Every day when I walk into court, I find 5-6 people who have shown up for a trial on an “incarcerable” charge – one that carries the possibility of jail time – who think they might be able to save money by not hiring an attorney to represent them. Usually, by the time the judge finishes the first call of the docket they understand that they don’t understand the procedures of court, don’t know where to stand or when to talk, and are asking the judge for a continuance so they can get an attorney. Sometimes the judge has to remind them that they face the possibility of jail and that if they try to proceed without a criminal defense lawyer Rockville MD relies on they will not be treated any better or easier than parties who do have attorneys.
One common misconception among the public is that DUI cases are not that serious and don’t require the services of an attorney. In fact, DUI is taken very seriously in many jurisdictions. Not only are they taken seriously by the courts, but they can have substantial impacts on your ability to drive (your driver’s license), your immigration status, your ability to travel to certain foreign countries, and your insurance.
Some people feel they don’t need an attorney because they feel they were guilty. This overlooks the fact that the guilt-or-innocence phase of a trial is just one part of a case. Even if a person plans on pleading guilty he or she should be prepared in a DUI case for the sentencing. Some judge will want to see an evaluation of the defendant by an alcohol educator. Others will want to know about the past driving history and ask to see the driving record of the defendant. Either way, an attorney can help the defendant mitigate the impact of the crime in the eyes of the court in a way that might seem as shirking responsibility if were done by the defendant.
Other people feel they don’t need an attorney because they feel they were not guilty. If a person has a valid defense, then an attorney can be helpful in presenting that defense to the court. The procedures of court and the rules of evidence are sometimes counter-intuitive. The dialogue is stilted and the strategy for putting on a case requires some experience so as not to get tripped up. Sometimes a person may have defenses that he or she didn’t even recognize. This is where an experienced criminal attorney can be helpful in looking over the police officer’s report and finding weaknesses.
The truth is that compared to other common crimes, such as shoplifting or possession of small amounts of drugs, the DUI case is harder than most and requires a bit more experience. Analyzing a traffic stop requires knowledge of Fourth Amendment case law. Challenging allegations of intoxication requires knowledge of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and an understanding of different factors that can cause breath- analyzing machines to lose accuracy. All of these take years to master and a defendant, even a frugal one, would be wise to utilize the services of an experienced attorney if faced with the possibility of having a DUI on their record.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from the Law Office of Daniel J. Wright for their added insight into DUI defense.