Top Things One Should Do After Being Arrested For DUI
There is a new DUI organization in California that’s been around about a year, broken off from the National College for DUI Defense. If they are a member of that one, that’s great. When you find an attorney who has many years of experience, who exclusively does DUI defense, and who is a member of these organizations, that means that he or she is on Listservs; all day, every day, they see different issues come up, answer questions, and they know their stuff. Many attorneys spend an hour or more online every day answering questions and looking at emails from attorneys on these Listservs.
They do the same thing going back and forth with their own clients, so it is important to look for good ratings. Probably the best site out there right now is the AVVO site (www.avvo.com). If you see that an attorney has a 10 rating, or close to a 10, that’s important.
You also want to look for someone who practices in the court where your case is. They don’t have to have their office there, but they definitely should practice there and be familiar with the court and its procedures.
You want to make sure you are comfortable with them, that you have rapport. Meet with them in person. If you can’t meet them in person for any reason, talking to them on the phone is fine. Some people will tell you that you have to talk to X number of lawyers before making your decision. It’s fine to talk to more than one lawyer. Do some research! Call at least two, maybe three. If you talk to too many, though, you may start getting confused. Unless you’re sure the first few you call are not the right person, don’t try to call too many. If you have to call five or ten different attorneys, you may have not done enough homework first.
Be wary of Yelp reviews. Yelp is not specifically a lawyer review site. To get Yelp reviews, someone has to be a Yelper for the clients’ reviews to stay up. If someone handles DUIs exclusively, Yelp is not going to be the place to see a lot of in-depth reviews about how they did on a case, their relationship with clients and whether they did a good job guiding them through their case. Yelp does not necessarily give that type of feedback. AVVO is much better for that.
There are some other review sites out there, but the best thing to do is meet the attorney in person, or on the phone, and go with your gut. Get a feel for who you feel is the best one to protect you, who cares about you. Make sure the attorney you had your initial consultation with is the attorney who is going to represent you in court. When you call a law office, the attorney does what we call an intake. He takes notes whiles he’s talking with you, creates a file, and has spoken with you for at least half an hour. He knows everything that can be known about your case up to that point. That’s who you want.
If your case was handed off to another lawyer who is going to represent you, things can fall through the cracks. My model is that the attorney who took the call and spoke with you personally is the one who should defend you. You’re going to want to be able to communicate with him, have him return your calls, your texts, and your emails. Ask, “If I call you, how long is it going to take for you to get back to me?” or, “Are you the one who will be getting back to me when I have questions?” See what the answers are.
Other important people are those you may have been with earlier in the evening, especially if they were with you most of the time until you got into the car. They may have seen what you had to drink, when you were drinking, what you had to eat, and can testify about your actions that night. Those people, and maybe the person who served you, are all potentially important witnesses.
Having the receipts for the places you ate and drank can sometimes help to establish time and how much you had to eat or drink. Track down as much of that information as you can and get it to your attorney either at your initial consultation or shortly after.
The attorney can also help you gather that information through an investigator. Sometimes it’s better for the attorney to use an investigator to get that stuff. He can use subpoenas. There needs to be a proper foundation laid for any evidence used it court, and it can be easier to do that by using an investigator. That’s something you should talk about with the lawyer.
Other potential witnesses are people at the scene, people who might have been working nearby or just came out onto their porches to see what was going on. They may be able to back up your version of events. There might be someone who observed your field sobriety tests. Talk to your attorney about that. He may be able to use that information to help fight your case.
If there has been an accident, you want to talk to your insurance company. If you’re going through insurance, and your car is not drivable, you’ll want to get it towed to a location where you can get it fixed. BUT, there may be evidence in or on your car. Don’t have someone start fixing your car until you’ve talked to your attorney about whether or not accident reconstruction or further investigation of the car is needed. Photos will need to be taken.
It’s a good idea after an accident to photograph your car because if the car is not in your name – maybe it’s in your parents’ name or a friend’s – you may not be able to get it out of impound. If it was a rental car, the rental car company will have to get it out themselves. Same thing if it was your employer’s car.
Sometimes there can be other issues. The officer might say your brake lights weren’t working. When you go to the impound lot, you may want to have someone else with you like the attorney’s investigator who can video tape the vehicle to show that the second you retrieved it, as you were pulling out of the impound lot, those lights actually were working. That’s something that can help with your case. We have won cases in those situations.
You may want your attorney to request the hearing because he will know the best place to have it and who the best hearing officers to request are, which will be important in getting you the best result. A lot of the newer hearing officers don’t understand the evidence code and what should be done in an administrative hearing. I don’t fault them for it, but you want an experienced officer who is going to give you the best chance to win your case. That’s important! So, with DMV it’s important to have an attorney represent you who will get the best hearing officer possible.
With regard to documents, obviously any documents that you have been given — usually a notice to appear in court or citation, the pink sheet, property evidence – you should keep those together and make copies. Get them to the attorney for your initial consultation or have them handy if you talk with him over the phone. You should be ready to fax or email them. Usually, scanning and emailing is better because they are often light carbons and hard to read in a fax.
A client texted me earlier today asking if he needed to be at the arraignment tomorrow and the answer was “No.” Usually, we do not need our clients at the arraignment. Depending on which courthouse you are in, and which county you are in, you may or may not need to be at subsequent court appearances. In some jurisdictions, they want you there; in others you are not required to be there. The attorney will know whether you need to be there or not.
Picking up a Drunk in Public is not going to help you at all, especially if it happens in the same county as your DUI. Be smart while your case is pending. It’s not a good idea to be putting yourself in any situation that can get you into any more trouble. If it’s a felony case and you are out on bail, there are additional charges if you commit a new crime. I’ve seen this happen numerous times over the years. So be careful, be smart, and use common sense.
Be careful about who you talk to. By all means, doing AA meetings or self-help meetings or individual or group counseling is something that can be helpful. But you don’t need to talk about what happened. If you start DUI classes while your case is still going on, don’t talk in class about the facts of your case while it’s still pending.
You could quite possibly have to have an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle – if you don’t have one already — for violating section 14-601.2. If you have any alcohol in your system when you’re driving on a suspended license, you can lose your license for a full year with no restrictions allowed.
How to make plans for others to drive in case you are convicted is something to discuss with your lawyer if you’re not sure what to do. If you live somewhere where public transportation is great, you’re doing better than most. Not a lot of people can rely on public transportation. What you need to do is to use whatever is available to make sure you do not drive if your license is suspended. That means using cabs, buses, trains, ferry, friends, family, or hiring someone. There are many different ways to find people to drive.
It can be more expensive than driving your car on a suspended license, sure, but in the end, it’s going to be better for you not to risk getting busted for driving on a suspended license. That can cost you more than a few thousand. There are just too many things that can go wrong if you drive and get caught. Not worth it! Definitely make arrangements, start planning ahead if it looks like you are going to get convicted or lose your license.
So, that makes it a little bit easier. There are a lot of attorneys out there who want the full fee upfront, or within a week or two. If that’s the attorney who is right for you, hire that person. But I can tell you there are plenty of attorneys who do not require it, and they are some of the top attorneys, DUI attorneys, in the San Francisco Bay area.
Any medical issues can matter: if you’re diabetic, or you’re on a high protein diet. Atkins diet, for example, where you’d be in a state of ketosis, can give a false positive on some breath machines. There are a lot of different things relating to medical issues that can be looked at: what medications are you on, how they affect you, any surgeries you’ve had, anything at all might have some effect on the case. Let the attorney know, get your records from your doctor. Your attorney may need to subpoena those records if they are going to use them, but let the attorney know. You want to help him with all your possible defenses, and that’s information he needs.
If there has been an accident, especially if there are possible injuries to others, you have to be very careful when talking with insurance companies. In almost every case, it’s best to tell any insurance company that calls that you have an attorney, and that the attorney has advised you not to make any statements to them. Tell them that your attorney is more than happy to talk with them.
Give them his contact information and let the attorney make statements to them. The attorney talking with the insurance company is not the same as statements coming from you. Those are not statements that can be used against you in court. Let your attorney protect you. Every case is different. He may tell you there is no problem with your talking to the insurance company. Rely on his experience and let him tell you what to do.
An experienced DUI lawyer knows how to ask for the right things. They know what might be out there that will help your case. That’s extremely important. It is imperative to fight from beginning to end. Most cases do not go to a jury trial. You need to know that you’ve got a good attorney who will look at everything before any decision is made about whether to go to jury trial or not. You want to know that they have done everything they could to find whatever is necessary to win your case. Whether it’s in court or DMV, it’s important to fight. Sometimes, a court case finishes up but the result is not going to make any difference with the DMV. If there is a fight left to be fought in any area, the right attorney can help you do that.
So, yes, because the penalties are so much greater and because the battles are so much tougher to fight in court and at DMV, you definitely want to have an attorney for a multiple offense. Whether it’s your second, third or fourth offense, the penalty is much worse.
On a second offense, it is 18 months of DUI school, a higher fine, and potential jail time of up to a year. You name it, there are so many different things: insurance, ignition interlock, many different areas where an experienced DUI attorney can help fight on a second or third offense.
DUIs can affect your credit, your ability to rent cars, and definitely your insurance. And, they are priorable in California if you get another within 10 years. Other states are different, some less, some more years, but they can be used against you in other states. So take it seriously, get the best attorney that you can hire, someone whom you feel comfortable with, who knows what they are doing, and will fight your case.
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