Public Defender Versus Private Attorney For DWI Cases
Interviewer: Okay. I know you can’t give me exact figures, but how often would say you can improve someone’s situation, at least a little bit if they hire you versus going at it on their own and pleading guilty?
Paul: I know if there’s no way out of the DWI, I can save them hundreds of dollars in fines, and thousands of dollars with insurance points by getting the companion tickets dismissed.
Paul: I also know that if someone tested with a BAC above a 0.15 that there’s a good likelihood that I can get him or her below the 0.15 where they still may have a seven-month loss of license, but I can save them the Interlock ignition requirement.
Interviewer: Is it pretty safe to say that someone hiring you, you pay for yourself, at least, right, in savings from some kind of fees, or fines?
Paul: I’ve certainly argued that. I’ve absolutely, certainly argued that, and at the end of the day it’s insurance that, if we find enough to hang our hat on, that we can beat it. And given the dramatic impact these first offense DUIs have, it’s money well spent.
Interviewer: There’s such low risk because there’s no penalty for arguing the case and going to trial, right? Will you be penalized by the courts?
Paul: No, there’s no penalty at all, because there’s no plea-bargaining. It’s different than so many other states in that sense. That’s why I love it, because we can try these cases, we can file motions, motions to suppress particular evidence, motions to compel discovery, probable cause motions where we don’t think that the officer had any right to pull the person over. So, an aggressive defense can pay off.
Now, if you just go to a lawyer who’s not an expert and not aggressive in DWI defense, it may not pay off for you because he or she may just plead you out, takes your money, and you will be burdened with the seven-month loss of license.
What to Look For When Retaining An Attorney
Interviewer: Let’s get into that for a moment. I’m sure some people will shop lawyers when they’re facing DUI charges. So, what are the good and the bad signs you look for when you are considering hiring an attorney? What should tell people that’s not someone I should go with, or oh, this is a good sign?
Paul: My client reviews on an Avvo are great. It shows compassion. It shows aggressiveness, and it shows that I’m results oriented. I think the other part is experience. The prosecutors know me, and the prosecutors respect me, and the judges know and respect me. So, if there’s something on the edge, I would suggest that my relationship with the prosecutor, and knowing that we will go to trial, gives my clients a better outcome in the end.
The last thing a prosecutor wants at the end of the day is to have many hours in trial with an experienced criminal trial attorney for something that we could have resolved outside of court, and he moves on with his massive caseload. But he won’t do that to some attorney who doesn’t handle many of these, this person who is posturing and won’t ever pull the trigger on a trial. You prepare for war to make peace.
Interviewer: So, it sounds like some good questions to ask the attorneys you interview are, are you willing to take cases to trial if need be, and have you been to trial? Do you do more than just help people file a plea? Do you focus on DWI defense?
Paul: I leave that decision up to my client. I will tell them what my advice would be. Sometimes it is, I believe that a trial is appropriate in their case. You can lose at trials, and I will tell them what I think would be my confidence level in that. Sometimes clients don’t have the stomach for a testy trial, and that’s fine. Some clients are ready to sharpen the knives and go forward because they know we have a principled argument based on case law, based on a strong defense, and we’re ready to go.
How Long Do DWI Cases Take to Resolve?
Interviewer: How long on an average do DWI cases take?
Paul: I would say, and the one thing I tell a lot of clients is a lawyer will slow the process. It certainly can never be sped up. And generally, it will require about, at a minimum, two to three court appearances, sometimes more if there are motions, and if there is a trial.
Interviewer: Does it normally take three months to a year? What’s the range it could take?
Paul: I’d say, three to seven months.
Interviewer: I imagine, making the process take longer might be better because if you’re facing the loss of your driver’s license, pushing it out as far into the future as possible will help you make accommodations and get you in a position where you’re more prepared?
Paul: Absolutely, and it affords my clients the opportunity to manage their life, and make accommodations for the potential penalties they face.