I have heard that taking a DUI case (even if its borderline PAS) to trial is almost worthless as almost always they result in guilty verdict. To all the experienced DUI lawyers - Is there any truth in this statement?
There are many ways to prevail at trial. A great deal has to do with the facts and the presumptions. You need to beat those presumptions. And you can't rely on the government to provide you with the facts to beat their presumptions. You have to find those on your own. Good luck.
No. It is a battle. But sometimes you can get better deals. I always caution clients against setting it for trial unless they are fully committed and willing to go to trial. But there are some situations where setting it for trial may lead to a better resolution then simply pleading without setting it. This is all on a case by case basis and you should speak to your attorney about the pros and cons.
"almost worthless as almost always they result in guilty verdicts" - well, that's a lot of "almost"s.
The truth is: the cases that go to trial are the ones that most often should - ones where there is a truly point of contention about the facts or the law.
Think of it this way:
- if an attorney runs a motion to suppress and wins, then the case doesn't go to trial because it is almost always dismissed at that point. (Victory for the client without a trial.)
- case is weak for the prosecution, so they dismiss or plead the case prior to trial. (The "house" almost always folds when it has a bad hand.)
- facts are bad for the client (e.g. .22 BAC and a crash), then the case pleads before trial because there's no point (unless the client just can't take the hit.) NOTE - this is not to say all high BAC cases are "bad" for the client - many have other flaws making them weak for the prosecution.
The truth is - each case depends on the facts (and not just the facts as the prosecution puts them forward), the witnesses (I've seen cops and criminalists absolutely fall flat on the stand), the client and the attorney. Juries are extremely variable, and sometimes they seize on the correct item and sometimes they don't.
Yes - many DA offices in the state have "DUI conviction rates" above 80% or 90% - but that's based upon all the cases that come in. (San Diego and OC each have over 16,000 DUI cases a year!) Most of these cases plead. The "contended" ones that go to trial often yield a different conviction rate - sometimes as low as 50%. And, if you start looking at the DUID conviction rates - these are often below 50%.
Prosecutors rely on the "Drinking and driving is illegal" mantra - but that's not true (just ask any restaurant or bar owner), and when that's pointed out to juries...well, that's the first step in educating them about the true nature of the DA's case.
Prosecutors rely on "0.08 means guilty" - but when juries are asked to look into the validity of the BAC test results...well, that's when they start to see it's not as easy or simple as the DA wants them to believe.
I used to teach those prosecutors - many think it's as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. They rely on "we wear the white hat, and juries respect that," but again - it's not that easy.
The truth is - each case is different, and a quality attorney can give you an honest assessment of the case after he/she is given a chance to review it. Some cases look like losers for the client at first blush, but then other things start coming to light. (One of my favorites: the client with the BAC well above 0.08. However, the jail booking video shows him/her vomiting in a trash can just prior to the breath test = there goes the prosecution's case!)
Give up if you want, because that's what the government wants you to do as well.
Who you are listening to matters. While it seems as if juries are increasingly intolerant of alcohol use and driving, each case is unique. To say that taking a DUI case to trial is almost worthless is absolutely not true, in my experience. That doesn't mean that winning a trial is easy: it isn't. And it certainly doesn't mean that every case should go to trial either.
Mr. Cohen's opinion that most DUI case are losers may be true if one only looks at overall conviction rates across the state. Some conservative counties have tough jury pools. And some attorneys may charge more than they should. But success in DUI defense is hard-earned.
The only case that ever matters to my clients is his or her own. What is "almost always?" 3/4? 9/10? 99/100? What chance of avoiding a conviction does a person have if they enter a plea? Zero.
A "dump truck" lawyer -- one who never actually tries any meritorious case -- won't be of much help to a person charged with a DUI. Paying $1000 for one of those may indeed be overpaying. I would recommend you start with a free consultation from some members of the CDLA, who actively focus their practice on DUI defense. As Mr. Fremont suggests, ask around.
Not everyone is eligible for a public defender - they are for the indigent. Public defenders do not assist with DMV issues.
By the way, $1,000 is cheap for a quality attorney. A respected attorney in your area who routinely wins DUI cases in your area and demolishes seemingly unwinnable cases charges much more than that and is worth every penny to his clients.
But that doesn't automatically mean that the more you pay, the more you get. Pick your attorney carefully.
If I may counter your pessimistic view of DUI outcomes is, here is recap of a few DUI jury trials of mine, for illustration.
10/.10 hung jury, case dismissed. (Sacramento)
.08/.09 - case settled mid-trial for a dry reckless. (San Joaquin)
.08/.09. - loss. That one hurt. (Placer County).
.06 BAC with cocaine and methamphetamine- acquittal of 3rd DUI (Sacramento county)
6) DUI with injury, .16 BAC, case dismissed mid-trial. (El Dorado County)
A good attorney will know what a case is worth. A decision to try or not to try a case is based on many factors, including the specific case facts, client risk tolerance, and the skill of the lawyer, etc. Trials are grueling, but they can be won.
NO! Absolutely that is not the truth as many DUI cases are good cases to take to trial, especially if the Prosecution is not making you any offer worth consideration. Too many people think this and give the Government a Guilty plea without making them earn it! You need to discuss the relevant facts in your case with a DUI attorney and not an attorney that just takes a DUI case from time to time and has no real experience in the area.
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