How To Defend A Criminal Case
To obtain the best result possible under the circumstances in any criminal defense matter, an attorney must closely scrutinize both the law and the facts. A recent story from Louisville illustrates this process.
Authorities charged 38-year-old Lamberto Mendoza-Valle with muder and DUI-Fourth after a wreck near the intersection of Oakwood and Taylor. According to police, Mr. Mendoza-Valle said he drank eight beers at a friend’s house before driving home unaware that there was a passenger in the car’s back seat. He said he was speeding when another vehicle cut him off, forcing the collision.
Mr. Mendoza-Valle was first charged with DUI in 2002, after he was caught speeding 61 in a 45 and blew a .178 on the Breathalyzer. Subsequently, in 2006, he was apparently driving erratically when officers again pulled him over; there were several open containers in the vehicle and he blew a .170. Finally, in 2011, he was alseep behind the wheel of a motorhome and then arrested for DUI.
Questioning the Facts in Criminal Defense Cases
The three prior DUIs all have interesting fact patterns. It should be noted that if a person is charged with a second DUI, it is impossible to relitigate the prior case(s), because criminal defendants nearly always only get one bite at the apple.
As for the first DUI, there’s an old saying that “discretion is the better part of valor.” In other words, it’s usually better to avoid a dangerous situation whenever possible. Given the speed of the vehicle (more than 15mph above the limit) and the BAC result (over twice the legal limit), the best result under the circumstances is a plea bargain that includes probation.
The second DUI looks fairly hopeless at first blush, because of the open containers and an even worse BAC result. But not all erratic driving is illegal driving. For example, it is usually legal to weave inside a single lane and drive well below the speed limit, even though such behavior could be considered erratic. If the stop was invalid, any subsequent activity, including the automobile search and the breath test, is fruit of the poisonous tree and is not admissible in court.
Legal Defenses in Criminal Defense Matters
“Asleep at the wheel” DUIs usually present interesting legal questions, because a defendant must be “driving” while intoxicated. In this context, driving usually means control over the vehicle. The elements of control are:
- Ability to drive the car (which is usually the key is in the ignition) and
- Intent to drive the car.
Ability and intent do not have to be simultaneous, so if the defendant is asleep behind the wheel and the keys are nearby, the jury can usually find both elements.
Murder is usually an intentional killing, and vehicular homicide is almost never intentional. However, Kentucky law also says a person is guilty of murder if he operates “a motor vehicle under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life” and he “wantonly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person and thereby causes the death of another person.”
In the above story, Mr. Mendoza-Valle was drunk and speeding, but that behavior is probably not wantonly dangerous. There is also a question of whether or not he “caused” the accident, because the other vehicle apparently made an illegal turn or lane change.
In these kinds of cases, there is no substitute for experience. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Glasgow, contact Attorney Gary S. Logsdon. Convenient payment plans are available.