If getting a DUI case dismissed outright is like winning the Powerball Lottery, then having a DUI case knocked down to a non-alcohol related Offense is like hitting the Jackpot in a raffle. As a busy DUI Lawyer, these victories are the things that become the highlights of my day-to-day Practice. I have pointed out, in many of the nearly 70 Drunk Driving articles I have published, that these kinds of outcomes are far more the exception, rather than the rule. Any DUI Lawyer will handle quite a few “garden-variety” DUI’s before he or she gets one that can be knocked out, or knocked down.
This might explain why I’m so excited about a day in Court, the week before last, when, out of the 3 DUI cases on my schedule, 2 of them were knocked down to non-alcohol related Offenses. What’s more, it happened in 2 different Courts!
Obtaining these breaks is not, however, just a matter of luck. It requires a detailed analysis and review of the evidence by an experienced DUI Lawyer. Sure, there is an element of luck in that there is a sufficient defect in the evidence for any particular case in the first place, but finding that defect requires looking for it, first. In a way, this parallels the old saying “you won’t know if you don’t ask.” A Lawyer wouldn’t find a problem with the evidence if he or she didn’t first evaluate that evidence with a careful and critical eye.
Beyond the benefit to the Client in avoiding the whole DUI charge, and all the negative consequences that go with it, these “jackpots” refresh the Lawyer, as well. Imagine if you were mining for gold, digging through dirt, and year after year you never found any. How much enthusiasm would you be able to sustain as you continued?
In each of the two cases referenced above, the “defect” in the evidence was not something pointed out by the Prosecutor. Nor was the defect obvious. Does this mean the Prosecutor simply hadn’t evaluated the case as critically as I did? I tend to think so. Prosecutors, after all, handle tons of cases, and simply don’t have the time to study each one like a Defense Lawyer, whose whole focus in on that single case. Even when they do read a Police Report, it’s not as if the Prosecutor is looking for a “way out.”
In my first case, there was a scientific problem with the Breathalyzer evidence. It would take far too long to explain it here, but the bottom line is that I was able to point out to the Prosecutor that his case was seriously compromised, and in light of the defects in the evidence that I showed him, he had little choice but to agree.
The whole case was further complicated by the fact that my Client had been convicted of a DUI (I wasn’t his Lawyer then) in that same Court a few years ago, so it wasn’t like he was some first-timer; in fact, he was facing his 2nd Offense. Still, after a few Court appearances, we were able to resolve this case so that my Client will not have to deal with a DUI.
That afternoon, in a different Court, I was able to have a 1st Offense DUI likewise dropped to a non-alcohol related charge. In this case, I found some problems in the Field Sobriety Tests that allowed me to convince the Prosecutor to go along with this deal. As in my first case, I discovered what I did only because I looked closely at the evidence. Had I merely scanned the Police report, instead of analyzing it with that “critical eye” I mentioned before, I would have never found those problems.
As I have observed on my website, Drunk Driving cases follow a certain protocol, and that protocol begins even before the Police Officer has contact with the driver. DUI cases are supposed to be handled “by the book,” and for the most part, they are. Every once in a while, however, there is some irregularity in the way the Police handle and process these cases that can have the potential to upset the apple cart. At the risk of being too repetitive, the truth is that you won’t find these irregularities unless you look.
In that sense, this also tends to prove that when hiring a DUI Lawyer, you get what you pay for. Anyone hunting for some Lawyer on a low-bidder basis would be at risk of simply hiring a warm body to go into Court and plead the case out. Above everything else, I’ve never met the person inclined to do extra work for which they’re not being paid. The truth of the matter is that, in any field or industry, you’ll never get the best work for the lowest price. Quality costs, period.
That does not, however, mean that person should be “soaked” for Legal Fees. In the two cases I’ve been talking about, my Fee was $2000.00. That’s about right, as I see it, at least, for a Lawyer with over 20 years of DUI experience and who knows what they’re doing. I’m quite sure each of my 2 Clients would agree that they got what they paid for, and then some.
DUI cases are specialized for Lawyers. For many Police Officers, they’re one of the most common kinds of Arrests they make. After even a few years on the road, most Police Officers have handled so many DUI’s that they consider them routine. And while that means that mistakes aren’t common, it also means that the Police are NOT used to handling something a little outside of the box, so to speak. This can be a capital advantage for an alert DUI Lawyer, but that Lawyer had better be someone who “handles” more DUI cases per year than the Arresting Officer.
In my years I’ve had plenty of these screwed-up case situations arise like those discussed above, but never before have I had 2 such “jackpots” on the same day, in different Courts.
Now that I’ve got that under my belt, I’m looking for a day when I can do this “non-alcohol related” deal 3 times….
But I won’t hold my breath.
For all of that, if there is one point to be made here, it’s that anyone facing a DUI should take the time to find the Lawyer who is right for them. I firmly believe that these cases should be handled by someone who concentrates in this field of Practice. I have pointed out before that just because so-and-so won a high profile murder case, that doesn’t mean he or she knows the first thing about Field Sobriety Tests or the science surrounding chemical test evidence, meaning Breath or Blood tests administered to determine a person’s Bodily Alcohol Content (BAC).
Once a person has narrowed the field to what I call “DUI Lawyers,” they then have to take the time to read what those Lawyers have written. You can get a good sense of not only a Lawyer’s general approach, but his or her personality if you scrutinize the content and tone of what they write. And if all they’ve written is limited to claims of being “aggressive,” “tough,” and “experienced,” then it’s safe to say they haven’t said anything worthwhile.
From there, a person should pick up the phone. Call around. For my part, I relish the convenience of doing a consultation over the phone, and I’ve found most people like the idea of not having to make a trip to some Office, where they will almost always feel compelled to “sign on” after their supposedly “free” consultation. This trick, by the way, is called “getting them in the Client chair.” I do not, and never have used it, but it’s as much a reality (except in my Office) as getting the pitch for an extended warranty when you buy something.
In the end, if a person has done their homework, and even if the case against them turns out to be airtight, they can at least have the comfort and confidence in knowing that their Lawyer has carefully and critically examined the evidence, and reached that conclusion correctly.
Even in airtight cases, it is important that the Lawyer help the Client prepare for all the steps in a DUI case, particularly the mandatory Alcohol Assessment Test, because this will have a huge impact on avoiding some, or even many, of the negative consequences in a DUI case.