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WHAT CAN BE USED AGAINST YOU IN YOUR DUI TRIAL?
The Scenario: You’ve been arrested and charged with a DUI in San Diego. You don’t believe this is fair and want someone to fight for your rights. You hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who is well versed in DUI cases. The case does not settle and so you are set for trial. You’re discussing trial tactics with your defense attorney, but there seems to be a lot of background information you just don’t understand. Hopefully, this blog will clear up the background information on how/why your skilled criminal defense attorney will fight to exclude your Pre-Alcohol Screening (PAS) test results.
Getting the lingo correct:
- Admissible evidence— in a court of law, is any testimonial, documentary, or tangible evidence that may be introduced to a fact finder—usually a judge or jury—to establish or to bolster a point put forth by a party to the proceeding.
- Hearsay— Information heard by one person about another. Hearsay is generally inadmissible as evidence in a court of law because it is based on the reports of others rather than on the personal knowledge of a witness. Hearsay is an out of court statement, any statement—written or oral, offered for the truth of what is written or said. And this is critical to DUI cases because prescreening tests are usually printed out, and the print out of the results is a “ writing.” And according to evidence rules, “ the content of a writing may be proved by an otherwise admissible original.” This means that the prosecution would have the officer testify to breath test results without offering the original statement (print out) of said results.
- Secondary Evidence— evidence that has been reproduced from an original document or substituted for an original item. For example, a photocopy of a document or photograph would be considered secondary evidence. Another example would be an exact replica of an engine part that was contained in a motor vehicle. If the engine part is not the very same engine part that was inside the motor vehicle involved in the case, it is considered secondary evidence. Courts prefer original, or primary, evidence. They try to avoid using secondary evidence wherever possible. This approach is called the best evidence rule. This is especially important for your DUI case because: The rules of evidence also require the court to: exclude “ secondary evidence of the content of writing if the court determines: (1) a genuine dispute exists concerning material terms of the writing and justice requires the exclusion or (2) admission of the secondary evidence would be unfair.
How These Trial Aspects Come to Play:
Your skilled criminal defense attorney will know these rules of evidence and know that this is important if the officer does not print out the PAS test results. The officer cannot offer secondary evidence by way of their testimony of what the results were. This is hearsay. In fact, California courts have already made this analogy, to show how ridiculous this is: Proffering testimony about what the officer claims he saw instead of introducing the data from the machine “ is analogous to proffering testimony describing security camera footage of an event to prove the facts of the event instead of introducing the footage itself. And on top of all that: the testimony by the officer of the purported PAS test results is an out of court statement (not under oath) of a “ statement” made by a machine, offered for its truth, i.e. classic hearsay upon hearsay.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges carry with them the possibility of both jail time and the loss of driving privileges. As with any criminal case, a DUI defendant makes a major mistake if he attempts to make their way through the system without an aggressive criminal defense lawyer to stand up for their rights. The San Diego DUI trial process is not an easy one to maneuver—it takes skill, knowledge of both California law and San Diego court practices to successfully argue a case. Contact Monder Law today for a free San Diego DUI attorney initial consultation regarding your case. Vik Monder represents clients in throughout San Diego.