Willis Law Firm is pleased to announce that Attorney Willis has won a landmark reversal in Georgia Supreme Court on a critical distinction between evidence and hearsay. Not only has this decision secured a new trial for Mr. Willis' client, but also sets an important precedent in interpreting Georgia’s newest Evidence Code laws.
The decision stems from an April 5, 2012 incident in which Attorney Willis' client, Jason Parker, was stopped for speeding. Mr. Parker subsequently was arrested for DUI after law enforcement detected a faint odor of alcohol. At the local sheriff's office, Mr. Parker submitted to a breathalyzer test, which registered a 0.158 blood alcohol content (BAC) reading.
The state’s prosecution moved forward with its DUI charges against Mr. Parker, but, now under the counsel of Attorney Willis, the defense moved to seek testimony from of an out-of-state witness. In December 2012, Attorney Willis filed motion to receive out-of-state witness certificates to secure computer program coding from CMI, Inc., the manufacturer of the Intoxilyzer 5000 —the device used to establish Mr. Parker’s BAC the night of his arrest. Attorney Willis argued that because the evidence against Mr. Parker relied greatly on the Intoxilyzer 5000 reading, the accuracy of the device should be questioned in court.
Challenging the Intoxilyzer 5000
The court considered Georgia’s new Evidence Code, which would go into effect in just a few weeks, at the start of 2013. Because the new laws would allow for evidentiary hearing, the state granted one and held it in February 6, 2013. Attorney Willis provided past testimony, articles, and affidavits from Thomas E. Workman, Jr, a computer code expert, who had in the past testified to the inaccuracy of the Intoxilyzer 5000.
According to theNewspaper.com, the Intoxilyzer 5000 has become an infamous device:
- It is responsible 300 DUI conviction reversals in Washington D.C.
- Virginia spent $1.8 million to replace the device because of its inaccuracy.
- Ohio and Minnesota courts have ordered breathalyzer manufactures to turn over software code to avoid similar inaccuracy issues.
Attorney Willis hoped to have the court compel CMI, Inc. to hand over its Intoxilyzer 5000 software coding to further assert the device’s inaccuracy. The prosecution, however, objected to documents as hearsay, largely due to CMI, Inc.’s out-of-state status. The court agreed and excluded the documents from consideration and considered no CMI, Inc. software code or witnesses. Mr. Parker was found guilty and, on appeal, the conviction was upheld. The appeals court ruled that an evidentiary hearing was a “fact-finding proceeding” under the new evidence code and hearsay rules still apply.
Consideration from the Georgia Supreme Court
Attorney Willis then brought the case to the Georgia Supreme Court and put forth that because CMI, Inc.’s software code and testimony would be material to the one key piece of evidence that convicted Mr. Parker, it should be admissible in court and not simply ruled as hearsay. In the Georgia Supreme Court’s 22-page ruling, the court carefully considers at what point in the judicial process testimony from out-of-state witnesses should be compelled and reviewed for relevance and precedents set by federal evidence laws—which the new Georgia Evidence Code was designed to emulate.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed with Attorney Willis: hearsay evidence should be allowed in evidentiary hearings and—in the case of subpoenaed out-of-state witnesses—only later be ruled as material and credible after testimony is given. This means that Mr. Parker’s trial lacked crucial evidence and was ruled invalid. As the Georgia Supreme Court wrote in its decision, “The Court of Appeals should have vacated Parker's convictions and the order denying his motion for material witness certificates, reversed the trial court's exclusion of Parker's proffered documents, and remanded the case to the trial court with direction to issue a new order on Parker's motion.”
Persisting for the Truth to be Heard
Attorney Willis’ insistence that CMI, Inc.’s computer code should be considered in Mr. Parker’s case was unanimously agreed up on all seven Georgia Supreme Court justices. They knew, just as Mr. Willis did, that presenting that evidence was in the best interest of a fair trial, even if the Georgia Evidence Code seemingly did not allow for it.
Mr. Parker’s new criminal trial is still forthcoming, but this time it will benefit from the consideration of all material evidence due to Attorney Willis’ dedication, perseverance, and incisive understanding of both state and federal law. We congratulate Attorney Willis on his tremendous victory in his case.
If you or a loved one has been charged for a DUI and want to explore your defense options, then we urge you to contact us at the Willis Law Firm. A knowledgeable and experienced Atlanta DUI defense attorney is ready review your case and ensure that your rights are protected.