Nine Biggest Mistakes People Make After a DWI Arrest
1. Time can be your friend or your enemy depending upon how it is used.
2. Inactivity after a DWI case is always a bad idea.
3. The problems with waiting to hire an attorney can only magnify over time.
Many DWI cases are successfully defended based upon learning the details of the stop and the arrest. A Successful Defense is always in the details.
- The defense of the case may require an investigation of the scene.
- The defense of the case may require a discussion with potential witnesses.
- The defense of the case may hinge on the memory of the events and activities before and after the stop and arrest.
- The defense of the case requires immediate investigation because memories fade, roadside conditions can change daily due to weather, videotapes can get erased, and witnesses can move or prove difficult to locate.
- The defense of the case requires pinpointing timelines. When each and every event occurred can be crucial, such as, when the stop occurred, when statements were given, when the Miranda warnings were given, when the Field Sobriety Tests were given, and when the arrest was made.
- The defense of the case may require a thorough and detailed analysis of how the Field Sobriety Tests were instructed and how they were performed.
- The defense of the case may require analyzing how the Police Officer recorded his observations, the words he used, his notes about the stop and the arrest, and his filling out police forms and records. These pieces of evidence can all prove significant to a successful defense.
Immediately. New York law requires that you have 45 days after your arraignment to file all Pre-trial motions. An experienced DWI attorney will immediately demand that the prosecution hand over all discovery documents and all proof that they are going to use against you. If you fail to hire an attorney and you do not file any pre-trial motions (challenging the probable cause of the stop, the probable cause of the arrest, and the voluntariness of your statements), you then give up your right to fight the stop, the arrest, and all evidence that came from them.
In short, the sooner you act, the better chance I will have in providing the best DWI defense.
2. Not hiring an experienced and local DWI attorney.
My practice focuses on Ithaca and Tompkins County DWI cases. The majority of my retained clients are Tompkins County New York DWI cases. New York DWI laws are complicated, and techniques in defending DWI are constantly changing. That is why it is important to find a lawyer who stays on top of the current DWI laws, trends, and what occurs in Tompkins County Courts everyday. I am that lawyer.
Furthermore, I concentrate my Continuing Legal Education on DWI specific seminars, rather than general criminal law issues. This assures I always have the most current, up-to-date information to benefit my clients.
3. Not taking the matter seriously.
New York State has no expungement law so if you are convicted, this is a charge that will follow you for the rest of your life. In fact, a conviction will stay on your record even after your death. The additional insurance charges alone could cost you thousands of dollars. Also, a NY DWI or DWAI charge will be used as a predicate offense if you receive another within a 10 year time period. For this second DWI, you will most likely be indicted as a Felony DWI, class E which could mean a real possibility for prison time.
4. Continuing to drive after your license has been taken away.
No need to tempt fate. If your license has been taken, suspended, or revoked, you are only hurting yourself if you continue to drive. "Driving while license invalid" is a misdemeanor in New York State, and punishable by up to a year in jail. Not to mention the complications it will pose in your DWI case.
5. Not taking full advantage of your constitutional rights.
This usually happens when you try to handle the case on your own, or hire an attorney not well versed in DWI laws. There may be numerous areas of your stop and arrest that were unconstitutional. Defense Pre-trial motions
must be filed to:
- Contest the constitutionality of the stop
- Contest the constitutionality of the probable cause to arrest
- Contest the constitutionality of the Miranda rights
- Contest the manner in which roadside tests were given
- Contest the use of a Portable Breath Tester
- Contest the constitutionality of any search and seizure
- Contest the constitutionality of the refusal
If you do not show up for a Court appearance, the Court will issue a bench warrant for your arrest and revoke any bond. The next time you are stopped for a traffic infraction, you will be spending some time in jail and posting a bond for your future appearances.
7. Talking to anyone but an attorney about your case.
Anything you say to them can be used against you. Talking to friends, family, etc. may be nice and comforting, BUT EVERY CASE IS DIFFERENT. Just because something happened in your friend's case, doesn't mean it will happen in yours. Different counties, different judges, different facts mean different results.
8.Thinking that by talking to numerous attorneys you will then be able to handle it on your own.
You need to have an attorney go to Court with you. There is no way around it. It has been said that "an attorney who represents themselves in court, has a fool for a client." EVEN ATTORNEYS charged with DWI will hire a DWI attorney to represent them in court. What does that tell you?
You need an experienced DWI attorney to explain not only the law but options specific to your case and, most importantly, how your decisions can impact your future.
9. Just pleading "Guilty" to the DWI to get it over.
If I plead "Guilty" do I really even need a Lawyer?
I have many clients give me a call and say something along the lines of . . .
"I am guilty. I just want to plea guilty and get this over."
My answer is always a VERY strong "YES!" My job isn't simply to get
innocent people found not guilty, or to get guilty people "off."
My job is to make sure that you are treated fairly and receive fair treatment throughout the process. I also think it is of the utmost importance to understand all of your options and how the decisions you may make today can affect your future.
In New York State, DWI has a very large punishment range. These can range from license suspensions to revocations of 90 days or up to a year. The Court Surcharges can range from $260.00 (for a DWAI) and many hundreds more for a DWI. The fines can range from the hundreds of dollars to the thousands as well. Punishments can include years of probation where you cannot drink alcohol or be around anyplace serving it for years. The conditions of your probation can be as wide as you can imagine. If your plea bargain is not properly negotiated, you could end up with some overly harsh conditions.
Good negotiations may help you avoid having a deep lung device (ignition interlock device) attached to your car. This is an apparatus that requires you to blow into it to start your car, and periodically while driving. If you have friends or business associates in your car, it can be quite embarrassing. Not to mention, it costs about $70 per month to monitor... a price paid by YOU. Over the years, it can cost you thousands of dollars.
Other conditions on your probation could be large amounts of community service, costing you money when you are not working.
Another, and most important consideration is that if you plead guilty, you have 100% chance of being found guilty and having a DWI conviction on your record. New York State has no Expungement law so your DWI record will stay with you for life.
Sometimes, you have the opportunity to be found not guilty at trial, which is not necessarily the same thing as being found innocent. If your rights were violated, etc., a trial is usually the only chance for you to keep this off your record. You could even have the chance of being found guilty to the reduced charge of DWAI, which is a traffic infraction.
What it boils down to is that even if you are guilty, you still need a good DWI lawyer to make sure that you understand your options and are treated fairly.
Lawrence A. Newman, Ithaca, New York DWI Lawyer