Appeal over DUI conviction centers on jury instructions

There are many individuals in Wisconsin who decide to appeal their criminal convictions. However, they may not understand the very strict rules in place that apply to appeals. If all of the proper issues are not raised, they may find that they are unable to challenge the convictions already issued.

A recent decision by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals shows how criminal appeals are handled. The matter involved a woman who was convicted of DUI. She was driving alongside a car being driven by an off-duty police officer. Her vehicle started drifting into the officer's lane, and he needed to take evasive action to avoid a collision. Even after the officer passed her car, the motorist still nearly hit the back of the officer's vehicle.

When the motorist was stopped by police, she had trouble handing her identification to the officer. She failed to perform field sobriety tests, and admitted to taking the prescription drug Ambien. The woman was arrested, and a subsequent blood test showed several different prescription drugs in her system.

At trial, the motorist had requested a jury instruction relating to involuntary intoxication. Under Wisconsin law, this may be available when the motorist had been forewarned about the dangers of certain medications, but did not know the difference between right and wrong. The trial court rejected this instruction, saying there was nothing that supported having it read to the jury.

On appeal, the court ruled that this denial was proper. It examined the record and determined that some of the motorist's contentions would not support such a claim. The woman stated that she believed she was not impaired at the time of the stop, and attempted to explain her behavior was the result of other factors, such as being upset and crying. Since this would be in conflict with the involuntary intoxication claims, she would not be able to appeal her conviction.

The motorist also attempted to raise another issue in the appeal. She contended that the instruction that was issued in the trial court was confusing because it did not require the jury to agree on which substance allegedly led to her impairment. The court ruled that since she did not object to this at the trial court level, she would be unable to challenge it on appeal.

If you have been convicted of a crime and believe that you have grounds to appeal, speak to an appellate attorney experienced at handling these kinds of cases. It is extremely important that your attorney understands all of the proper procedures and timelines that apply in these situations. Failing to follow the court's requirements may result in your requests being denied.

Your attorney will review the record of your case, and advise you on the best course of action to take. Once you have made your decision, your attorney will be able to research the issues that will be discussed, and find support for your arguments.