If you ask any criminal defense attorney, they will tell you that OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) charges are some of the toughest to beat. The witnesses are, almost always, police officers. The physical evidence is often scientific in nature; i.e. blood tests or BAC measurements that were conducted by machines. And generally, people detest people who drive drunk. Yet despite all that, in the district court for the city of Highland Park, Chris Kessel was able to achieve a not guilty verdict in a trial where he fought against police officer testimony and scientific evidence.
Our client was stopped by a member of the Highland Park Police Department at approximately 1:30am. Based on the stop, the client was charged with OWI and Possessing a Firearm while Intoxicated. The latter charge, if convicted, carried a punishment involving forever losing the client’s CPL.
According to the officer, the client had run a red light, almost lost control of the vehicle, almost hit the officer, attempted to evade the officer, run a stop sign, and had parked his car on the sidewalk…all in that order. The officer then claimed that our client had glassy eyes, slurred speech, that he had failed several field sobriety tests. All of these claims were made by the officer in his police report and during his testimony at trial. The officer also testified that, upon reaching the police station, the client blew a .11 into the DataMaster. The legal limit in Michigan is .08.
However, like most officers, he did not count of having to defend his claims in open court, against the scrutiny of intense cross examination, and in front of a panel of jurors.
During cross examination, Chris Kessel asked why the officer did not activate his emergency lights after the client ran a red light and almost hit the officer. The officer had no explanation. Chris then asked why did the officer not activate his lights when the client began to try and evade the officer. Again, the officer had no explanation. Chris then asked why the officer did not activate his lights after the client ran a stop sign. You guessed it, the officer had no explanation. Making matters worse for the officer was that he did not know that the client had a surveillance camera outside his house, showing that the client parked on the street and did so on his own, without being stopped by the officer. When confronted with the video, the officer began to panic. When asked by Chris why he would say the client parked on the sidewalk when he clearly parked on the curb, the officer replied “I’m from Trinidad and Tobago. The words ‘sidewalk’ and ‘curb’ are interchangeable.” The final question asked was “if those two words are interchangeable, why, in your report, did you say my client moved from the curb to the sidewalk…?” The silence following the question seemed to last minutes. The officer had no answer.
In his closing, Chris Kessel argued to the jury that if there were 7 distinct points in the officer’s story that either defied common sense or could be proven as lies, how could you prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the same officer correctly and honestly operated the DataMaster.
After less than 20 minutes, the jury came back with a not guilty verdict.
The art of cross examination is one that is finely crafted over years and years, and after conducting many, many jury trials. When you retain the law firm of Nessel and Kessel Law, you are ensuring yourself of representation of the highest caliber. The criminal defense attorneys and Nessel and Kessel Law have the experience and knowledge to make sure your rights are protected. Especially in a case where it is your word against that of the police, you need an attorney who can ask the right questions and get the right answers. Don’t be fooled into thinking any attorney can handle your case because they have some experience in the realm of criminal defense law. The ability to execute a thorough and effective cross-examination takes years of practice to perfect. When you retain a criminal defense attorney at Nessel and Kessel Law, you get an attorney who knows exactly how to get what the want from an adversarial witness.