Our firms' most recent and perhaps the most notable appellate victory is in the case of State v. Harrison , 24 P.3d 936, 2001 UT 33 (Utah Ct. App. 2001). The Defendant was charged with a first degree rape and a second degree sexual assault. At trial, the Court allowed an attorney from the Utah Guardian Ad Litem's office to sit at counsel's table with the prosecutor to ask questions, cross-examine witnesses and otherwise participate in the trial. After the jury returned...Read more
Our firms' most recent and perhaps the most notable appellate victory is in the case of State v. Harrison , 24 P.3d 936, 2001 UT 33 (Utah Ct. App. 2001). The Defendant was charged with a first degree rape and a second degree sexual assault. At trial, the Court allowed an attorney from the Utah Guardian Ad Litem's office to sit at counsel's table with the prosecutor to ask questions, cross-examine witnesses and otherwise participate in the trial. After the jury returned a guilty verdict, we appealed the decision arguing that the use of multiple attorneys from multiple State agencies, i.e. the Guardian Ad Litem's Office (that is a branch of the judiciary) violated the Defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. This double prosecution strategy gave the impression to the jury that multiple governmental agencies were joining together to attack the Defendant. An unfair impression was given to the jury and therefore the Utah Supreme Court overturned that conviction. This case is considered a landmark case in Utah in limiting the Office of the Guardian Ad Litem. The Utah Supreme Court also stated that this prohibition from the Office of the Guardian Ad Litem extended not only to criminal cases, but into civil cases as well. Therefore, it has substantial family law implications in Utah as well as the obvious criminal law ramifications.
MOST RECENT FELONY TRIAL VICTORY
The most recent trial victory that our firm has obtained is in the case of State v. Kindred. The Defendant was charged with aggravated assault. This incident arose out of a visitation dispute wherein the father was wrongfully denied visitation. Upon getting in an argument with his ex-wife, he then began moving his vehicle in the driveway of his ex-wife's house. At the same time, she came running out of the garage door and the two collided. The police were called and our client was not arrested or cited for domestic abuse, because none had occurred. However, the State later charged our client with an aggravated assault for the vehicle collision. The trial included expert testimony from an emergency room physician, as well as testimony from one of the children who observed the incident, testimony of both parents involved, and testimony of the responding officer and the alleged victim's family doctor. The evidence showed this was only an attempt to get an advantage in the custody dispute. The jury came back in a mere twenty minutes with a not guilty verdict for our client.
MOST RECENT DUI VICTORY
Our most recent DUI victory was in December, 2003, in the case of Syracuse City v. Briggs in the Second Judicial Justice Court, State of Utah. In that case, we had filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence obtained by the officer under the Fourth Amendment grounds. Our contention was that the officer did not observe our client committing any crime, therefore, he had no reason to stop the car. Under the Fourth Amendment when an officer stops your car, you have been seized. If there is a traffic violation, an officer has the right to make that seizure. (A traffic offense in Utah is a crime.) If there is no crime being committed, an officer does not have the right to stop you, even if his hunch is that a crime may be being committed.
Mr. Briggs had been driving home in his late model sports car early on a Saturday morning. The officer followed him for approximately a mile before stating that he observed Mr. Briggs cross the center line of the road twice. This center line crossing was the reason the officer gave in his police report to be the justification for the initial traffic stop. We investigated the crime scene and when re-driving the route that Mr. Briggs took that evening, we noticed there was no center line painted on the section of the road where the officer said he observed the center line being crossed! We then went out and videotaped the road. We drove the exact route after dark while videotaping the route. (My wife/law partner Victoria drove and I put my head out of the sunroof of the car and did the camera work).
This action was fortunate because by the time the Motion to Suppress was heard, the road did have a painted center line. The judge was under the impression that a center line was there at the time of the traffic stop. We were prepared to show the videotape of the road, but the prosecutor stipulated that there was no center line in the road at the time of the stop. I argued that the officer could not have possibly seen Mr. Briggs cross the center line in that there wasn't one and that there was no other illegal driving pattern. The judge agreed and granted our Motion to Suppress the Evidence. The prosecution, now not able to use any evidence after the stop (since it was illegally obtained) was forced to dismiss the case against our client.
Another recent victory was in the case of State v. Morris in the Third Judicial District Court of Utah. We had a bench trial before the Honorable Judge Fuchs. The facts of the case were that our client had been arrested and charged with driving under the influence. His blood alcohol level was approximately three times the legal limit. However, there was no evidence that Mr. Morris had been driving the vehicle. The car which he owned was parked in a hotel parking lot and he had been inside the hotel prior to the police arriving. No evidence was presented as to why the police were called, or who called them. Due to the fact that no one had ever observed him driving, nor had he ever admitted that he had been driving and his car was in a hotel parking lot caused the Court to dismiss the charges. We were able to show that although he was inebriated at the time the officers arrived, there was no proof that he had been driving while he was in this condition, nor was there any proof given as to why anyone called the police and what circumstances led that call to be made.
The Court, therefore, appropriately dismissed the case after the prosecution rested and we moved for dismissal.Read less
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