What Should Your DUI Attorney’s be Doing Leading Up to Your Trial?
Interviewer: Are there any other deadlines approaching in regards to license, or anything else?
Paul: No, no other deadlines. Now generally, what may happen between that arraignment and the trial date is nothing. What I mean by that is part of a criminal defense attorney tools in representing the defendant is receiving discovery from the prosecution and that includes laboratory results. If a person’s been charged with a DWI, not related to alcohol, but an illegal drug, or a prescription pill, there will be laboratory results, generally from an urinalysis or even a blood test.
If it’s been alcohol, the defense bar are waiting for the, I would say, multiple documents related to the Alcotest–the readings, the certifications, in addition, the affidavit of probable cause from the trooper or officer relating to that incident. Any ancillary documents, if there are witness statements, accident reports, should be included in that discovery.
Interviewer: The defense is tying together all of the evidence that you can to help defend your client, right?
Paul: Right, and the prosecution are compelled by law to provide that to me. But they sometimes do not have all of that paperwork together, or sometimes they’ll send me incomplete discovery. So at that first listing for the trial date, we frequently have to get a continuance because discovery is incomplete.
Now, that’s still an important day to go to court, because we can talk to the prosecutor about the potential problems in the case.
Interviewer: Okay, and I guess also to gauge how defensible the case is, or the prosecutor’s opinion of how hard they’re going to push, and how strong they think the State’s case is, right?
Paul: Correct. Absolutely.
Why You SHOULD NOT Enter a Guilty Plea at Your DUI or DWI Arraignment
Interviewer: At the arraignment where you make a plea, I’m sure some people say, but I am guilty; I did drink, and I drove. Maybe I should just throw in the towel and throw myself on the mercy of the court. What do you say to those people about what’s wrong with that thinking?
Paul: There are opportunities to still take responsibility for your actions, but you should NOT dramatically impact yourself, your family, and your employment by giving up.
Interviewer: Okay. Is there a mercy of the court if you plead guilty or no?
Paul: There are statutory requirements that they have to impose, and again, there’s no plea-bargaining. So, frequently it’s coming up with a compelling set of facts and defenses to at a minimum reduce the penalty. And that can be, if someone has a breath test of 0.22, but the breath results are across the board, there are multiple false positives, and major problems in the discovery, the individual can be charged with that first tier, the one between 0.08 and 0.10, and that just saves them immediately four months of a license suspension.
Defense Options: Self-Representation, Public Defenders or Private Attorneys
Interviewer: If you’re arrested for DWI, compare with me the likelihood of you having any results if you try to defend yourself versus a public defender versus a private attorney. Tell me about the pros and cons of these scenarios?
Paul: Well, it’s significant. The first is if a person wants to defend themselves they can certainly plead guilty, but a prosecutor will not work with them in any way, shape, or form to minimize damages related to the DWI.
A public defender has about, probably, a thousand more cases than the average person. They are in a time crunch. They have limited ability to review and extensively investigate the discovery provided by the State of New Jersey and the Prosecutor. And they have to keep their cases moving.
I think the interaction with a private attorney creates a one-on-one relationship. I receive my paycheck from my client. I don’t receive it from the State of New Jersey, and I certainly don’t receive it from the police. So it’s imperative for me to advocate for my clients’ interests.
The other side of that is I have more time to devote to my clients’ cases. I have more time to find the problems in the prosecution’s case and to seek one of two results; one is to beat the case entirely, and the second is to minimize damages so that my client’s life is not impacted beyond what it has to be. I can’t say that you would get that level of service with a public defender, and certainly not if you are representing yourself.
Interviewer: It sounds like the public defender is way overworked.
Paul: They are good-hearted people. They are really doing a lot of great work, but they don’t have the time.