The Technicalities (and Presumptions) of DWI Defense
This comes up often enough to warrant a blog post - the future client who calls us, looking for advice, who has several assumptions about the "technicalities" of being arrested for a DWI. This usually takes one of two forms:
1. This future client prefaces everything by saying "I know I'm 'technically guilty' of DWI, but . . ."
2. We hear the phrase "I want to know if it is possible to 'get off on a technicality'"
Most often, these two "technical" phrases go hand in hand, and they betray the common perception of most people arrested for DWI; they immediately and crushingly feel a real sense of guilt, and they think that the only way to "win" a DWI case is on some obscure "technicality."
We'll discuss "technicalities as defenses" in a subsequent blog, but for now, we want to address the concept of "technically guilty" because it is an absurd concept. The term guilty has a very strict definition when someone is charged with a crime - it means that the government managed to overcome the presumption of innocence, and nothing else. And there are only two ways for the government to overcome the presumption - it either has to convince the person charged with the crime to plead guilty, or go in front of a jury and prove guilt unanimously, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Plead it or prove it - until one of those two things happen, nobody is "technically guilty" of anything. It sounds like a bunch of lawyer-speak nonsense, but trust me, it is not. Guilty is such a specifically-defined word for the same reason juries do not return a verdict of "innocent" - you are either guilty (proof beyond a reasonable doubt) or not guilty (any amount of proof that falls just short of beyond a reasonable doubt).
So lets say you are arrested for DWI, and even though you think you felt sober you blew a .10 breath test result. When you call us because you want to hire us as your attorneys, don't start the phone call by saying you felt okay to drive but know you are "technically guilty" . . . because you are not. You are technically not guilty, and presumed innocent, up until the point that the government proves every element of the charged offenses (including that their test result was valid, accurate, and reliable) beyond a reasonable doubt.
You can take away any life lessons that are appropriate after being arrested for DWI (the most common one is "I am going to make sure I am never arrested again") but save the legal lessons for us; our job is to do everything possible to keep you from actually becoming "technically guilty."