of going to court. I like to push the detail of the report a bit further, to get a very high probability of conviction, with a low chance of having to go to court. I don't want the D.A. to have to wonder about a detail; it should be in there.

The people I mostly have to convince are with the District Attorney's office. They'll cop a plea with the good cases, and throw out the mediocre ones altogether. A lot of them seem to think that a case without a specimen of blood or breath is a bad case. This could be true, but isn't necessarily so. I don't make the arrest to ask for breath or blood, without having had probable cause to arrest in the first place.

None of the DWIs from this past week blew or gave blood. I didn't get a blood draw warrant for them. I didn't need one. They were drunk, and this was apparent to me without a chemical test to prove it. It will be apparent to anyone who reads the report and watches my mobile video. Not only the things that they said, but how they said them, indicate to a casual observer that these people were drunk. But I can't put a number on their levels. I know that all of them were over 0.10 BAC, but can't articulate how much over. Fortunately, I don't have to. Actually, the prima faciae level for intoxication is 0.08, but I know these folks were higher. (I was originally trained for the 0.10 standard.)

But without that number on a sheet of paper spit out by a lab or an intoxilyzer machine operator, I have to go a bit further to convince the Intake division at our DA's office that this is a hill worth fighting over. I'm averaging 9 page narratives, and putting in written statements by witnesses, and transcribing the statements for lazy attorneys who don't want to try to skim some one's longhand. I'm including maps with itineraries of drivers who don't know where they are when I speak to them, showing DA's who don't know the area just how meandering a route the drunk has taken, and how far off their intended path they've gone. I'm including post-Miranda audio captured in E.R.'s and recorded on frickin' cell phones, because body mics won't reach to the car. I'm coming in off-duty to type in supplements to my original report, about statements that I've gotten.

The days of "saw drunk; arrested same" are over.

And these are just misdemeanors. This time. For some, the next one will be a felony.

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At Saturday, April 10, 2010 7:13:00 PM, Blogger Captain Tightpants said...

Sounds like a fun debate we still have here amongst us.

We have some who think their criminal complaint (what goes to the prosecutor and the judge here in the Commonwealth) should pretty much be the whole "Saw drunk, arrested same" & leave the rest for their case notes - figuring why go through the extra work, and why give the defense anything unless they go through the bother of discovery.

I'm on your side - pages of detailed notes, all done right up front while fresh in my head, and all available for the world to see. I figure #1 - I have nothing to hide on my DUI's - I put it all there, the good & the bad both - so the lawyers and judges know I'm being straight; and #2 - it avoids the pain of having to juggle for it all later, when you are called on something in court.

And, much like you, the majority of mine plea out without ever testifying...

Guess we learned in the same school sir.

At Saturday, April 10, 2010 10:17:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

I had a local deputy who used to hassle me about how I must be having problems with my case reports, because I kept going to trial. First, this was because I was a hard-hitting rookie who worked deep nights on an interstate, and this was what I got all the time. I was recognized by MADD three years running. You're just going to go to court occasionally in such circumstances.

2nd, I finally figured out, he wasn't finding out that a goodly proportion of his cases were getting declined by the prosecutor, or offered sweetheart deals.

My cases would have enough meat, even on weak ones, that the intake would take them, when if it were that deputy's, they would have just declined the case entirely. Those lightweight cases are the ones I was going to trial on. (EG: stopped for expired registration or tail lamp, driver does well on walk and turn and one leg stand, but displays 6/6 clues for HGN, and refuses to blow. That's a tough one to get a plea out of. ;)

At Sunday, April 11, 2010 6:20:00 AM, Blogger Home on the Range said...

I went out on something once where the survivor had a .27. I think that's like 9 beers in an hour. He dug a can out from the mess and offered me a Coors Light.

Uh, no thanks.

At Sunday, April 11, 2010 8:03:00 AM, Blogger Buffboy said...

If I did 9 page reports on my DUIs, my State's Attorney/Sheriff would cut me and I was told this early on, because my first reports were several pages long. Now they are 2-3 but we always have a blood test because it's required and I can take it without waking the judge for a warrant. That's all in how our driver's license laws are written(implied consent). If probable cause holds up at the preliminary, and it's rare it doesn't, the blood test is good. It's hard to beat that lab result.

Realistically, if the blood test comes back at less than .10, the SA will sometimes take a plea to reckless on a 1st(arrest), but anything after, they don't usually give much. 4 years and I've never had to testify in anything but a preliminary.

At Monday, April 12, 2010 7:22:00 AM, Anonymous Bob@thenest said...

As a non-drinking&driving (I do both, but not together), plain old citizen, I offer you my thanks for taking the trouble to nail those jerks. You don't do me any good over here in Florida (need help moving?), but others in your area benefit from your thoroughness.

I'm all for anything beyond "an officer's word is better than a citizen's word." Lay it all out there so the rest of us can make it to where we're going without scars from a drunk.

At Tuesday, April 13, 2010 11:02:00 AM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Bottom line Matt, you are probably saving someone's life... Thank you.

At Friday, April 16, 2010 11:33:00 AM, Anonymous aczarnowski said...

Thank you.


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