Nowhere is the trend against civil liberties and criminal constitutional protections more prevalent than in DUI laws. Drunk driving has become such an unpopular, and even scorned, offense that many states make it necessary to essentially prove a person’s innocence in order to gain an acquittal. Contrast this the the rest of the criminal justice system, in which the burden of proof is still on the prosecution, which must prove the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
The above mentioned burden of proof is still nominally on the government in all fifty states, but the structure of the law makes this burden an illusion. As an example, many states allow the prosecutor to tell the jury that the defendant was advised of his right to have an independent chemical test. In essence, the jury hears that the defendant had a chance and a right to prove his innocence. If the defense does not then go forward and produce this proof, the jury will typically hold the failure to prove innocence against a defendant and find him guilty.
In DUI cases, science that would not be deemed reliable for a medical procedure (i.e., breath testing) is used to convict people. Although most states still give the defense the right and means to challenge the test, some states such as Arizona often limit how much the defense can present to the jury regarding the foibles of the machine.
It seems that every year, more and more jurors come into DUI cases with the attitude that if a person is charged with the crime of DWI, then they must be guilty. This is a very high bar to overcome, especially because nobody likes a drunk driver. Even people who are charged with DUI generally agree that drinking to excess and then driving is a dangerous and foolish thing to do.
On the front line of DUI cases throughout America, there are dedicated attorneys who spend their entire careers perfecting and distilling the art of defending the drinking driver. Unfortunately, there are also attorneys who couldn’t litigate their way out of a paper bag, who never take cases to trial and who always plead their clients guilty at the first opportunity. This second category of DUI attorneys contributes to the generally unfavorable reputation that all DUI lawyers seem to get.
The only real weapon that a person charged with DUI has against the system and against predatory DUI attorneys is education. The more educated a person facing a DUI charge can make herself about the subject, the better chance she has of coming through the system with the best possible result. This process of education needs to happen prior to hiring a DUI law firm to defend the case, because knowing the law and a bit about the process is the only way to tell the sincere and able lawyer from the used car salesperson lawyer type who gives all attorneys a bad name. There are many good places to get such information on the internet.
There are also several good books out there. When looking for books, it is best to get books that are written for attorneys rather than for the public. Take time to digest the language in the book prior to meeting with a lawyer. It may be a good idea to bring the book along with you to the lawyers office and ask them questions from the book. This will accomplish two very important things. First, it will show that lawyer that you are going to be a knowledgeable client that they are not going to be able to fool or take advantage of. Second, it will give you a good idea whether the DUI lawyer you are speaking with is actually an involved, caring and knowledgeable attorney or just a pretender.
For people charged with drunken driving, it often seems that the walls are closing in around them. The best thing to do is push back. Don’t be passive. Take control of your destiny. Knowledge is certainly power when it comes to the law.