Friday, January 22, 2010

Defense is an Offensive Game

January in Ithaca, NY can be brutally cold. This season though has been mild so far. It is funny to think that 30s and low 40s can feel downright warm but compared to sub zero days... it is!

A few weeks ago I was waiting for my wife's car to be serviced at a Syracuse dealership. In the reception area I struck up a conversation about Ithaca with another customer, and that lead to the "so what do you do?" question. When I said, "I am a DWI defense lawyer" eyes were raised from magazines, and off the TV set directly to me. One woman then proceeded to tell me about her brain damaged son and the drunk driver that hurt him. I thought, oh boy! here it comes. She asked me how I lived with myself? My practicing criminal defense and especially DWI defense OFFENDED her. She said, "Those" people don't deserve to be defended. She asked me why didn't I practice public interest law? Was I only interested in making money? She then launched into a personal attack without even knowing me. I did not sit complacent, I explained my role, my passion for justice, my belief in the Constitution, and my respect for the process. I did not apologize for what I do. I am proud to defend the accused. I told her I did condone reckless or irresponsible behavior ie. I am not "for" driving drunk. That would be ridiculous.

Often in the world of law, and attorneys it is best to conduct oneself civilly. I think there is a DWI defense exemption to this general rule. I believe that is why it takes a certain personality to do this type of work well. I am at core a street lawyer. I was born and raised in the gutters of Brooklyn, so to speak. There is nothing Ivy league about me. I am not very cultured. My wife is still teaching me proper etiquette. I am a little rough. Her lifetime project is to civilize me. Yet when it comes time for confrontation guess who she calls? I am her knight. I have no issues with
going face to face or head to head over things I believe in. I am small of stature but my passion for fair, and my heart for justice are large. I hate bullies. At times I think life requires confrontation, and although the large majority of the population does not like controversy, it is necessary. Nothing of value is ever won without a fight. That is so important I want to state it again, Nothing of value is ever won without a fight! The sweetness of victory is directly proportional to the price paid to earn it.
SO some lawyers should not be defense lawyers ... If they want to be liked, if they want to be accepted, if they want to be noble, then they should be another type of lawyer. Defense to most people does not usually imply attacking an opponent but evidence must be attacked. It must be questioned! It must be challenged!

Attack an invalid stop!
Attack an invalid arrest!
Attack the police investigation!
Attack the police observations of driving!
Attack the police observations from personal contact!
Attack the field sobriety tests!
Attack breath testing instruments and their results!
Attack the administration of the tests!
Attack the officer's finding of impairment and/or intoxication!

Yes, that is why I believe that DWI defense is an offensive game.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Out of State Licenses and NYS DWI

As is often the case with students attending Cornell University, Ithaca College, or SUNY Binghamton I have clients with driver's licenses from many different states, and sometimes even different countries. With criminal charges pending, often a DWI, wasting time by waiting for things to improve on their own accord is futile.

There are unique and collateral issues that need to be dealt with early in the majority of situations. For instance, if someone is from New Jersey and holds a NJ license, and now is a student residing in New York State, and if their future plans include staying in NYS for a number of years then why are they maintaining a NJ driver's license? Is it in there best interests, financially and functionally to maintain their NJ driver's license? These issues may not be as pressing until I tell them that because they hold a NJ driver's license their NYS DWI conviction is going to cost them $1000/year for three years ($3,000 in total) in NJ, and then another $250/year for three years in NYS. In addition, NJ will suspend their driving privileges for 210 days (with NO conditional or restricted license privileges).

So waiting to hire a lawyer is not a good idea. In fact hiring a lawyer not conversant in how a DWI/DUI conviction can impact your state's driving privileges is a bad idea.

Any lawyer can do any type of legal matter. BUT will they do a good job is another story. Will they be thorough? Will they understand the collateral consequences? Just today I got an email:

"First and foremost, I'd like to say that ive gotten more information from you on your website than i did from my own lawyer! My question is...."

So my advice:

Always Hire the best Bankruptcy lawyer for your bankruptcy!
Always Hire the best family lawyer for your divorce!
Always Hire the best estate lawyer for your will and trust!
Always Hire the best business lawyer for your incorporation!
Always Hire the best real estate lawyer for your house closing or sale!

Having a generalist lawyer handle your case "may be" like having your family doctor (GP) handle a foot problem (instead of a podiatrist) or
handle a back problem (instead of a Chiropractor or an orthopedic surgeon) or
handle a skin problem (instead of a dermatologist) or
handle a psychological problem (instead of a psychologist)

Don't tell me but he's been practicing for 25, 30, or 35 years so he knows what he's doing. Remember the world is dynamic. The laws are constantly changing, the days of the generalist are over, and staying current and focused is the best strategy for long term success!