I was waiting my turn at bat in Horseheads Court (Chemung County/near Elmira) the other day when the attorney in front of the judge suddenly turned around. He looked around the room for a friendly lawyer face who could answer the Judge's question because he was perplexed.
The question: Your DWI client is from New Jersey, have you explained to him all of the license ramifications and fees and fines and other assorted punishments that will come with his guilty plea in NYS even though he has a NJ license?
The attorney was unsure of whether the NYS DMV driver responsibility assessment DWI surcharge for three years ($750) would apply to his out-of-state client. BTW It does of course in addition to NJ fines. Anytime any state can lay out another fine or fee it generally does. NYS doesn't care if you are here for 5 minutes or 50 years, everyone pays!
What was bothering me that day was not that this attorney didn't know it was what else he had not told or explained to his client? Ah the mystery of not knowing.
So What Should an Attorney do for YOU?
There are three basic things an attorney should do for YOU:
1. Protection: Protection from all of the "potential" punishments, or maybe mitigation (lessening) of them. Explaining the ranges of consequences, and the likelihood of any of them now and in the future.
Your attorney should always stand both literally and figuratively between you and the Judge, and you and the Prosecutor, and you and the government (police).
2. Options: What are the (YOUR) options? Is Trial (Bench or Jury) a good option? How about "Challenging" any of the evidence in the case? What is the "Likelihood" of success (the odds) with each option? What are the benefits and detriments of each option?
What are the potential costs with each option? What are the "Costs" in time, in money, in exposure to jail or prison or probation terms?
3. Explanation: The attorney should educate, communicate, and explain how any of this can, will, or may impact YOU (specifically) either now or in the future. With your past record, your present circumstances, and your future hopes and dreams how will this affect any of it? Predictions are not always accurate or easy to make but they must be assessed, and discussed. Does any of this need to be discussed with your loved ones? Will they have burdens associated with your decisions or the decisions of the Court?
No one can predict the future but we hire professionals based upon their knowledge, experience, and their ability to place things in perspective based upon our specific and unique situations. The true value of a professional man or woman goes beyond their schooling. Books are merely the beginning of any real world education. Remember it is always a combination of both Art and Science in any successful endeavor and this includes the practice of law.
Lawrence (Larry) Newman
Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law
504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850