Your Michigan DUI will prosecuted by a lawyer who is supposed to be interested in one thing – to be sure that justice is done. That means that if the prosecutor knows of something that shows you are not guilty of a Michigan DUI, then he/she is supposed to let your DUI lawyer know this. For example, see: A DUI Prosecutor Must Help Prove That You Are Not Guilty.
But not all Michigan DUI prosecutors are so ethical. And Michigan is not the only place where such problems exist. The state Supreme Court in California has just suspended a former Santa Clara County deputy district attorney from his law license for 4 years. This came after a three-judge panel found that Benjamin Thomas Field had “disregarded prosecutorial accountability in favor of winning cases”. In other words, he would rather win cases than fight for justice.
Mr. Field not only abused his office but also violated the due process rights of several criminal defendants. While he was originally charged with 25 counts of misconduct, the bar court dismissed several charges as duplicative. Judge Purcell, one of the fore-mentioned three-judge panel, stated that “Field lost sight of this goal. The first, best, and most effective shield against injustice for an individual accused… must be found… in the integrity of the prosecutor.”
Mr. Field’s misconduct began not long after he gained admission to the bar in 1993 and lasted ten years. While he could have lost his right to practice law permanently, the court found extensive mitigation expressing his cooperation with the investigation, an impressive record of pro bono service, and “an extraordinary demonstration of good character.” A former Santa Clara District Attorney said “Field is not intentionally corrupt.”
Here are some of the examples from Field’s cases that led to the charges:
- Field obtained a dental examination of a minor accused of sexual assault in violation of a court order. He was attempting to try the youth, who claimed to be 13, as an adult. A juvenile court judge suppressed the evidence obtained in the examination.
- In a murder case, Field intentionally withheld a defendant’s statement favorable to co-defendants. As a result, the judge dismissed a 25-year gun enhancement against one of the co-defendants.
- He made an improper closing argument in a sexually violent predator (SVP) case, which an appellate court described as “deceptive and reprehensible.” The court reversed a judgment committing the man as an SVP.
- He intentionally withheld a witness’s statement that was favorable to the defense in a 2003 habeas corpus proceeding involving a sexual assault. The judge found that he committed a discovery violation.
Throughout his trial, Field admitted to poor judgment and viewing his discovery obligations too narrowly, and self-reported the finding of prosecutorial misconduct to the bar. He has left the DA’s office and is now chief of staff with Working Partnerships USA, a San Jose company that addresses the needs of working families in the Silicon Valley.
While the article does not mention any drunk driving cases, you can be sure that if Mr. Field prosecuted drunk driving cases, he committed misconduct with them as well. In this regard, Mr. Field is not alone. Some prosecutors are more interested in their quest to “get drunk drivers off the road” than making sure you are actually guilty.
The California District Attorneys Association filed an amicus brief stating “Attorneys should be disciplined for conduct that violates clearly established law, or conduct so outrageous that its illegality is obvious, but should not be disciplined for conduct where the law is unsettled.” If it was your Michigan DUI case, would this standard satisfy you?
The only way to be sure that the prosecutor handling your Michigan DUI case is ethical in every regard is if you have a Michigan DUI lawyer who is willing to hold him/her to those ethics. Not all Michigan DUI lawyers know or care about this, so when you choose your Michigan DUI lawyer be sure you choose carefully. Otherwise, it’s possible that justice will not be done, and you will be wrongfully convicted of a Michigan DUI.