In the 33rd District Court in Woodhaven, Michigan, my client DK was charged with Leaving the Scene of a Property Damage Accident. LSPDA is actually a fairly serious charge. More commonly known as "hit and run," the charge of LSPDA is a criminal misdemeanor offense that carries up to 93 days in jail, a $500 fine plus costs, 6 points on your driving record, and driver responsibility fees.
My client was stopped nearly two hours after an accident a few miles from where his traffic stop occurred in a different jurisdiction. The driver of the on-scene vehicle described a "white van" and provided a partial plate to City of Trenton Police, claiming that this white van had struck the other vehicle and fled the scene. The on-scene vehicle suffered substantial damage and had to be towed.
The motorist claimed that the driver of the other vehicle had "brown or blonde hair." My client, who is bald, denied being involved in an automobile accident. His vehicle, which matches the extremely broad description of a "white van," had absolutely no damage. It is inconceivable that the two vehicles had both been involved in the same accident, given the nature and extent of damage to the on-scene vehicle.
Nonetheless, the prosecutor would not dismiss the charges. The prosecutor was convinced that he had the right guy because the complaining witness allegedly provided a partial plate, which matched my client's vehicle. I was extremely suspicious of that disturbing fact, but I did not have anything to impeach the allegation of a matching partial plate.
Both the prosecutor and I scheduled the case for a jury trial, but I was leery. While a jury might render a not guilty verdict, I did not have enough to ensure that we could avoid a conviction.
After a little brainstorming, I came up with a plan.
In every jury trial, the defendant must be identified. It is not enough to put a person on trial, proving that a crime has been committed but leaving the identity of the perpetrator of that crime up to speculation. In other words, while there is no doubt that the complaining witness had been the victim of a hit and run, someone would have to point to my client and declare, "he did it!" It seemed implausible that my client's vehicle was involved in the accident, but there was virtually nothing connecting my client to the actual offense except for the fact that he was driving the "white van" a couple of hours later.
The problem is that in-court identification is extremely easy. Witnesses who are unsure will almost never admit it, and it is really easy to point at the guy sitting next to the defense attorney.
I filed a motion to compel a photographic line-up. These motions are not normally granted, but the peculiarities of this case merited it. Lo and behold, an additional eye-witness came forward, claiming that he or she could more readily identify the driver of the other vehicle. Now, two people were claiming that they could walk into court and point a finger at my client, proclaiming "he did it."
The OIC (officer in charge) prepared the file, and we agreed upon a series of photographs. Presented with this photographic line-up, the driver of the vehicle that had been involved in the accident could not identify my client. Even the additional witness, who claimed to have seen the driver of the other vehicle better, could not identify my client.
On the eve of a jury trial, the prosecutor dismissed the case.