Maze wins a bench trial!

Originally Posted on: Aug. 13 2009,15:20 by William Maze

On August 13, 2009, I took a drunk driving case to a bench trial before the Hon. Tina Brooks Green in the 34th District Court and received a not guilty verdict. I rarely do bench trials. The famous trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow, is quoted as saying “The only real lawyers are trial lawyers, and trial lawyers try cases to juries.” But in this instance, a bench trial cost the client less money and resulted in a relatively fast not guilty verdict. Jury trials take a day or two, while this trial was completed in less than an hour and a half.

This was a Detroit Metro Airport case involving an officer on foot patrol, so there were no videos. The client entered the airport after another motorist had called 911 because the client had cut off that other motorist. The officer was responding to this BOL, which stands for “be on the lookout.” In the client’s defense, anyone who has ever been to Detroit Metro Airport knows that the traffic is crazy around the terminals.

The officer detected the odor of intoxicants, and the client admitted that he had consumed a few beers earlier. Notably, the officer saw nothing wrong with the client’s driving, his speech was clear, he was walking normally, and his fine motor coordination skills were not impaired. The officer claimed that the client performed poorly on a few field sobriety tests, but these errors were not alarming.

The critical problem in this case involved the breath test given at the Wayne County Sheriff’s office. It was the only evidence that suggested that the client was drunk. The breath test results revealed a breath alcohol concentrarion of .16, but the results were not admissible due to some problems at the Sheriff’s office. Without the breath test results, the judge was compelled to find the client not guilty. The judge indicated, however, that the airport police had not done anything wrong in this case, and the officer stood up well on cross-examination.