State v. Walker Shows Importance of Breath Testing Challenges in Florida

A recent case out of Iowa showcases why a motion to suppress in a criminal case is so important as well as why it is critical to have a private meeting with your Jacksonville DUI attorney once you’ve been arrested.

This case brings up two important points — defendants should never make a statement to police without first talking with their lawyer and breath testing in DUI cases should always be challenged.
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Being arrested for DUI in Jacksonville can be a difficult experience because most people who face the charge have never been thrust into the criminal justice system before. They now must deal with the possible penalties as well as the humiliation that can come with an arrest.

State v. Walker shows us the importance of a good attorney and what challenging a breath test can do for a defendant. In this case, an Iowa man was arrested for DUI. In a smart move, the man asked to speak with his attorney after he was charged.

Walker and his attorney spoke, but it was through an intercom in a booth separated by glass that was being monitored by police video cameras the entire time. After the two spoke, he agreed to take a breath test, which estimated his blood alcohol level was more than double the legal limit.

Once the case was being prepared for trial, the attorney filed a motion to suppress the test results because in Iowa, a defendant has a right to see and consult with his or her attorney “confidentially,” similar to rules in most states. The court granted the motion.

On appeal, however, the court of appeals reversed the ruling. But the Iowa Supreme Court agreed with the trial judge, vacating the appeals court decision and ruling the police violated his rights by restricting the meeting with his attorney to a booth with a glass partition and under police surveillance.

This may have been a lucky break for the defendant if the charges were eventually dropped, but the right thing happened. When a suspect meets with his or her attorney, they have the reasonable expectation that their conversation won’t be taped or viewed by police. It’s called a confidential conversation for a reason.

And whether because of a similar situation or because the device is faulty, breath testing in Jacksonville DUI cases must always be scrutinized. The breath testing devices used by police in Florida are always producing incorrect readings based on the weather and manufacturing flaws.

This should not be a primary piece of evidence used by prosecutors hoping to nail a defendant to the wall. This evidence can be held out of court, giving the defendant a big advantage prior to trial and keeping a big piece of evidence away from the state.

It is important to ensure that the defendant’s rights are upheld at all stages of the case. This means making certain that improperly obtained information isn’t allowed to taint the jury. If witnesses aren’t credible, they too should be dismissed from the case and if prosecutors aren’t acting ethically in handing over evidence or police in how they acted during the investigation, the case requires a thorough review.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call Mussallem and Associate, PA at 904-365-5200 for a free consultation.

More Blog Entries:

Florida DUI Suspect Gives Debit Card Instead of License: October 5, 2011
Mayor’s Spokesman Faces DUI Charges in Jacksonville: September 24, 2011