Top Ten Mistakes in DWI Cases
1. Assuming the Case Can’t be Won.
During my four years on the bench as Judge of County Criminal Court, and during my career as an attorney, I have seen and tried many cases that were “unwinnable.” Unless an attorney is willing to roll the dice and fight for his client, he shouldn’t be representing people on DWI charges. A DWI will stay on your record for the rest of your life. Why not fight it? After all, on a first offense you are going to receive probation anyway. Many lawyers are simply unwilling to fight for their clients. I am a seasoned trial lawyer and former judge who has tried 100’s of cases to juries with excellent results. I am more than willing to fight for your rights and your record in court.
2. Not Fighting the Stop.
Many lawyers assume that the police officer knew what he was doing when he made the initial traffic stop. This is simply not the case. Police officers are not experts on the legalities of stopping motorists. Instead, they are looking for any reason whatsoever to make a stop so that they can rack up a DWI arrest. This causes them to make some bad decisions. A good lawyer will evaluate the stop and file a motion to suppress based on an illegal stop. Even if the motion to suppress is not granted, your attorney will have a chance to examine the arresting officer’s testimony and explore any weaknesses in your case.
3. Not challenging the driver’s license suspension.
An ALR Hearing is the perfect time to cross examine the police officer about your case. Many times, testimony is developed at the hearing that can later be used at trial to impeach the officer’s testimony.
4. Not hiring an attorney.
Some people think they don’t need an attorney in a DWI case. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many technical details associated with a DWI case that an experienced lawyer can use to win your case.
5. Picking the Wrong Lawyer.
Picking an attorney without significant DWI experience can be a mistake. A DWI as technical in nature and requires particular expertise in the area.
6. Making the cop out to be a liar.
Some lawyers think that in order to win their case, they must show the jury that the police officer is a liar. This is simply not the case. Jurors don’t want to believe that police officers are liars, so why try to convince them of that face. I think it’s much easier to just show that they were mistaken in a particular case-that they jumped to conclusions without considering all the facts.
7. Ignoring Side Effects of a DWI Conviction.
Not only should you take into consideration the actual DWI conviction in deciding how to handle your case-you should consider the administrative sanctions association with a conviction. These can include a license suspension or revocation. Also, the Department of Public Safety has instituted a surcharge plan whereby anyone with a DWI conviction must pay a surcharge for 3 years in order to maintain his license.
8. Not Challenging the Field Sobriety Tests.
The Standardized Field Sobriety tests must be administered according to written guidelines. An experienced DWI attorney will know when the Government’s own guidelines weren’t followed and be able to challenge the Field Sobriety Tests.
9. Not Visiting the Scene of Arrest.
In my 27 years as an attorney, I have always been able to learn something beneficial about my case simply by going to the scene of an alleged crime. But sadly, many lawyers fail to do this-especially in a DWI case. In my view, it is crucial to visit the scene where the motorist was stopped. Maybe the erratic driving was due to a winy road or some road construction. Maybe the motorist did not perform well on the roadside sobriety tests because the shoulder of the road had loose gravel on it, or perhaps the grade of the road made it difficult to perform these tests. The bottom line is that unless you go to the scene of the crime, you will never be able to mine the nuggets that will help you at trial.
10. Not Making Sure the Breath Test Regulations were followed.
There are specific regulations set out by the Texas Department of Safety that must be complied with in order for a breath test to be credible. An experienced DWI attorney knows those guidelines and will be able to attack the breath test results if the guidelines were not followed.