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Is Hiring a DUI Lawyer Really Worth It?+
Yes, and here’s why. I had a case in which one of my clients got a legitimate DUI; he had been drinking and driving. A couple of weeks later the client was coming back from school and they had taken a prescription painkiller and were involved in an accident.
The accident had nothing to do with whether or not this client was impaired. In the accident, he hit his head on the windshield and was bleeding, so they took him to a hospital, where they gave him more painkillers. He was so disoriented, he didn’t know what day it was, and an officer had to remind him. He ran into the officer a couple of days later and didn’t remember him.
While in the hospital, the officer asked him to consent to a blood draw and obtained his blood and charged him with a second DUI. The offer at first was for two first-time DUIs, so that he would do the mandatory minimum, which looked like a great deal at first, since the second DUI wasn’t going to be enhanced.
But then I told the prosecution that I didn’t think the search was valid because he didn’t have the capacity to consent because, due to his head injury and his disorientation from the drugs. If he didn’t realize what day it was, there was no way he could have consented.
That charge was dismissed and he only had one DUI, so suddenly the plea wasn’t so good. Someone who didn’t know what they were doing may have taken it anyway without thinking, but an attorney knows whether or not the officers did things right, and whether the stop was constitutional. An attorney can look at the blood draw and the Intoxilyzer 8000 and know the weaknesses in the case that someone representing themselves will never know.
Attorneys go to court for our clients and we handle things that can make the difference between conviction and dismissal. We also save them time, energy and stress.
For example, when there’s a DUI, there is a civil NBD hearing happening at the same time as the criminal case, and there’s a way for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing to strategize to keep your license as long as possible, take the suspension, avoid SR-22 insurance, and deal with the criminal case. We help time everything so that the impact of the sentence doesn’t hit you all at once, and also keep you from having to spend many hours going to court, because we go for you in many cases.
We help strategize to create minimal impact on your life and to keep you organized so that you are not completely (for lack of better word) screwed.
You should definitely hire an attorney. If it was my sister, my brother or my family member, they ask me whether or not they should hire an attorney, I would 100 percent say yes.
Why Do Even Judges Think That Defending Yourself in a DUI Case is Ill-Advised?+
The answer to that is simple; you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t know the rules of evidence or what objections to make. The prosecutor will be able to enter items and testimony into evidence that normally shouldn’t be entered, but because you don’t know how to object, or even that you’re supposed to, the court has to let it in. Sometimes a judge will step in, but they’re not required to. It’s your job to look out for your interests, not the court’s or the prosecutor’s.
If you’re in court during a trial, you don’t know what evidence is allowed and what isn’t, you can’t prepare your evidence properly, you don’t know the right questions to ask, and all of this will throw you off, and that could sabotage your case.
Why Can’t Public Defenders Handle and Entire DUI Case?+
Public defenders can’t help with the MVD issues in the case. Once, I sat down with someone facing a felony DUI and there were some issues with the MVD, so I told him what needed to be done and to take it to their public defender and they should be able to get them a misdemeanor.
We found out later that he ended up pleading to a felony because the public defender had no idea how to handle anything with the NBD. That client then came to one of our DUI attorneys, who was able to undo everything; he got him out of the plea and got him a misdemeanor. The public defender didn’t even know how to handle any MVD issues; they don’t even handle the NBD hearing.
Public defenders also tend to not know how to deal with post-conviction relief or even how to set aside your judgment, which can happen after you’ve completed all the terms of your sentence. You have to deal with those things yourself or hire an attorney, and most attorneys include such services in their fees, as part of their representation of you.
To Blow or Not to Blow, that is the DUI Question?+
Do not blow before you are arrested. Many people think that if they blow below a 0.08 BAC they’re safe, which isn’t necessarily true, if the officers see evidence of impairment, and if you blow above a 0.08 BAC, you have the officer probable cause to arrest you. The reason they ask you to blow is to prove the impairment, and if you blow below a 0.08 BAC, they may just say you may be under the influence of something other than alcohol and arrest you anyway.
Until you’re arrested you don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to submit to a field sobriety test, you definitely don’t do the eye test, the HGN, and you definitely don’t blow in the PBT. After you’re under arrest, you have to either submit to one or all of a urine test, a breath test or a blood test, depending.
After you’re under arrest, submit to whatever the officer wants because if you refuse to blow, you’re subject to a one-year license suspension. If you refuse, they’ll get the warrant anyway, so there’s no point in refusing then. There are some circumstances where a refusal works in the client’s interest, but only if that already has years of license suspensions and a felony conviction ahead of them; for most people, after arrest, you blow.
What if You Fail Roadside Sobriety Tests?+
You’re going to be arrested. There is no pass or fail; you can only show signs consistent with impairment, to indicate to the officer whether or not you’re likely to have a BAC over 0.08. Some clients think they passed the test with flying colors, but if you’ve been arrested you probably didn’t; they are looking for things you don’t even know they’re looking for.
The test actually starts during the instructions, and officers count cues such as using your arms to balance on the walk and turn. It’s difficult to do well on sobriety tests even if you’re sober because you’re nervous and on the side of the road. They are solely designed to help the officer collect evidence against you; they don’t ever help you.
When Police Officers Ask to Say the Alphabet Backwards, What Should One Do?+
Tell them you won’t submit to that or any test until you’re placed under arrest because your attorney advised you not to. If you decide to say the alphabet backwards, you’re going to get confused, so the best idea is to not do that.
Should You Refuse the Portable Breath Test?+
Before arrest, yes, but after you’ve been arrested, the general answer is no. I could have 10 different defendants call me and say, “Hey, they gave me a chance to call an attorney, they asked me to submit to a test. What do I do?” I’ll ask some questions, but only rarely will the answer be to ask them to refuse the test, because to refuse to submit to testing will result in the loss of their license for a year.
“But I Only Had Two Beers.” How do you fight a DUI When You’ve Said This?+
It’s become a joke among officers; everyone they stop swears they had just two beers. If you really did only have two beers, you’ll need to provide proof, such as ATM cards, bank statements and the like, and you’ll need witnesses who can testify that you only had two beers. But either way, that won’t likely work if the prosecution has blood alcohol test showing that you were at a 0.23 when you were arrested.
How Do You Get An Acquittal or a Dismissal In A DUI Case?+
That depends. I have a client that, in my opinion, did everything absolutely perfectly. He was stopped, made no admissions, he didn’t do the PBT, or the field sobriety test. He was arrested. He took pictures of his own eyes to demonstrate that they were not red, bloodshot and watery. The officer who drew his blood even said the defendant didn’t look impaired and it must be some sort of joke because he wants to go through the process.
Apparently, if someone exercises their constitutional rights, police think they want to be prosecuted, which is just absurd. It’s as if they had three choices; win a million dollars, be arrested, or go home, and they chose to be arrested.
The whole thing was strange because he did everything perfectly, and his blood results came back below a 0.025. The citation includes every DUI count under the sun, including a charge that he had a BAC of 0.20 charge, with the citing officer saying, “I have no clue what his BAC is because he didn’t do anything. He wasn’t a witness against himself, so I’m just going to guess and put them all on here.” Another officer said within 20 minutes that this guy is clearly not impaired.
So, here you have one officer citing him for a BAC level that’s very, very impaired, with another saying he didn’t even look impaired and a blood work that comes back below a 0.025. What they mean when they say “below 0.025 that it was too low to get a reading; all they would report is “below 0.025.”
The prosecutor refuses to dismiss it, however, saying that they plan to retest the blood and fish around and see if they can find something he did that might have violated some law. As you can see, it’s really hard to stop a DUI from being prosecuted, so obviously, you need an attorney to protect your rights. Even when you do everything perfectly, it’s still a battle. It’s not fun.