In my DUI Practice, I speak daily with people who have been Arrested and have to deal with Drunk Driving Charges. In most of the DUI articles on this Blog, I have tried to explain the DUI Process, and many of the things that are involved in such a case.
One phrase that comes up quite often is that the person facing the charges will tell me that they want to resolve the case with "the least amount of negative consequences possible." While I think a closer reading of the many articles on this Blog would clearly show that "damage control" is job number one for any Lawyer, I thought that, in this article, we'll discuss that issue alone, and not as an implied subject in a larger discussion.
From my point of view, that's what you hire a Lawyer for in the first place. A Lawyer has a very simple mission in a DUI (or any Criminal Case, for that matter) case: Either get the case thrown out, beat it at Trial, or work it out in the best way possible for the Client. Given that relatively few cases are simply "thrown out" or beaten at Trial, this means that the overwhelming majority of cases will involve some kind of a Plea Bargain, and/or a Sentence Agreement or Recommendation.
Let's be very clear here: Statistically speaking, if you're facing a DUI and you are hoping that some Lawyer can just get the case "thrown out," or that the Police screwed up the Arrest and the Evidence gathering so badly that the case can be easily beaten at trial, you're betting on an extreme long-shot.
In a previous article about How the Rich and Famous Beat DUI Charges, I pointed out that, in fact, they usually don't. The purpose of that article was to demonstrate that even for those with unlimited financial resources to "Lawyer up" and fight every facet of a DUI case, every celebrity that I've heard of who got popped for a DUI wound up cutting a deal. None of them gets the case "thrown out," and none of them winds up being acquitted of the charges after Trial, either. They step up, admit responsibility, and (hopefully) move forward while they put the whole episode behind them.
What does that mean to you, if you're facing a DUI? It means that (again, statistically speaking), absent some bizarre circumstances in your case, you'll be working out a deal to minimize the negative consequences of your case. And that means your Lawyer will be doing damage control.
This, of course, involves a lot of considerations. There is a lot more to working out a DUI as successfully as possible than just getting the original charge reduced to some lesser offense. In a very real way, how well or poorly someone's DUI works out is determined by looking at what happened to them in the end. In other words, what consequences did they have to deal with?
Thus, most people hire a Lawyer, who, in turn, gets the original OWI charge dropped to the less sever charge of Impaired Driving. After all is said and done, almost all of them will wind up on Probation, and, at least in 1st Offense cases, stay out of Jail.
Probation (at least as an alternative to Jail) is great, but it carries Conditions, and keeping those Conditions at a minimum is what people are really looking for when they say "the least amount of consequences possible."
For me, handling a DUI involves, first of all, investigating whether the case is flawed or weak enough to get "thrown out." Although such cases are relatively rare, they do happen, and making sure one of those gems doesn't get away the first order of business. After that, it means working things out to achieve the best possible outcome for my Client, which, from their point of view, means getting "the least amount of consequences possible."
To do that, a person really needs to understand that "the least amount of consequences possible" really means "the least amount of consequences possible in your particular case."
In Part 2 of this article, we'll examine specifically what is meant by "the least amount of consequences in your particular case."