TREXLER MOTION TO DISMISS DRIVING WHILE IMPAIRED (DWI & DUI) IN RALEIGH, WAKE COUNTY.
In the United States, a person cannot be convicted of committing a crime where the only evidence of guilt is the person’s confession. In DWI prosecutions based upon a suspect’s confession, North Carolina law requires some other evidence that a crime actually occurred and that the suspect committed it. This issue arises in DWI cases when an officer arrives at the scene of a vehicle accident and the driver has already exited the vehicle.
In State v. Trexler, 316 N.C. 528, 342 S.E.2d 878 N.C.,1986, Mr. Trexler left the scene of a vehicle accident before the investigating officer arrived. Later, Mr. Trexler told an officer that the wrecked automobile was his, that he was driving it when it overturned, and that he had “a couple of beers” before driving the car. He further admitted that he went home and returned to the scene with his father and that he had nothing to drink after the accident. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that this confession was not a legal basis for a DWI conviction.
The North Carolina Supreme Court disagreed and reinstated the DWI conviction by finding substantial independent evidence tending to establish the trustworthiness of the confession. In Trexler, this evidence was that an overturned automobile was lying in middle of road and that a single person was seen leaving it, that when Mr. Trexler returned to the scene, he appeared to be impaired as result of using alcohol, that he later registered 0.14 on the breathalyzer, and that wreck was otherwise unexplained.
Even though Mr. Trexler was eventually convicted of DWI, the Trexler rule requires the court to dismiss DWI charges where there is nosubstantial independent evidence supporting the truthfulness of the defendant’s confession and no independent evidence establishing guilt.
In similar cases, the substantial independent evidence supporting the truthfulness of a defendant’s confession may include injuries consistent with being in the driver’s seat when the collision occurred. These injuries may include “air-bag” bruising, head injuries that match impact cracks on the driver’s side windshield, seatbelt bruising on the left shoulder, muddy shoes from climbing up a soft roadside embankment, etc.
Bystanders and paramedics often arrive at the scene of a vehicle accident before the investigating officer. They may have seen the defendant drive, exit the driver’s seat, or even helped the driver exit the vehicle. When the officer arrives, these witnesses identify the driver leading to his arrest for DWI.
If any of these witnesses testify at trial and identify the driver, this potential Trexler issue evaporates because there is independent evidence establishing the identity of the driver. However, if these witnesses never come to court, a good attorney can keep the officer from repeating the witnesses’ roadside identification of the driver at trial by objection under the “hearsay exclusion rule.” It prohibits the officer from repeating the statements of witnesses who do not testify at court. A good attorney can use the rules of evidence to earn a not guilty verdict in a DWI by keeping otherwise reliable evidence out of the trial.
Asking The Court To Find the Defendant Not Guilty Based on Trexler
When a defendant challenges a DWI charge based upon a Ferguson, Knoll or a Checkpoint Motion to suppress evidence and dismiss the charges, he must file a written pre-trial motion and the court will conduct a pre-trial hearing on the issue. In contrast, challenging the identification of the driver under Trexler does not require a pre-trial motion. Instead, the trial proceeds until the close of the State’s evidence. Then, the defendant’s attorney asks the court to dismiss the DWI because there is insufficient proof of who drove the vehicle.
If the court disagrees, the defendant’s attorney must repeat this motion at the close of the defendant’s evidence and the end of all evidence.