It is not often that a case involving a DWI makes its way to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Texas, unlike most other states, has two separate judiciaries which solve different issues of law. The civil branch ends in the Texas Supreme Court, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the highest court for criminal cases.
In this case, Powell v. Hocker, the court was tasked with deciding what kinds of evidence a defendant is allowed to have copies of in support of their defense. The ruling came down against his particular defendant, and future defendants will have to abide by the ruling as they conduct pretrial investigations in support of a trial for all kinds of crimes, including DWIs.
Discovery Rules in DWI Cases
The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure sets out the rules and regulations for how the criminal laws are to be administered. They cover every aspect of the process, from beginning to end. One of the most important part of a criminal case is found in the discovery rules.
Discovery in a criminal case is about the evidence that the state plans on using to achieve a conviction for the charges they allege. In many cases the defense has the right to look at and examine almost all the evidence the prosecution will use to get a conviction, but that general rule has limitations. Including among the limitations are the fact that the defendant himself is not allowed to have copies of the discoverable information.
This was the issue in this case. The defense attorney asked the trial judge to make an exception to this discovery rule, and allow the defendant to have copies of the discovery to aid in his defense of the case. The trial judge issued the exception to the prohibition found in TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. art. 39.14, but the ruling was overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
No Copies, No Sharing
The High Court stated that there are no exceptions to the prohibition of defendants having copies of the discovery in a criminal case. This rules was crafted this way for a number of reasons. Chief among them are the protection of witnesses which may otherwise face intimidation from defendants in cases, but many of those justifications just do not apply in a DWI case.
When DWI cases go to trial, much of what the case will turn on are the scientific interpretations of what the BAC was, and whether it was tested and drawn properly. The kinds of tests needed to prove BAC are highly technical and subject to a number of different weaknesses which if proved and prove that the person was not actually DWI. So perhaps in cases such as DWIs, the state should craft different discovery rules.
Understanding the DWI Defense Process
If you are facing a DWI charge, whether the first or a repeat, you need the right legal team on your side. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm our name says it all. When you contact us we will give you a free case evaluation and help you understand what your options are. Contact us today.
(image courtesy of Brandon Day)