Milwaukee County OWI charges reduced to traffic violation: body camera footage of illegal arrest
Our Drunk Driving Attorneys Use Police Officers’ Body Cam Video to Your Advantage
Police officers and squad cars are increasingly equipped with video cameras to document arrests and other encounters with police. Sometimes the footage protects officers who are doing their jobs properly. Other times, the evidence supports an innocent victim when an officer fails to report the encounter correctly, either by deliberately lying on the police report or by inadvertently mistaking a few details.
The case described below is just one of many where Grieve Law was again able to get a client’s OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) charge amended to a much less serious traffic violation, thanks to police body cam footage.
The Client Was Not Off to a Good Start
Reading the police reports, the case did not look good for our client. The traffic stop for speeding was legal, and the officer noted telltale signs of intoxication: red, glassy eyes and an odor of alcohol coming from the driver. Our client performed relatively well on the three field sobriety tests, passing one and just barely failing the other two. His blood alcohol level, though, came back as .09.
We always file pretrial motions in this type of case, given the good performance on field sobriety tests. However, the fact that our driver failed two of the sobriety tests, even by a hair’s breadth, makes it a close call for any judge.
Body Camera Footage Made the Field Sobriety Tests Inadmissible
The body camera footage revealed a bombshell that changed everything. The officer who initially approached our client and noted the odor of alcohol and red eyes returned to his partner and told him the driver did not seem drunk, but they may as well make him do field sobriety tests.
An officer must have reasonable suspicion—reasonable, articulable facts—suggesting someone might be intoxicated in order to put him or her through field sobriety tests. As defense attorneys, we usually are forced to construe whether or not reasonable suspicion existed based on what officers write in their reports. In this case, we actually had an officer stating he did not believe our client was intoxicated. Without a legal basis for making him perform sobriety tests, the results of those tests are inadmissible in court.
OWI Reduced to Lesser Traffic Violation
We worked to convince the prosecutor that the OWI investigation and subsequent arrest were illegal. The prosecutor ultimately agreed and the judge accepted our stipulation to amend the original Operating While Intoxicated to a much lower traffic violation—one not requiring a license revocation or a high fine. By using all the tools available to us, we were able to avoid an unjust conviction for one of our clients.
FREE Consultation with Milwaukee’s Top OWI Defense Lawyers
Even if you think your drunk driving case is hopeless, there may be evidence to at least reduce your charges, if not get them dismissed entirely. Grieve Law's OWI lawyers will meet with you for a free initial case assessment to help you determine what to do.