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How Can a Decision Not to Testify Affect the Outcome of My DWI Case?

In any criminal trial, the defendant has a constitutional right not to testify. The jury is not allowed to infer a defendant’s guilt based on such a refusal to testify. However, this also means that the defendant waives their right to personally rebut or contradict any testimony offered by other witnesses, which in turn can be used to establish guilt.

Appeals Court: Defendant Failed to Offer Any Evidence Hospital Blood Draw Was Not “Voluntary”

A recent DWI case from right here in Houston illustrates the dilemma that defendants often face on the issue of testifying. In Mandujano v. State, the state charged the defendant with a third-offense DWI after he was involved in a single-car accident in Galveston. The defendant had been riding on his motorcycle. According to an eyewitness, the defendant exited the freeway and hit a concrete barrier, throwing him from the bike and over a wall.

A police officer arrived at the scene while the defendant received medical treatment. The officer later testified at trial that he observed “signs of intoxication” from the defendant, including slurred speech and the smell of alcohol. Even though the defendant was lying on his back, the officer administered a standard field sobriety test, which the defendant failed. After the defendant was taken to a nearby hospital, a nurse conducted a blood draw. Testing on this blood sample later revealed the defendant’s blood-alcohol content was 0.195 percent, more than double the legal limit in Texas.

police lights

The defense moved to suppress the results of the blood test, pointing out the police neither had a warrant nor the defendant’s consent to conduct a voluntary draw. The trial judge denied the motion. The defendant subsequently did not testify before the jury. After the close of evidence, the defendant requested an instruction asking the jury to determine whether or not the defendant “voluntarily consented to the blood draw.”

The judge refused the instruction, noting the defense never presented any evidence rebutting the officer’s testimony that the defendant consented to the blood draw. The jury proceeded to find the defendant guilty of DWI. With additional enhancements, the defendant received a four-year prison sentence.

The Texas First District Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant’s conviction and sentence in an August 4, 2020, decision. The appellate court noted the defendant “chose a defensive strategy to not testify at trial.” Nor did the defense present any expert witnesses who might have established the defendant lacked the “mental capacity” to consent to the blood draw given the nature of his injuries from the accident. Given this, the First District said the trial court acted within its discretion to deny a jury instruction on this issue.

Speak with a Houston DWI Defense Lawyer Today

A DWI trial requires a defendant to make a number of tactical and legal decisions. An experienced Galveston drunk driving defense attorney can provide you with guidance and representation. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in League City, Galveston or League City today if you need help defending against a DWI charge. Call (281) 280-0100