In Minnesota, the police and prosecution have an obligation to preserve evidence that might help the defense in some way. That rule applies in every criminal investigation, including driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases. What happens if the police lose that evidence? In the best-case scenario the case against you gets thrown out of court, but that is not guaranteed. You need an experienced DWI attorney like Doug Kans to fight for you.
In criminal cases, information that tends to help a defendant is called exculpatory evidence. The prosecution has a duty under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution to provide the defendant with all evidence that may tend to disprove the state’s case. This is especially true when exculpatory evidence is specifically requested by the defense. As a practical matter then the prosecutor must tell the defendant or the defendant’s attorney if they learn of something that is potentially helpful to the defendant while the case is pending. Scrupulous adherence to this rule ensures the defendant gets a fair and impartial trial, which is exactly what the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and Sixth Amendment guarantee for every person charged with a crime in this country.
In some instances, however, even scrupulous adherence to this rule results in lost evidence that is potentially helpful to the defense. If that scenario arises, the defendant has an obligation to prove to the judge that the evidence was more than just merely helpful or that it was destroyed in bad faith by the prosecution. This is not an easy standard to meet. For instance, in the case of State v. Hawkinson, the state lab destroyed Hawkinson’s blood sample, pursuant to lab guidelines, even though Hawkinson requested the state preserve it to give him an opportunity to conduct an independent examination. The Minnesota Supreme Court, in overturning the lower court’s decision to suppress the blood evidence, said that Hawkinson was simply relying upon “hope” that an independent examination might have yielded a different result. The Court gave three reasons why Hawkinson failed to prove the lost blood sample was exculpatory. In making the ruling the Court relied on Hawkinson’s failure to show that the lab’s procedures or the tests themselves in analyzing his blood (which resulted in a blood alcohol concentration of 0.11) were faulty in any way, that he had no plan to conduct further testing, or that he failed to show why, in any other respect, the blood sample was exculpatory.
The Court then turned to analysis of bad faith on the prosecution’s part in not preventing the destruction of evidence. The Court considers two factors in making a determination of whether the prosecution acted in bad faith. The first is whether the prosecution destroyed evidence to hide it from the defense. The second is whether the state deviated from its standard procedures in destroying the evidence. In the Hawkinson case, the Court said that there was no incentive for the prosecution to hide the evidence because it was valuable to them at trial and that the sample was destroyed according to the lab’s established policies and procedures. The Court held that the prosecution did not act with bad faith and therefore did not violate Hawkinson’s due process rights.
Committed DWI Attorneys Can Help You if the State Has Lost Evidence Favorable to You
What often makes the difference in these cases is an experienced attorney who knows the ins and outs of criminal defense, especially in DWI cases. As a former prosecutor, Doug Kans is in a unique position to know exactly what the prosecution’s obligation is and how to demonstrate why the lost evidence is so valuable to the defense that the judge has no alternative but to dismiss the case. Call Kans Law Firm, LLC, today at (952) 835-6314 to schedule an appointment.