Those charged with causing a fatal car accident after drinking face extremely serious consequences. Prosecutors pursue these cases aggressively and an equally aggressive defense is needed if the defendant hopes to get an acquittal or reduction of the charges. Recently, a man has been charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and reckless endangerment after allegedly drinking and driving.
Seattle police claim the man is responsible for the death of a passenger in the driver's car and three other individuals. According to police, the man was checking out a picture of a scantily clad woman on his cellphone when the vehicle he was driving hit a guardrail. Police claim that the man smelled of alcohol and appeared drunk at the scene, although it is not clear from news reports whether the man's blood alcohol level was above the state's legal limit. According to Seattle police, the man had been drinking vodka before the accident.
The allegations of police and prosecutors should not be taken at face value in a case like this. Accident reconstruction may show that there was a reason for the wreck other than the defendant's negligence. The police officer's claims as to the man's allegedly drunken appearance should also be taken with a large grain of salt. Most people will feel off balance and appear shaky just after being involved in a violent car crash. The accuracy of any field sobriety tests, which are nothing more than the officer's subjective observation of the accused, should be called into question. If blood alcohol evidence is offered by the state, defense counsel will want to question whether proper testing protocols - which can affect the accuracy of the results - were followed.
It is important to remember that all defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty, and all defendants deserve a fair trial. Overzealous prosecutors sometimes try to turn a tragic accident into a criminal case. It is the job of defense counsel to question every aspect of the prosecution's case and so weaken it that the charges will be dismissed by the judge, or the defendant acquitted by the jury.
Source: Seattlepi, "Charge: Driver in fatal wreck eyed girlie photo, crashed," Levi Pulkkinen, May 9, 2013