The District Attorney for Wake County, North Carolina has thrown out 104 DWI cases and 71 traffic offenses because some of the evidence upon which these cases were based was provided by a sheriff’s deputy who was later found to have lied under oath in at least three proceedings. In two of these proceedings the deputy, Robert Davis, submitted false reports, while in a third proceeding he provided false testimony. Although the fact that the deputy lied under oath in three cases does not prove that he lied in the other cases, the incidents have raised enough doubt about the evidence to prompt D.A. Lorrin Freeman to throw out the cases.
“Reasonable Doubt” in Texas
Texas, like North Carolina, applies various “standards of review” that govern how much evidence is necessary to take different legal actions:
- “Reasonable suspicion” is needed to conduct a “stop and frisk” of a suspect.
- “Probable cause” is needed to arrest a suspect or issue a search warrant.
- “Preponderance of evidence” (51 percent likelihood) is needed to win most civil lawsuits for money damages.
- “Clear and convincing evidence” is sometimes needed to establish fraud or impose punitive damages in a civil lawsuit.
- “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is the standard of review needed to win a criminal conviction.
“Beyond a reasonable doubt” is the highest standard of review in Texas law, making it the most difficult one to meet. All a criminal defendant must do to avoid a criminal conviction is to prove “reasonable doubt”. The fact that Deputy Davis lied in other cases raised reasonable doubt as to whether he lied the 104 overturned DWI cases, and the result likely would have been the same under Texas law.
Perjury in Texas
Deputy Davis might be charged with perjury. Even if he is, however, a criminal conviction is not inevitable – the prosecution would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he lied under oath, rather than simply establish that there was reasonable doubt as to whether he told the truth. In Texas, a prosecutor must prove the following four elements to win a conviction for perjury:
- The defendant made a false statement under oath, or swore under oath to the truth of a previous statement not made under oath;
- The statement was required or authorized under law to be made under oath;
- The defendant had an intent to deceive; and
- The defendant understood the meaning of the statement he made.
The defendant cannot be prosecuted if he retracts the statement before the end of the proceedings in which it is made. In Texas, perjury can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor (up to a year in jail) or a felony (up to 10 years in prison). The more important the false statement was, the more likely it will be prosecuted as a felony. Falsely claiming to have witnessed a murder, for example, would be considered extremely serious if it resulted in the conviction of an innocent defendant.
Defending Yourself against DWI
The above-described events illustrates one of the many ways of defending against a DWI charge –calling into question the testimony of an opposing witness. Experienced Houston DWI defense lawyer Mario Madrid is experienced in defending DWI defendants through a variety of means such as challenging BAC testing, questioning the honesty of witnesses, and questioning the police officer’s right to pull you over in the first place. Call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial consultation and a robust DWI defense.