When Drivers Don’t Blow, Field Sobriety Tests Tell the Tale

Today Villalobos & Associates’ attorney, Klaudia Stolarczuk, successfully defended a client who was accused of DUI.  The client was stopped under suspicion of DUI after a police officer saw the client veer slightly into the adjacent lane.  The client told the officer that he had been at a restaurant with coworkers and had a few drinks with his food.  The client told the officer that  the reason he veered was because he looked down momentarily when he received a text message on his phone.

Because the client refused to take a breathalyzer test, the sole evidence presented by the state was the client’s performance of the field sobriety tests.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) helped develop the battery of three tests that law enforcement officials commonly use to determine if a driver is impaired: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test; the Walk and Turn test; and the One Leg-Stand test.  Attorneys commonly refer to the tests as the “fields.”

The officer administered the three field sobriety tests, all of which were captured on the officer’s dashboard camera.  At trial, Stolarczuk cited the NHTSA standards of how to administer the field sobriety tests against the officer, noting several factors which could have caused the client to perform worse than he would have under normal conditions.

Stolarczuk pointed out that the client told the officer that he had knee surgery, which may have made it harder to perform the One Leg-Stand test.

Stolarczuk also pointed out that the client only faltered during the Walk and Turn test when he was walking towards the officer’s flashing lights, which can distract and disorient people trying to walk in a tight straight line.  She also pointed out that there was fast moving traffic on the street, which could have caused the client to be more anxious and distracted than if he took the tests further away from traffic.  Indeed, at one point on the video, the officer jumped as a car sped past and exclaimed “whoa, that guy almost hit me!”

After cross-examination, the judge was so convinced that the client was innocent, he did not even need to hear the defense’s case before he found the client not guilty.    While other law firms would rather take a plea bargain, Villalobos & Associates has extensive experience taking DUI cases to trial and winning.

The Incredible Case of the Falling Baby and the Importance of Mental State in Criminal Charges

Today Villalobos & Associates’ attorney, Klaudia Stolarczuk, successfully defended a client who was facing up to one year in jail after her 2 year-old child was found unhurt in a bush after somehow falling from a window in her 4th story apartment in Chicago.  Prosecutors charged the mother with a criminal charge of knowingly causing or permitting the life of the child to be endangered.  Prosecutors claimed that the mother fell asleep while watching the 2 year old and another child when the 2 year old somehow climbed out of kitchen window onto the 3rd story roof, then fell from that roof and landed, unhurt, in a bush on the ground.

At trial, Prosecutors presented evidence that the mother was the only adult watching the two children and that the 2 year-old was, in fact, found in a bush outside the apartment building.  Prosecutors also presented evidence that a chair was found in front of an open kitchen window whose screen had been knocked out.

After the State rested, Villalobos & Associates presented testimony from the client and her husband that neither one of them had seen the 2 year-old push a chair or climb on a chair or window.  They also testified that the children were never permitted to play on the 3rd story roof and that even if the 2 year-old had climbed out the kitchen window, the 3rd story roof outside of the kitchen window was bordered by a 3 foot tall lip, over which the 2 year-old would not be able to climb.  In her closing, Stolarczuk argued that the State failed to prove that the mother had the required mental state- that she “knowingly” permitted the child to be endangered.

In the end, the judge found our client not guilty and agreed with Stolarczuk’s argument that there was no evidence that the mother knew the child was capable of climbing out the window- there was no evidence that the child had ever pushed a chair and climbed up it or that it had ever tried to climb out of any of the windows.  In short, the mother did not knowingly endanger the child by allowing the child to walk around the apartment under the circumstances.

This case further illustrates the point that successfully defending charges means pushing the State to prove every element of a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt.  Villalobos & Associates has extensive criminal trial experience and knows how to successfully highlight flaws and in the State’s case.