Aaron’s Top 7 DUI Tips
Professional and Personal Attention “Aaron called me quickly and reviewed my case with me thoroughly. He did all of the leg work to set up appointments and handle both the Court and DMV requirements. He always made me feel like a deserving citizen rather than a criminal! He was very responsive throughout the length of our engagement, taking time to respond by phone and by email with any and all details that I needed or asked for. I had an extremely positive outcome in both my Court and DMV meetings. I know that I would not have won either of those hearings without the professional and personal attention that Aaron gave in both of these courts while representing me. Thank you Aaron for giving me my life back!”
A Satisfied Client
Go with the best!!. ““Don’t bother shopping around; Aaron Bortel truly is the expert. My friend’s BAC was .30 and she was able to have the DUI case completely dismissed. In addition, she won her DMV hearing and did not suffer a suspended license. This was incredible because, it did not affect her insurance and she had no community service. That’s what I call results!! … He addressed all my friends’ questions and concerns were handled courteously and promptly. Aaron eased my friends mind and made the whole process very simple. He is a savior and we were extremely grateful! I highly recommend Aaron Bortel to anyone in this type of situation. Again Aaron – many, many thanks!”
A DUI Client
Tip 1: An Attorney Will Help Defend Your Constitutional Rights
Interviewer: You’re not one of those attorneys that will encourage people to plead guilty and get it over with. What I mean is, if it needs to go to trial, you’ll take them, is that right?
Aaron: Absolutely. You know, I don’t care what time of year it is or what kind of case it is. If a client wants to go to trial we go to trial and that’s critical. Because we are defending clients and their constitutional rights and that means your rights are going to trial. You have a right to the attorney of your choice. You have the sixth amendment right there. You have a right against illegal search and seizure, fourth amendment right and those rights need to be protected.
Going to trial affords you the right to confront your accusers and the witnesses against you. That’s why we live in this country—Because we have these rights. Other countries don’t have these rights. In some countries you’re guilty until proven innocent. That’s not what we’re all about in the United States. We’re about having the right to face our accusers. We have a right to confront someone who says we did something and say, “No, we didn’t. Prove it, and prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Tip 2: Choose Your Bay Area DUI Attorney with Care to Ensure a Proper Defense
So what really upsets me and a number of other attorneys are the certain lawyers who never go to trial, never even go to hearings. When I say hearings, I’m talking about suppression hearings under Penal Code section 1538.5. That is where you can challenge the search and try and get everything that was obtained by the police after they had the stop and the search to go away. To get dismissed or suppressed and so when that occurs, the prosecution has no case left.
There are many attorneys out there and we’ll call them the “you get what you pay for attorneys.” These are the attorneys who charge a very small amount and they will take your case and plead you out at the first court appearance, sometimes the second. And never file a motion or even think about filing a motion. They just go in and plead you guilty on every case.
Interviewer: That’s terrible.
Aaron: There are attorneys in the Bay Area who do that and most people know who they are. They would be the ones who advertise that they only handle first offense DUIs. And if you choose an attorney like that, that is not an attorney who is bringing motions or doing trials or fighting for you. You might as well go in yourself and plead yourself guilty because that is not what an attorney is all about.
Interviewer: You talked about some of the good. When people are out there looking for an attorney, a DUI attorney, talk about some of the things they should watch out. If the attorney is saying, “You probably should just plead to it and just get it over with,” that’s seems like poor advice.
Tip 3: Presenting a Quick Plea to Avoid More Serious Charges
Aaron: Actually, in some cases there are instances where it is a good strategy to be ready to plead a case out quickly. Sometimes you have a case where the prosecution may not see a prior conviction from in California, or outside of California. Over time, you figure they may see it, so you need to be able to let your client know that that may come up later and the client needs the option of doing what’s called a quick plea. A quick plea is pleading guilty at the arraignment or soon then after, before the prosecution has time to really examine their priors. And so, if that is an issue or concern, it’s up to the client what to do there, but they need to be made aware of that option.
Tip 4: Gather All Possible Evidence to Present a Strong Defense
However, it is a different story if someone comes into my office and they have a level of 0.08, 0.09, 0.10 or something close to the legal limit and they have no priors. What we need to do in that scenario is to discovery request, blood retesting, obtain the records on the machines, obtain the calibration logs, obtain the maintenance logs, and obtain the station logs.
We also obtain the CAD tapes, which are the police communication tapes, for example the 911 tapes. We pin down the times that things happened. We make sure that the police officers can prove what they put down is proper and accurate. We see if there are any constitutional violations, or in DUIs we deal with Title 17, which regulates the testing. And we see if things the correct procedures were followed, for example, if the person was properly observed for 15 minutes.
There are many different things that can happen and each one needs to be thoroughly examined.
Interviewer: So these are all the aspects that you would examine in a case. To give people a guide, what are some good and bad things that would serve as a signpost that they are talking with the right person or they might want to move on and talk to another attorney instead? What are some examples?
Tip 5: How Can You Choose a Qualified Attorney to Defend Your California DUI Case?
Aaron: You want to look at a lot of things. And it’s so hard for people. And I talk to people every day about their DUIs and it’s so hard for many people to make the decision. The easiest thing is if someone has a referral from someone who represented them and they can say very good things about them. That helps. But most people don’t and so, what they need to look for is:
Where I would start with is the attorney’s qualifications. Is that attorney a member of the California DUI Lawyers’ Association? Is that attorney a member of the National College for DUI Defense? And if the attorney is not a member of both of those organizations, they should be looking elsewhere. Because, those two credentials show that this attorney focuses on DUI defense.
Someone is not going to bother to be a member of both of these organizations unless they are defending mostly or exclusively DUIs. And there are only a few of us in the Bay Area who only handle DUI defense, I being one of them.
Tip 6: Ensure the Attorney that You Hire Is the Same One Who Will Appear By Your Side
What they also need to look for is experience. Someone who’s recently out of law school may be a great attorney, but they are not going to have the experience, unfortunately, yet for doing DUIs. They want to also look at who is going to handle their case. Is it the attorney with the experience or an experienced attorney in the office who just does DUIs or is it someone else? Is the case going to get farmed out to another attorney who doesn’t have the DUI experience?
So ask the attorney, “Who’s going to handle my case?”
Also, attorney’s offices that have more than one or two attorneys in them may result in you having a different attorney every time your case goes to court. You may talk to a different person in the office every time you call about your case. That’s not what you want.
Interviewer: That’s no good at all. That’s terrible.
Aaron: You want the same person who starts your case from the intake, which is getting all of your information, whether it’s over the phone, in person or both. And then you want that attorney to be the one that’s returning all of your calls. Who’s taking all the notes in your file, who’s setting the hearing with DMV to get a good hearing officer who’s appearing in court for you, who’s negotiating with the DA, who’s requesting the discovery?
You want that one attorney to do everything. And if it’s getting farmed out to other attorneys or several different attorneys in the office to do it, it’s not the right way to do a DUI. It may work in civil practices, it may work for some attorney’s offices, but for the successful ones I have seen, it doesn’t work at all.
You need to have one attorney. And then some cases can get a little more complex. With some of the felony cases, it’s good to have a second attorney in there because there are a number of additional issues that we’re dealing with. But for most misdemeanor DUIs, you want one attorney dealing with the whole case from beginning to end.
It’s okay if the attorney needs to send someone else to do an arraignment as long as they know what they’re doing. It could be a situation where the arraignment’s in a week and the attorney is in one or two other courthouses and just can’t be there. The arraignment can get continued or a not guilty plea can get entered, as long as the attorney standing in for you knows what they’re doing.
But if the attorney you hire is just going out and hiring some office that charges $50 or $100 to make an appearance, AVOID them at all cost. You don’t want that. You want to have an experienced attorney making every court appearance for you.
Other signs to look for in a good or a great DUI lawyer are their success rate with DMV. A lot of lawyers say, “Oh, don’t do the DMV hearing, you’re just going to lose.” I win my DMV hearings, as much if not more than anybody I know. Recently the last three or four months I have won many, many DMV hearings. Success at the DMV hearing means saving driver’s licenses and these hearings can be won in the right circumstances.
Many attorneys will say, “Oh you can’t win them” or “DMVs, they’re always going to rule against you.” Not true. They can be won. Not every time, not most of the time. But they can be won. So you want to look out for that. Ask the attorney who sets the DMV hearing. Are they going to be able to get a good hearing officer? They can’t guarantee you that they can, but they should be able to say in most cases they can.
Ask if the attorney has a good working relationship with DMV. Do they know the courts? Are they local? You don’t want to hire someone in the Bay Area who is part of a firm in Los Angeles or somewhere else in the country. You want to hire someone who’s local. Who knows the courts. So, that’s just to start.
Tip 7: A Free Consultation Is Expected & Standard In The DUI Attorney World
Interviewer: I’ve heard of some cases like where you call the attorney’s office and you’ll talk to an attorney and they’ll say, “Well every case is different, I can’t promise anything, you’re going to have to come in the office and my fee is X, before I can do anything for you. If you want to do that I can help you. If not, I’m sorry.” What would you say to an attorney that gives a phone presentation like that? Because I know it happens quite often.
Aaron: What I would say is they clearly don’t care enough about you or your case to want to hear what’s going on. In my office, I will talk to a client, if I can, for as long as that client wants to talk over the phone or in person. And if we can’t finish up in that first consultation, we’ll keep talking at a time very shortly after that until all questions are answered.
I don’t charge a penny for that. That’s a free consultation and anybody who doesn’t do one is not in this for, first and foremost, helping people and fighting for their rights.
And that approach is completely different from mine. I know a lot of offices will ask for payment that way but I just don’t think it’s right. I’m going to listen to a client and hear everything they can tell me about their case before I’m quoting a fee. Because every case, in my opinion actually is different and some cases are going to take a lot more work than others. And I can’t always tell in the beginning, but I want to be able to tell someone from the beginning what they’re looking at.
I also don’t require someone to pay everything up front. I offer a payment plan. I understand people are not made of money. It’s a very, very tough economy. It has been for years and if someone is going to trust me to protect their constitutional rights, I’m going to trust them to honor a payment plan.
I think it’s important that someone be able to retain the attorney that they want.
Now I know many attorneys won’t do that, but I’m not in this to just help people who have money. I’m in this to help someone who really needs help and really deserves help.
By Aaron Bortel
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