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Can I use a public defender for a DUI case? Or should I get a DUI lawyer?

Bedminster, NJ |

My son was stopped for DWI. His BAC was a 0.13 and he had 8 tickets issued against him. My nephew, a state trooper, says a public defender is good enough for a DWI and that a lawyer can't do much more than a public defender. We would also need to borrow money to get a DUI lawyer. So, is a public defender good enough for DUI? Or does he need to hire a DUI lawyer?

Attorney Answers 4


Often police and defendants think there is nothing that can be done, but that's because they don't know what to look for or how. In many cases there procedural flaws, equipment flaws or some other violation that can work in a defendant's favor. Without knowing more about your case it is impossible to say what can be done. With eight tickets issued, depending what they are for, there could be severe consequences. I'd be happy to speak with you on the phone before you make a decision.

This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship and is based only on the limited information provided in the question.

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There are too many issues and defenses to explain in a condensed forum such as this. If the public defender is experienced in DWI defense, cares about defending a case and has the time with their large caseload, they can do the job. Also, if the DWI case is "cut and dry" your nephew may have a point. The question is whether the case is cut and dry.

For instance, the Alcotest 7110 reading may not be admissible for a variety of reasons. Since State v. Chun established the reliability of this instrument, there have been numerous successful challenges developed that can suppress the readings. In your son's case this could reduce his suspension by 4 months minimum (only a 3 month suspension can be imposed without readings or readings under.1; 7 to 12 months with readings .1 or over). Then there can be a discussion of the viability of a defense to the observation case. The probable cause for the stop and arrest need to be examined.

Private attorneys versed in DWI defense vary in their fees. However spending less may defeat the purpose of retaining an experienced knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Some DWI “specialists” charge a $5000 or more retainer. Most charge $1500-$3000 up front to examine the case and determine if a defense is viable and try to suppress evidence or dismiss charges or lessen exposure. If these efforts fail and if the evidence and percentages warrant, additional action can be taken at additional cost. Many DWI defense attorneys provide free consultations. My office provides such a service even over the phone. Check credentials and reviews on AVVO and call one of us before you decide.

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You can APPLY for the public defender, and if you meet the financial prerequisites for being granted representation by the public defender then you can use his services. If you do not meet the financial guidelines, then I strongly suggest you hire a private lawyer. Please feel free to contact me for a free consultation. Thank you.
Sincerely yours, -Ronald Aronds, Esq.-

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The short answer is yes; you can use a public defender but your nephew is wrong and you should hire a DUI lawyer. There is no such thing as a cut and dry DWI. A lawyer with training in standardized field sobriety testing will be able to review the police report and/or video for mistakes the officer made. A lawyer who is a certified operator of the Alcotest may be able to find procedural or technical deficiencies in the breath testing machine. All a public defender is going to do is plead your son guilty.

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