Court says police failed to disclose that evidence had been gathered by hearsay
An appeals court in New York has overturned a conviction for aggravated DWI because of a police error, according to Syracuse.com. The case stemmed from a 2012 accident that led to the death of one man in Hebron. The woman in that crash was originally charged with drunk driving, manslaughter, and other charges. A jury had already acquitted her of the most serious offenses, while convicting her on two lesser charges. In this latest ruling, the court claimed police did not disclose all necessary information for an earlier court to make an informed decision.
The accident occurred in July 2012 when a woman drove into the wrong lane of Route 22 in Hebron, leading to a fatal accident. The Vermont woman was accused of driving while intoxicated and causing the death of the other motorist.
Earlier, a Washington County jury acquitted the woman of the most serious offenses of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. The jury nonetheless found the woman guilty of the lesser charges of aggravated DWI and reckless driving and she was sentenced to a year in jail.
However, according to the Glen Falls Post Star, the aggravated DWI conviction has now been overturned by an appeals court because of a police error. When applying for a warrant to take a blood sample from the accused, the investigator failed to note that his request had been based partially on hearsay. The accused had told the investigator she may have been intoxicated, but he did not mention this evidence on his application.
Hearsay is evidence taken from what somebody says. Although hearsay evidence is permissible, investigators must note such evidence when filling out an application for a warrant. Because courts need such information in order for them to act as "neutral, detached arbiters," the appeals court ruled that not disclosing the hearsay evidence compromised the court's neutrality.
As the above case shows, it is important to make sure that people who have been accused of a criminal offense have their rights protected during the criminal justice process. Police have a responsibility for ensuring they gather evidence in a manner that does not compromise the rights of citizens.
Anybody who has been charged with a criminal offense, including a DWI, needs to contact a criminal defense attorney right away. An experienced attorney can use his legal expertise to not only defend the rights of accused clients, but fight against a criminal charge or an unnecessarily harsh sentence.