5 Big Lies About DUIs
Many people—attorneys and judges included—have a completely wrong attitude towards DUI charges in Oklahoma, trapped by believing many common lies about the charge. Such lies can lead to malpractice by the attorney and to dire consequences for the client who suffers due to the lawyer’s lack of knowledge.
The LIES surrounding DUI are:
1st LIE: A DUI Is A “Simple” Charge
› Let me ask: Do you think it is ‘simple’ to lose your job?
› Is it simple to be unable to drive?
› Is it ‘simple’ to be unable to travel to other countries?
› Is it ‘simple’ to be unable to rent an apartment?
› Is it ‘simple’ to be banned for life from having a commercial driver’s license (CDL)?
› Is it ‘simple’ to go to jail?
› Is damaged credit rating ‘simple’?
› Is it simple for your insurance to increase by thousands of dollars for years to come?
This is just the start of some of the hidden costs of a DUI. This is a charge that keeps on giving; it follows you for years, possibly even a lifetime. There is nothing ‘simple’ about the penalties from a ‘simple’ DUI.
Regrettably, far too many untrained attorneys think of DUI’s as ‘simple and advise their clients to quickly enter a plea. A trained, competent DUI lawyer can help you understand the dangers you face and protect you from this harm.
2nd LIE: A DUI Case Is The Same As Any Other Criminal Case
If the consequences were not so serious, this lie would be humorous. Recently a judge said, “A DUI case is one of the most difficult cases to try, more difficult than most murder cases.”
In many areas, the courts handle DUI cases differently from other offenses. For example, in a murder case, the defense lawyer will order an independent analysis of ballistics tests, blood splatter patterns, fingerprints, and other physical evidence. This is not true in drunk driving cases. Oklahoma law does not require an officer taking a breath test to capture some of the breath so it can be analyzed independently at a later date, even though the machines can seal samples at a minimal cost. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that it is perfectly acceptable that such critical evidence is destroyed.
In the judicial system DUI’s are “special.” Special? Yes, different rules apply to a DUI case. In a run of the mill criminal case, you would be allowed to view and test the evidence against you. If blood were involved you could have it tested also.
In most DUI’s the evidence consist of a breath test, which produces a number printed on a piece of paper. In Oklahoma your breath is not saved for additional testing. The machine— Intoxilyzer 8000—is fully capable of saving a sample (which would cost about $1.50) but the state has chosen not to do so. The courts in effect say, “no big deal, it was DUI evidence and we will ignore that the evidence was destroyed“.
Attorneys who are not heavily trained in DUI defense or even more disturbing, the ones who just want to earn a quick buck do not know how to protect their clients. The attorney could face malpractice from mishandling such cases but even more disturbing—the client is the one who will suffer for years to come.
3rd LIE: If You Were Arrested, You Must Be Guilty
You certainly do not want an attorney representing you who starts off thinking you are guilty. An attorney should believe in and devote himself to defending his client.
This is perhaps the most troubling lie because so many attorneys and individuals believe it. Since this mindset can eliminate objectivity, an attorney who believes this has no business representing a person accused of drunk driving.
The evidence in most drunk driving cases is a breath test, not a blood test. A skillful attorney can be successful in exposing the problems with such a test. Because of their lack of sophistication, most scientists would not trust the results of a breath test machine as a basis for research or investigation. Both the accuracy and reliability of these machines are subject to challenge.
The breath machine is just that: the low bid machine purchased in a government contract. There are a number of ways to attack a machine test result. This is not a scientific instrument yet the state wants to treat it as such. There are reliability, accuracy, administration and training errors, just to name a few.
It takes extensive training and study by an attorney to challenge these tests. Attempting to defend a DUI case without this training and knowledge could expose the attorney to a malpractice charge and leave the defendant to suffer the consequences.
4th LIE: You Can’t Win An Oklahoma DUI Case.
It is outrageous to think that a person would actually pay a lawyer who believes this lie. The client should not automatically be advised to plead guilty because an attorney who is not properly trained believes that these cases are difficult or impossible to win.
An experienced DUI lawyer will start preparing for trial from the very first meeting. He or she will investigate and subpoena every piece of evidence available. The lawyer will often fight extensively through motions and other procedural maneuvers.
Many lawyers will push a guilty plea without having done any investigation of the case. Possibly the client told the attorney he could not afford to fight the case.
This is common but did the attorney tell the client the hidden and long-term cost of a conviction and did the attorney explain the defense to the charge so the client could make an informed, intelligent decision?
Many times the client will realize the long-term cost of accepting a quick guilty plea is greater that the cost of fighting—that is if the options are fully explained by a competent attorney.
5th LIE: DUI Is A Minor Offense
The stigma of a conviction can cause tremendous stress and fear. Many drivers whose licenses are suspended continue driving to keep a job and provide for their families. By doing so, they live in fear of being stopped, caught and jailed for driving with a suspended license.
Most of those convicted also suffer financially and socially. In most states, a DUI conviction is permanently on a driving record. Only those justly convicted should have to endure these emotional, financial, and psychological hardships.
It is not a crime to have a drink and drive. Convictions for drunk driving should only occur when a person’s blood alcohol level exceeds the arbitrary numerical standard set by the state, or when it is proven that a person’s bad driving is connected to an impaired state due to a high blood alcohol level.
Attorneys who improperly advise a client to plead guilty may be committing malpractice and open themselves to litigation for substandard representation. Usually, the driver’s do not know if they have been properly represented or if the state’s case was valid and based on a legal stop. A qualified DUI attorney is needed to investigate the case thoroughly and recommend the best alternative.
You have a right to inquire about the training your potential attorney has received. You should be sure that the lawyer has spent substantial time training specifically in the field of DUI.