38 year old Ryan Quaale of Washington State has gotten some good news recently. He was convicted in February 2012 for alluding police and felony DUI in 2011 but a panel of Washington state Appellate Court judges granted him a new trial last week after concerns were raised about police testimony.
Quaale has four traffic related felonies on his record including serving a six year sentence when he plead guilty to vehicular manslaughter after killing a 2 year old in a DUI related car crash in 1998. He is currently serving a 20 year sentence but hopes to get released after his new trial.
The appeal was based on the fact that the Washington State Patrol trooper, Chris Stone, who stopped Quaale for his 2011 DUI responded to the prosecution's questioning in a way that may have prejudiced the jury. When the trooper was asked if Quaale appeared to have been impaired, he responded “Absolutely…[t]here was no doubt he was impaired.”
Quaale and his attorney believed that stating this was unfair because:
expert witnesses may only offer opinions to aid a jury in determining independently whether a defendant is guilty. Stone's statement went beyond that standard, the defense argued, by linking the results of a field test not to the presence or level of intoxication, but to whether Quaale's driving was impaired.
Quaale refused to submit to any sobriety tests during his arrest so the trooper's testimony was the only evidence against him. His defense team felt that Stone could only express his opinion on whether or not the suspect was intoxicated, not on whether his driving was affected by it. The appellate court agreed with his argument and Quaale will have a new trial.
This case is a great example of how a strong defense team can help suspects regardless of their criminal record. Even though Quaale had prior DUI convictions, he is still entitled to a fair trial. In California, a person can request an appeal immediately after they are convicted but only if they believe and error was made that ultimately affected the results of the trial. This case shows how these errors can occur.