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When a person appears in court for the arraignment hearing, his or her attorney is provided a copy of the criminal complaint as well as a discovery packet that includes the incident reports and the results of the breath or blood test, if available. Generally, the prosecutor will not turn over any other evidence unless it is specifically requested by the defense. To effectively defend someone on a DUI charge, it is critical to review and evaluate all relevant evidence.
Typically, after a defendant’s arraignment the defense attorney will have a chance to review the reports and see what evidence is missing. The defense would then submit an informal discovery request to the prosecutor’s office. State and Federal law requires that prosecutors turn over all relevant material in its possession. In DUI cases, there can be an extensive amount of relevant evidence to review.
In recent years, law enforcement agencies have installed patrol dashcam videos into their vehicles and keep video recordings of DUI stops and arrests. This evidence can be absolutely critical in arguing a motion under California Penal Code Section 1538.5 regarding whether or not the officer had reasonable cause to pull the driver over. If the judge can see that the driver did not commit any violation of the law and that the officer was not justified in stopping the vehicle, the judge may grant the defendant’s motion to suppress. In these cases, all resulting DUI evidence would be suppressed and the case would usually be dismissed. Not all law enforcement agencies have patrol dashcam videos equipped in their vehicles, however more and more departments have added this technology.
In addition to video recordings, there are often audio recordings which can be valuable evidence. Officer recordings, dispatch calls and 911 calls may all be relevant in defending a DUI case. In many cases, the audio recordings may differ significantly with an officer’s report which could create problems for the prosecution.
In addition, there may also be critical evidence related to the chemical testing that was conducted on the defendant’s breath or blood sample. The Breathalyzer and Preliminary Alcohol Sensor (“PAS”) devices are required to undergo regular maintenance and calibration. These records can be requested and should be reviewed. If the breath test device was not calibrated properly on the date of the defendant’s arrest, the resulting BAC results may be unreliable and open to challenge.
For the blood test, the police are required to ensure that the blood sample is stored at the proper temperature and that a chain of custody has been recorded to ensure that the sample has not been mixed up or contaminated. This material can also be requested through the discovery process and may provide grounds for a valid defense.
If the prosecution fails to turn over the discovery material that has been requested, the defense can file a formal discovery motion with the court. At this hearing, the prosecution would have to address the failure to comply with discovery and may face sanctions if the requested material is not provided.