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The Importance of a Thorough Investigation

handcuffs andereggOur philosophy at Anderegg & Associates is that there is no substitute for a thorough and exacting factual investigation of each case. Over the course of a combined 30 years of experience, we have learned that if counsel turns over enough stones, some useful information will be discovered.

Challenging the Officer’s Version of Events
Darla was charged with Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) – Second Offense. The circumstances surrounding the charge were unfortunate. She had driven herself to a tavern one evening but when the bar closed, wisely recognized she had consumed too much alcohol to drive. Having learned her lesson with the first OWI conviction, she called her boyfriend for a ride. Nevertheless, as it was rather chilly outside, she started her car and turned on the heater to stay warm while she waited for her boyfriend to arrive. While waiting, Darla dozed off.

A short time later, Darla was startled awake by a police officer knocking on the driver’s window. Relying on the “community caretaker” doctrine, the officer claimed she was merely checking to make sure Darla was not in distress. That supposed concern for Darla’s well-being, however, moved quickly into an investigation as to whether Darla was operating while intoxicated. Because Wisconsin’s laws define “operating ” as “physically manipulating or activating any of the controls necessary to put the vehicle in motion,” Darla’s mere starting of the vehicle technically constituted “operation.” The officer claimed she suspected intoxication because Darla responded to her questions with slurred speech. Darla was ordered out of her vehicle where she failed field sobriety tests and ultimately provided a breath test of .16.

In the course of conducting a thorough investigation, Anderegg& Associates unearthed the existence of a videotape of the police encounter which had not been included with the standard discovery materials provided by the prosecutor. The squad video revealed Darla’s speech that evening was normal and not slurred. After viewing the video, Anderegg& Associates moved the court to dismiss the OWI charge on the grounds the OWI investigation violated Darla’s Fourth Amendment rights. Anderegg& Associates posited that once the officer determined Darla was not in distress, further detention of Darla for an OWI investigation was unlawful. After taking testimony, listening to the video tape, and hearing arguments from both counsel, the court agreed slurred speech was merely a pretext to justify an unlawful investigation and the charges against Darla were dismissed. Challenging the Reliability of Scientific Tests
Joe was charged with Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) – First Offense after being stopped for speeding. Following his arrest, Joe provided two breath samples which the Intoximeter 5000 registered as .14 grams of ethyl alcohol per 210 liters of breath. The attorney at Anderegg& Associates assigned to Joe’s case immediately obtained the complete maintenance history of the breath instrument used to test Joe’s breath samples. The attorney then noted the Intoximeter 5000 had experienced some technical problems and had been repaired and put back in service just days before Joe’s arrest. Nevertheless, the prosecutor initially rejected any compromise because he viewed the breath instrument as newly repaired and in good operating condition at the time of Joe’s test.

After waiting several weeks, however, the attorney made a supplemental demand for information on the same breath instrument and learned it was again taken out of service (to repair the same problem!) approximately two weeks “after” Joe’s arrest. Armed with the results of his thorough investigation, the attorney negotiated a resolution whereby the OWI charge was dismissed and Joe pled guilty only to the speeding ticket.

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