The death of a loved one is one of the most difficult situations we face during our lifetimes.
Drunk driving charges are serious in their own right, but things go from bad to worse when someone is fatally injured in an accident.
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Vehicular homicide and serious injury by vehicle, alcohol related cases are defended very similarly to operating while intoxicated cases; albeit with much more at stake.
In addition to traditional defenses to operating while intoxicated cases, vehicular homicide and serious injury by vehicle cases normally involve blood draws or urine collection from a suspect while the suspect is also lying injured in the hospital. This creates a number of issues and potential defenses. Anytime law enforcement wishes to withdraw blood from a person against their will there are a number of legal rights and procedures that must be complied with. Any mistakes by the officers can result in the blood sample or urine sample analysis being declared inadmissible in the criminal prosecution.
Most of the time, it takes time for the samples to be analyzed and results to be reported by the crime lab. Once those reports are obtained by the investigating officer, it also takes a considerable amount of time for the investigating officer or agency to complete their technical collision report setting out their findings. During this time, the suspect may not even know they are being investigated. Unfortunately this can lead to some very important steps in an effective defense being overlooked. Preserving and securing the data and documentation associated with the analyzation of a suspects blood sample is imperative to an effective defense to a Vehicular Homicide by way of Operating While Intoxicated charge. Crucial information related to the legality of the blood draw, sample storage and testing of the sample may be derived from these sources. Furthermore, preservation of the blood sample tested by the State Crime Lab may also be accomplished if immediate action is taken.
The Iowa crime lab only preserves evidentiary samples for a specified period following testing. If no request to preserve is made, the samples are destroyed but the test results are saved. It is important to get a qualified lawyer involved immediately to ensure that any bodily fluids withdrawn by the government for evidentiary purposes are preserved for independent testing in the event charges are filed. Time is of the essence in this regard.
The legal theory of “proximate cause” is also a focal point of any competent vehicular homicide or serious injury by vehicle defense. This is an additional element that the state must prove. The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspects intoxication was a "cause in fact" of the accident that resulted in the death or serious injury. Fatality and serious injury accidents are an unfortunate reality on our highways. However, for someone to be criminally responsible for an accident their alleged criminal conduct must be the cause of the accident. It is not enough for the State to prove that a person was intoxicated and got into an accident where a person was seriously injured or killed. The prosecution must prove that the action of being intoxicated actually caused the accident to occur. If the accident would have occurred even if the vehicle was being operated or driven by a sober person, the defendant cannot be held criminally responsible. A good example of this would be a vehicle pulling out illegally in front of the defendant’s vehicle. Another situation often arises in prescription drug or narcotics cases where the substance may still be present in the person system but not “active” to a point where it would cause any impairment.
In all of these types of cases, it is imperative to have a knowledgeable defense attorney when the stakes are the highest. Just as important, the best defense will always involve well-qualified expert witnesses in accident reconstruction, human factors and toxicology.
Local: 515-226-0500Toll Free: 1-877-GRL-LAWS
Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, Distribution, Possession...
Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm, PLC
440 Fairway Drive, Suite 210
West Des Moines, IA 50266
Des Moines, Iowa: 515-226-0500
Nationwide Toll Free: 1-877-475-5297
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Mason City, Iowa 50401