Top State Court Nixes Lawyer’s Drunken-Driving Conviction ITop state court nixes lawyer’s drunken-driving conviction over blocked effort to consult counsel Over Blocked Effort to Consult Counsel

(Martha Neil) Arrested under suspicion of drunken driving in 2013, an Iowa family law attorney tried to consult with a criminal defense lawyer before taking a Breathalyzer test to determine his alcohol level at the Polk County Jail.

But when David Hellstern asked the arresting officer to let him speak privately over the phone with his lawyer, the officer refused. Hellstern took the Breathalyzer test, blew more than twice the legal limit and was subsequently convicted of operating while intoxicated after his motion to suppress the test was denied.

However, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed his conviction (PDF) last week. It agreed with Hellstern the arresting officer should have informed him that, while he had no right to consult privately with his lawyer by telephone, he would have been able to do so if his lawyer came to the jail in person.

The case is remanded for a new trial, but the court said the Breathalyzer test should be suppressed because of the officer’s failure to advise Hellstern of his right to consult in person with legal counsel.

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