Far as You Know, We Were Not Getting Hammered at the DWI Defense Project Confab

Several hundred defense attorneys are attending an all-day conference at the Belo Mansion today to learn about the next wave of DWI defense work: the blood alcohol test about which we wrote last month. In recent years, police departments across the state have moved away from offering the breath test to those suspected of driving while intoxicated. They are increasingly demanding the suspect give them a blood sample, even if they have to strap down that person to get it.

DWI trail lawyer David Burrows is hosting today's conference and has lined up a number of speakers to dole out "practical" instead of academic advice, which basically means advice that has worked in the courtroom. So, Dr. Gary Wimbish, who is Burrows's favorite defense trial expert, took the microphone just after 9 this morning to explain to lawyers in the room the science behind the blood sample. A blood sample is the best specimen to test somebody's level of intoxication, he said. However, the sample must be collected and tested according to forensic standards, which are not often met in a hospital setting.

Next attorney John Cook spoke about the blood test case he won last November. His client had some Scotch, got into a Porsche, hit a curb and flipped several times. Blood evidence was introduced at the trial, which showed he was intoxicated. However, Cook was able to discredit the results of the blood test by calling Dr. Wimbish to the stand. The blood was drawn and analyzed at a hospital lab, and Wimbish proved that hospital-drawn blood alcohol level is higher than legal blood. Cook and his client won the case.

At the conference, Cook pulled up the mug shot of Mel Gibson and asked the audience a rhetorical question: Are there some cases better left untried? Cook said maybe, but when it comes to blood alcohol test cases, these are worth bringing in front of a jury. "I encourage you all to try more of these cases," Cook told the crowd.

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Kimberly Thorpe
Contact: Kimberly Thorpe