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Law Firm of Aaron Bortel

Do You Belong To Any Professional Associations Or Organizations?


I have belonged to many different organizations over the years. There are two groups that are very important, for the area of law that I practice in. The first is the California DUI Lawyers Association, which is a California group that’s been around for many years. It used to be called Deuce Defenders, which I was a member of for many years, as I’ve been practicing law for over 25 years. The second important group is the National College for DUI Defense, which I have been a member of for many years as well. I have been to many events that both of these organizations have put on. I’m on the different listservs, and I know attorneys from all over both the state and the country, which can be very helpful.

Very often, I get calls from clients or people that just have questions about how things work in different parts of the state or country. I have plenty of people that I can look up and refer people to, or ask questions of, to help with my client’s cases. A lot of my clients are from out-of-state who come to California and unfortunately will get arrested for a DUI while they are here on business, vacation, or just visiting family. It does help to have the contacts in the state that they come from, to be able to figure out what may happen, depending on the result of their case in California, with their own license and privileges in their own state.

How Many DUI Clients Do You Represent In Any Given Year?

It is hard to say how many clients I represent in a typical year. What I do is take on new cases and clients until I feel like I am dealing with enough. When that happens, I stop taking new cases, and I will refer cases to other fantastic lawyers who I work closely with who do a lot of DUI defense. Because of this, it’s very hard for me to say exactly how many cases I have going on. I can say that the work that I do has me in court pretty much every morning, and a number of afternoons, every week. Between court appearances, hearings, and the DMV, I am constantly talking with my clients, updating them, and preparing motions and defenses. We spend a lot more time than we used to review video because many police agencies are now adopting video procedures. They are getting video in their cars and body cameras, so there is a lot more to look at. This gives us more potential defenses, and it also may help a case resolve quicker if we can see exactly what was going on.

How Often Do You Appear At The Courthouse Where My Case Is Going To Be Heard?

It depends on which county it’s in. I appear in all bay area counties. So, some more than others but all of them enough where I know all the procedures and most of the judges in these counties, the DA, although we get a lot of DAs moving around counties or moving up from being younger DAs who are usually dealing with the DUI misdemeanor cases, which are a lot of my cases because most DUIs are misdemeanors although I do handle injury cases and felony DUIs all the time. So, that question is one that’s hard to answer. There are certain counties I am in more than others but I have different offices in the Bay area. If you are in a county where I’m not there as much as others, I can always bring in an attorney who is there more than I am.

If I have any questions about a DA, I may not have met before and procedures with maybe a new judge on the bench or someone who’s transferred into a courtroom that I’m dealing with, and so I can always get up to speed on that.

Is It Standard Procedure To Negotiate Plea Agreements In DUI Cases?

Most DUIs resolve in a plea agreement. You would hope that most of them would resolve in reduced charges, but that’s not always the case. Very few DUIs go to jury trial. There are different types of jury trials that happen, and there are different defenses for these cases. The better the defense, the more likely a case is to go to a jury trial, but also the better the defense, the more likely the DA may be to reduce the charges, which may prevent the case from going to jury trial. Sometimes, we have cases that are not very good, as in we don’t have defenses that have much chance of winning, but for one reason or another, the case needs to go to trial. Sometimes, it may have immigration implications and the case needs to go to trial. It may be because someone has a commercial license that they cannot afford to lose, or their job is on the line if they get convicted of a DUI, and they need to go to trial. Sometimes, it’s just we think we’ve got a chance to win, and it’s the client’s right to go to trial, and so we go to trial. But most cases resolve in a plea agreement.

How Will You Know If I Should Take A Guilty Plea In a DUI Case?

You can always take a guilty plea in a DUI case. The client is never forced to go to trial, but because pleading guilty is something you can always do, we try not to start with that. That’s something that we look at once we’ve looked under every stone—looked in every possible defense and gathered all the discovery, including all the video, audio, and communications that happened in the case, records with the breath machines that were used or blood test machines, and done any investigation that can be done on the case. Once all that has happened, and if it does not look like a case that the client wants to take to trial, then a plea deal often is what happens.

In most cases, Marin County is the only county that does not allow a no-contest plea on misdemeanor DUIs. In all the other Bay area counties, if a plea is reached by a change of plea—because we start these cases with a not guilty plea, a no contest plea would be entered at the end of the case if it does not go to trial—or if the case is not dismissed, then it would result in a conviction with some type of sentence.

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Aaron Bortel

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