In any case in court, and especially a DUI case, the image of the defendant is one of the seven critical factors. The prosecutor, the judge and the jury will all look to see what kind of person you appear to me. A person whose presence gains respect has an advantage in the courtroom. Your work history, family history and your appearance all contribute to your image in court. People make decisions based on emotion; and, it is no different in a drunk driving case. So, present yourself in the most positive possible light. Choose a skillful, experienced lawyer who will know how to present you in the best manner.
Factor Two: Your Story!
If Factor One is your image (in marketing terminology) then Factor Two is your message. I'm not talking about an analysis of the evidence yet - that comes later. The second thing that needs to be developed is a short, persuasive statement of your message or theme. It can be as simple as "ill, not drunk" or "the cop rushed to judgment." It must be a statement that takes into account and addresses every element of the accusation against you; but it also must be a simple statement. It is NOT enough to merely answer the evidence in a court case. Your defense must have a simple, unified theme in order to be persuasive. It is analogous to a slogan in a political campaign. A candidate must have an image, a slogan and specific positions on issues. All of these are necessary to win a campaign and they are also necessary to win your case. Choose a lawyer who has the skill, knowledge and courtroom experience to develop of theme in your case!
Factor Three: The Police and Government Witnesses.
An expert lawyer will investigate and carefully analyze the conduct of the police and government witnesses. Was there reasonable suspicion for an initial stop and a detention? Were field sobriety tests properly administered? Was a preliminary breath test given properly by a certified policeman? Was the arrest lawful? Were the proper implied consent warnings given? Was the breath test process or the blood test process administered correctly? The can be no limit to the questions that an expert attorney will ask when analyzing the evidence. The government seeks to put you under a microscope and magnify your every imperfection. Choose a lawyer who is skilled and experienced in shifting the focus of that microscope to the police and government witnesses -- pointing out and dramatizing their errors. Make sure that you do not unduly delay hiring the best lawyer, so that a proper investigation can be done while the evidence is still fresh.
Factor Four: The Driving
An excellent lawyer will know how to explain the driving. In some cases the first question is whether you were driving at all. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that sitting behind the wheel of a running vehicle, without manipulating the controls, is not operating. An excellent lawyer will know how to attack allegations of bad driving such as weaving within the lane, speeding, and so on. If your driving was frighteningly dangerous, then you are in trouble. Nobody, however, drives perfectly. Your lawyer should know how to demonstrate that even if your driving was imperfect, it was still normal.
Factor Five: Your Appearance and Field Tests
The police are trained to observe you carefully from the moment they make first contact. Your lawyer should know how to deal with that. How did you identify yourself? How did you get out of your car? How did you look, smell and sound? How was your balance? How did you do on the field tests? An expert lawyer will know how to pick apart the police report on these issues and show that you appeared normal. There are clear standards for the administration of the field tests; and it is truly amazing how often the police administer these tests incorrectly. Many police and some lawyers are certified in NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Look for a lawyer who has the skills and certification.
Factor SIx: The Chemical Test
Many people feel that if they have failed a breath or a blood test, they have no chance to win their case. Nothing could be further from the truth! There are many things that can go wrong with a breath test, from radio frequency interference, mouth alcohol contamination, reflux disease contamination, temperature error to flawed software in the computerized device. Contrary to myth, many things can go wrong with a blood test, from a contaminated sample, expired test tubes, bad transportation and storage of the sample to faulty labeling. In Wisconsin there was a recent case where the defendant's blood test report was actually done from a test on a different person's blood! Only the most well-trained and skilled lawyers understand the intricacies of the breath and blood testing devices. Make sure that your lawyer is one of them!
Factor Seven: The Law.
This may seem obvious, but a lawyer should know the law. Drunk driving defense is recognized by the American Bar Association as a separate specialty. The National College for DUI Defense (www.NCDD.com) has been accredited as the only organization that may certify lawyers as drunk driving defense specialists. A drunk driving lawyer needs to know the intricate details of drunk driving law and science; but, the lawyer also needs to be firmly grounded in the basic constitutional principles that govern our society. Issues such as the right to counsel, right to remain silent, right to confront an accuser, right to privacy in one's home, right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure are part of the daily work of the drunk driving defense expert. The best lawyers know the law, know your rights and are committed to defending them. Choose a lawyer who is a scholar of the law.
Do not drink and drive. It is unwise even if it is legal. If you have an alcohol abuse issue, please seek help.
If, however, you are accused of drunken driving, you are about to enter a complicated world where your most basic rights are under attack. Most lawyers will say that they handle drunk driving cases. Only a very few lawyers are experts at drunken driving defense. The National College for DUI Defense trains the best drunken driving defense lawyers in the country. Its members include some of the best lawyers in the world. Go to www.NCDD.com to learn more.
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