Arizona Court Denies Defendant’s Appeal in DUI Case, Despite Argument that Counsel was Ineffective

Recently, an Arizona court ruled on a defendant’s appeal in a case involving charges of driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. On appeal, the defendant argued that his lawyer was ineffective in the lower court proceedings and that he was not given a fair chance to litigate his case. The court considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately disagreed, affirming the original guilty conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a woman in Arizona was stopped at a red light when the car behind her crashed into her automobile from behind. The woman’s car sprung forward, and she collided with the car in front of her. When the woman got out of her car, she looked behind her and saw the defendant exiting the vehicle which had been the original catalyst of the crash. He ran away, and the woman told police officers what he looked like when they arrived at the scene.

Several witnesses were also able to provide descriptions of the defendant’s appearance, and officers soon tracked him down in a nearby neighborhood. The defendant was charged with and convicted of driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. He promptly appealed.

The Decision

During the trial, the defendant argued that he was not actually the person driving the car that caused the accident. The defendant explained that a woman he was dating was actually the car’s driver and that when the vehicles collided, the woman driving ran away immediately. The defendant, who had been sitting in the front seat, then climbed over the inside console and escaped through the driver’s side, which is why witnesses saw him exiting the car as if he had been the driver. According to the defendant, there was no actual evidence that he was the driver that caused the accident.

Once the defendant was arrested by police officers, passersby saw him sitting on the curb in handcuffs. It was these same passersby that then identified the defendant as the driver. This form of identification was inherently prejudicial and unfair – of course, these people would think the defendant was guilty, he argued, if they saw him sitting on the sidewalk in handcuffs. The defendant took issue with the fact that his lawyer at trial had not objected to this method of identification. Because the defense lawyer failed to make this important point, the defendant argued that his guilty verdict should be reversed.

The court examined the record and decided that even if the defendant’s attorney had objected to the method of identification, it would not have ultimately made a difference. The court cited case law providing that if an identification method is suggestive, it can still be admissible if it is otherwise reliable. Here, the identification might have been suggestive, but the defendant failed to show that the identification was unreliable. Each of the witnesses that testified against the defendant had physically seen him exit the vehicle, and thus there was ultimately no problem with the fact that they later saw him in handcuffs on the curb. With this in mind, the court concluded that the defendant’s lawyer did not deny the defendant a fair trial by failing to raise this particular objection. The defendant’s appeal was thus denied.

Are You Facing Criminal Charges in Arizona?

At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we understand that facing DUI charges in Arizona can be daunting. If you are fighting charges and don’t know where to turn, give our office a call. We offer aggressive, well-informed representation that prioritizes your needs and fights for your voice to be heard. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 480-413-1499.

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