A DWI case out of Houston was dismissed before a gavel ever brought the courtroom to order. This happened because when the defense began to prepare their case, they noticed that the judge sitting in judgment of the trial was actually listed as a witness. This is a big problem in any courtroom proceeding, and particularly for a criminal case where the defendant’s liberty is at stake.
While it is not clear exactly what happened in this case, documents reveal that the judge who should have been independent and unbiased with regards to the defense and prosecution was not. According to reports, the judge was listed as a witness because she was there with the police at the time of the arrest. In addition, she was the judge who signed the warrant allowing the police to draw the suspect’s blood.
The apparent discrepancy occurred when the judge volunteered to perform ride-alongs with the police over a weekend. The problem with that situation was twofold: It was a so-called “no-refusal weekend” where the police were aggressively going after DWI charges, and it was that judge who signed the blood draw warrant. Of course, this presents a clear conflict of interest and a problem for both the prosecution and defense.
Rules of Evidence and Ethics
One of the most basic rules of evidence is that a judge cannot sit in judgement over a trial and also be a witness. The reason for this is obvious: a judge should look at the evidence and make ruling independently and fairly. If judges were allowed to act as witnesses as well, it would skew their judgment and unfairly bias one party or another.
Another important aspect to this case is the rules of criminal procedure and ethics. In any prosecution of criminal charges, including DWI, the prosecution is under an obligation to disclose who their witness will be, and the evidence that will be presented at trial. This puts the defendant on notice of not only the charges against them, but also the substance behind those charges. This is what informs whether a defendant will take his case to trial or attempt to settle a case.
Knowing and Defending Your Rights
This case is a perfect illustration of why each person accused of DWI must be vigilant in defending the case. Every person in this country and state has specific rights granted to them via the U.S. and Texas constitutions, and the rules and laws governing how a prosecution must take place. If those rights have been violated, a suspect has remedies that could even lead to a dismissal of a case.
If you are accused of DWI, you need an experienced, aggressive attorney defending your rights. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm, our team of DWI defenders will help you understand what your rights and options are under the law. Whether it means going to trial or negotiating the best settlement possible, contact us today.
(image courtesy of Beinecke Library)