Friday, August 17, 2018

DWI Case Dismissed for Jurisdictional Defect

Wandering on the road is NOT safe

A drunk woman was wandering two blocks from an accident scene. She refused the breath test. She was later found guilty of DWI after a trial. This was later reversed because of a jurisdictional defect. 

What is a jurisdictional defect? How important are the charging documents in any DWI case? How can I tell if my DWI case has one? 

New York DWI Refusals Involving an Accident are Difficult at Trial

People v Esposito is a recently decided 2018 New York DWI refusal case with an accident. DWI cases with accidents are usually the most difficult cases to take to trial because of the accident. Jurors hate DWI cases with crashes because of the damages to people and property. They think all of the what ifs, what if a kid was in the street, what if a mother was walking her baby, what if …

Esposito was found guilty of DWI at trial but this was later reversed and the information was dismissed by the appeals court. Why was the case completely dismissed? They found the accusatory instrument jurisdictionally defective.

Accusatory Instruments are Charging Documents and are Very Important 

To back it up a bit, the accusatory instrument is merely a document. It must lay out the allegations against you, and that if these “facts” are proven true, why you are in fact guilty of the crime charged.

Esposito had a jury trial and she was found guilty of common-law driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest. On appeal, the defendant contended that the factual part of the information charging her with common-law driving while intoxicated (Vehicle and Traffic Law §1192 [3]) was jurisdictionally defective.

Why is Jurisdiction is a Prerequisite to Prosecution?

Legally a valid and sufficient accusatory instrument is a nonwaivable jurisdictional prerequisite to a criminal prosecution (see People v. Dreyden, 15 NY3d 100, 103 [2010]). An information is sufficient if it contains non-hearsay (first person) factual allegations of an evidentiary nature which establish, if true, every element of the offense(s) charged and the defendant’s commission thereof (see CPL 100.15 [3]; 100.40 [1]; People v. Henderson, 92 NY2d 677, 679 [1999]; People v. Alejandro, 70 NY2d 133, 136-137 [1987].

Common Law DWI Vehicle and Traffic Law §1192 (3) provides in part:
Driving while intoxicated. No person shall operate a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated condition.”

Operation of a Vehicle Can NOT be Implied

The facts in the accusatory instrument with respect to defendant’s operation of a vehicle are that a Hyundai SUV had been involved in a motor vehicle collision and that defendant was spotted two blocks away from the site of the accident and stated, “I was chasing my boyfriend and I hit a tree.” 

Three things were missing from this charging instrument: 

1. There was NO allegation as to what the vehicle had collided with;
2. There was NO allegation connecting defendant to the vehicle;  
3. There was NO allegation connecting her to the collision in question.

The accusatory instrument (charging document) was jurisdictionally defective, as it failed to establish that Esposito had operated the Hyundai SUV involved in the accident or, for that matter, any other vehicle.

Every DWI is different but each piece of evidence and all charging documents need to be scrutinized.

Newman and Cyr is a boutique DWI and traffic defense firm located in Ithaca, NY and serving the Finger Lakes region.

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