Attorney J. Bradley Smith answering the question: “Should I ever plead guilty to a charge?”
In an interesting case involving drunk driving arrests, our very own Brad Smith has been in the news recently, arguing that police in Charlotte need to make some serious changes to the way they process suspected drunk drivers. The issue arose after one of Brad Smith’s clients was recently arrested after leaving an Uptown bar.
The man said police pulled him over almost immediately after getting in his car and that he was given multiple breath tests by the arresting officer. The final such test indicated that the man had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.11, just over the legal limit of 0.08. The defendant vehemently denied being drunk and wanted the chance to prove his innocence by having his blood taken and analyzed independently. Sadly, due to the slow police booking process the man never got the chance.
After being arrested, the driver was taken to jail, arriving at 3:20 a.m., was granted bond by a magistrate a little after 5 in the morning but was not officially released from the jail until 3:45 p.m. That means that the man remained in jail for more than 12 hours after his initial arrest, totally denying him the opportunity to collect a breath or blood sample of his own.
Given this lengthy delay, Brad Smith filed what’s known as a Knoll motion, claiming that his client had been denied a reasonable amount of time to prepare his own defense. A Mecklenburg County judge agreed and dismissed the charges against the man late last month.
The idea of the Knoll motion is based on a case from the late 1980s which says that defendants have the right to gather witnesses and collect their own blood or breath tests as evidence in their defense. For this to be practical, defendants must be given the opportunity to do this within a reasonable amount of time following their arrests, or risk having the evidence destroyed by the passage of time. This means the police do not have the right to hold a person for half a day and then expect them to be able to properly gather evidence in their own defense.
That is why Brad Smith has been fighting to have charges against his clients dropped when police take far longer than necessary to process drunk driving suspects. One reason for the lengthy processing time is the convoluted way Mecklenburg County handles arrestees. Rather than seeing a magistrate first, individuals are booked into jail before going before a judge. This backwards approach lengthens processing times dramatically and has only gotten worse after the jail moved to a temporary processing center last year and then recently purchased new computer software.
Sheriff Chipp Bailey says he believes Knoll motions are a way for people to get out of charges on a technicality and that he intends to do what he can to speed up the processing of defendants so that drunk driving suspects will no longer be able to claim a violation of their rights due to delay. Bailey says that he hopes a new processing center scheduled to open this summer will help drop the processing time to under three hours.
Brad Smith made clear that until the processing times are decreased enough that his clients have a fair chance to gather evidence in their own defense, he will continue filing Knoll motions to protect their constitutional rights.
Arnold & Smith, PLLC is a Charlotte based criminal defense, traffic violation defense and civil litigation law firm servicing Charlotte and the surrounding area. If you or someone you know need legal assistance, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828.
“9 Investigates: Technicality with arrest processing can lead to dismissal of DWI charges,” by Tenikka Smith, published at WSOCTV.com.
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