What Does a Criminal Defense DUI Lawyer Do?

Posted almost 3 years ago. Applies to Florida, 2 helpful votes



Meet, Greet, and Be Retained By You

Ideally, you and I are going to meet in person for an initial client interview. You will give me the detailed story of what happened, as best as you can remember. We will discuss how to handle your dui arrest with your school, employer, and/or professional licensing agency. You will sign my employment contract and pay me my flat fee. You will promise to return my questionnaire to me promptly. We will coordinate you coming back to the office in a few days when I have your temp. permit.


Letting The Other Parties Know I Represent You

Now I am your lawyer. I have to let the other "players" know to deal with me from now on, and not you. I enter a "Notice of Appearance", a "Written Plea of Not Guiity," and a "Demand for Discovery" with the Clerk of the Court. Now, it is official. We need to deal with the DMV as well. So I filed the Request For a Formal Review with DMV. They will set up a hearing for me to contest the suspension of your license.


Get your temporary permit so you can keep driving while we fight your DMV suspension

You need to drive. I keep you driving by getting you a permit. If I win your hearing, I can keep you driving with no lapse in your license. Worst case scenario: If we lose the hearing, then we can minimize the time you absolutely cannot drive to 30 days if you submitted to the breath test, and 90 days if you refused the test.


Beginning the process of collecting evidence

So how do I decide what defense we will use to defend you? I have a methodical (and boring) process of gathering up any and all relevant evidence. I gather this from the State Attorney, the Arresting Police Agency, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and other places that may have evidence relevant to your charge. Parking lot videos? 911 audio? Bar video? It all depends on the case. This is the most time consuming part of the process besides Trial. I am combing through everything to see what evidence I can exclude, what evidence I can discredit, and what evidence I can use to your advantage.


Decide on a plan on how to fight your administrative suspension

At this point, hopefully I have the majority of your discovery process complete. I have a very good picture and outline of what your DUI case looks like. But before we discuss how we are going to defend your DUI in criminal court, we need to plan our attack in the DMV hearing.I may decide to go "on the packet" at the hearing. Or I may decide to subpoena that guy who arrested you and pepper him with questions while he is under oath.


Subpoena police if needed to come to administrative hearing

If I don't think I can win your administrative hearing on a purely technical matter, I am going to subpoena at least the arresting officer so that I can ask him questions under oath. Often times, I can find out more information during this cross examination at the administrative hearing than I can from his boilerplate police report. Consider it just one more piece of free discovery from which we may get some fertile information to help your cases.


Go To Hearing

You almost never need to go. I will call you afterwards and let you know how it went.


Waive your appearance at your arraignment for criminal charge

The arraignment, your first criminal court date, will happen around this time frame. Remember, this is the court date that I handled via paperwork. You will not be there, and neither will I. However, at this date the Judge will issue another court date, called a Pretrial or Disposition. This court date will be 3-4 weeks after the arraignment. I will need to be there.


Talk to Other Witnesses

At this point, I have likely already talked to the officers in your case. But you may have lay witnesses that the State has listed in their answer to demand for discovery. I need to talk to these guys. Sometimes we may find that a potentially damaging witness that cannot be found, does not want to participate, or lives out of state. Without this Witness, the State will have problems with their case. This is good to know.


Motion For Depositions

Many times witnesses will discuss the case with me without issue. Other times, they will tell me to pound salt. I may need to file a motion with the court asking them to allow me to take depositions. If I get a deposition, I can subpoena the witness to my office (or the State Attorney's office) and ask him questions under oath.


Plan Defense With Client

At this point, we are a good six weeks into your case. You have reviewed all of your discovery as have I. We know what happened with your license. We may have you in DUI school at this point as a preventive measure. Now, we need to figure out a plan of action for your case.Should we request a reduction of the charge to a reckless driving? File a motion to suppress asking the Judge to exclude evidence? Time to make our move.


Negotiate With The Prosecutor

Now, I can negotiate with the State. I know what you want, because we discussed at our meeting. Now, I am trying to get the State to go along. I will bring up all the good stuff we figured out in the discovery process to try to get the State Attorney to agree. I will not bring up the bad stuff. No need, State Attorney will do that for me. If we get the deal you want, then I can bring you into court and be done with it. If not, we need to continue on to litigation.


Court Hearings

The Judge will set court dates to make sure we are moving along with your case. I need to attend these court dates. I will waive your appearance unless I absolutely need to have you there.


Motion Practice

This is the part where we are asking the Judge to exclude or limit certain evidence, or dismiss the case entirely. In effect we are trying to carve out as much bad evidence as possible to create the most favorable factual case we can. If we hit a home-run here, such as with a motion to suppress, we may be able to have your case tossed entirely. More commonly, we are asking the Judge to limit evidence, such as removal of the breath test result.


Hire an Expert

Experts are expensive. But sometimes they are needed. I will be running your case by a Forensic Toxicologist and potentially a Breath Test Expert to see if they can provide testimony that will help you win your case. If so, you and I will discuss you retaining the expert.


Prepare for Trial

Now, it is time to prep for trial. Now I am shifting gears from preparing the case for the Judge. We have decided that we will indeed be trying the case, likely with the help of an expert. You paid me a second flat fee for the trial. I prepare for jury selection, opening and closing, cross examination of the State's witnesses, and the direct of my witnesses. Maybe you are one of them.



Now it is time for your day in Court. The burden of proof is on the State to prove that you were under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances to the extent that their normal faculties were impaired. My job to show the Jury that they cannot do that. Expect a full day for a Jury trial.


Celebrate The Win

When we win, we celebrate. Drinks and stories. When we lose, I am depressed. So it goes.

Additional Resources

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The definition, charges, and penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) vary by state and depend on a number of factors.

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