For many attorneys, the majority of practical experience is obtained within the courtroom. DWI cases are among the more challenging ones to defend, largely due to the numerous variables that need to be examined and the social stigma that accompanies the charge. For an effective defense, the attorney needs to understand some science in addition to knowing the laws.
Because they can be so complicated, there are some common – and potentially costly – mistakes DWI attorneys make during the case.
Believing the case cannot be won
After seeing test results and police reports, many lawyers suggest that their client plead guilty. They forget to take into account that all of these tests can be flawed, and that angle can help build a strong defense. Officers should be cross-examined, test results should be challenged, and experts can provide evidence regarding whether procedures were correctly followed. A guilty plea can be far more costly to the client, so the attorney should make every effort to find an angle for challenging the case. If anything strongly questionable is found, the defense should file a motion to suppress. Ultimately, it could lead to dismissal of the case.
Not investigating the location of arrest
This is an extra step that many lawyers fail to take. The location can reveal much about the stop that cannot be seen in videos and records. Obstacles may be found that invalidates the arresting officer’s claims. This information can prove invaluable for the defense.
Failing to question police procedure
Despite their authority, police are required to follow certain protocol when administering tests in a suspected DWI case. If they fail to do so, the defense can argue that test results are inadmissible in court on the basis that they are not reliable. A good DWI attorney should have a complete working knowledge of the tests and how they are done, or at least be willing to look into it thoroughly. Besides improper procedure, there are numerous ways to invalidate test results, including something as seemingly insignificant as forgetting to change the breathalyzer mouthpiece before using it. The defense needs to get a hold of all logs, certifications, and maintenance for both the machine and its operator, as well as all video and audio record of the stop, arrest, and processing.
Not knowing/understanding penalties of a conviction
There are several costly consequences with a DWI conviction, and they can vary from state to state. So it is crucial that the defense attorney understand these consequences so that they can best help their client. Factors such as prior convictions, employment circumstances, and even laws from other states can all affect how the case is best handled. All of this information is needed to make an informed decision, and the lawyer should be knowledgeable in all of it.
Having the client testify in court
If the case goes to trial, the client has the right to testify. However, it is generally advised that unless it is required or the defendant has something to say that contradicts an officer’s statement, it is better to exercise the right to remain silent. Instead, the defense should focus on picking apart and weakening the prosecution’s case. This helps prevent the case from shifting to the client’s credibility.
Trying to prove lies from the arresting officer
Instead of creating animosity in the courtroom, it is better to try to prove mistakes or that the officer jumped to conclusions. Introducing reasonable doubt and emphasizing that the client showed more good behavior than bad will greatly shift the odds in favor of the defense.
If you are in the Anoka and Shakopee area and find yourself in need of an experienced DWI attorney, please contact us to schedule an appointment.