Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ithaca DWI Lawyer: The Four Questions That Your DWI Lawyer Must Answer?

I believe that DWI Lawyers should be
more like doctors using a Report of Findings
I practiced for ten years as a Chiropractic Physician before my nineteen years of practice as an attorney. Believe it or not both professions, law and chiropractic can have similarities in their approach and strategy. Doctors are taught to use a Report of Findings to explain to patients what is wrong with them, and to help them answer their most demanding questions. Unfortunately I have found that many lawyers don't use a Report of Findings because they aren't really taught this approach in law school nor do they understand the clinical nature of their job.

So what is a legal DWI report of findings, and how does it help people understand their situation?

The DWI Report of Findings Lays the Ground Work for an Attorney-Client Relationship

1. First Question: What's my problem? aka What's UP Doc?

Evaluation of the problems (issues), and the type of DWI case

It all begins with the attorney looking over the paperwork in any DWI case. Just like a doctor asks you about your symptoms to diagnose an illness. When the symptoms started, where you hurt or are having an issues are 95% of figuring out what we are dealing with. Much the same as a doctor your DWI attorney must figure out exactly what we are dealing with.

How much can we tell from the paperwork you received? Did you just receive the tickets, as in the charges? Was there limited paperwork given? Did you get the 710.30 (bill of particulars)? This is where it shows the time of the stop and arrest, the testing done,  a cursory reading of the probable cause in your case.

What type of DWI is it? Is it an alcohol DWI? Is it a DWAI (driving while impaired) drugs case? What drug does it involve? Is it a DWI case without any driving? Is it a DWI or DWAI without any testing? Is it a DWI or DWAI where you refused the chemical test? Is it a DWI or DWAI where you made no statements? Is it a DWI or DWAI with an accident?

Is this a first offense or is it a multiple? If it is a second offense (a second in ten years) then we dealing with a felony level charge? What was the final outcome (sentencing) on any prior DUI or DWI? How will prior offenses involving drugs and/or alcohol affect this case?

What type of job do you have? Do you have a profession? Do you hold any professional licenses or certifications? What do you need a driver's license for? How will this charge or charges affect you in the future?

2. Second Question: What's the solution?

What are the different options that can be explored to resolve the problem? 

Doctors offer solutions or options from the least invasive or non-invasive means (natural cures and vitamins) to drug therapy (potential side effects) to surgery (most invasive and dangerous). I guess in the realm of DWI it is hearings, motions, and negotiation (as least invasive) to having a trial of the case. The trial is much like a surgery, in that it has potential benefits but can have harsh detriments. The unknown of a trial is there is no guarantee of success, and then in New York sentencing is strictly up to the judge. Without a plea bargain the prosecutor will likely recommend a harsher sentence post trial (if there is a loss).

With any DWI case as we gather all the facts, and the police paperwork things unfold further. This gathering of information from the prosecutor is called "getting discovery" and the court sometimes gets early information as well. The more we can fill in blank gaps the further we can hone in and focus on potential options. The large majority (over 95%) of criminal cases (including DWI) are resolved via plea negotiations.

3. Third Question: How long is this going to take?

Doctors know that it is often difficult to predict how long something or someone will heal but we can always guesstimate it. If someone is older, unhealthy, smokes, or is immuno- compromised (diabetes, chronic illness) then their healing is likely slower.

Sometimes after we know what we are dealing with (type of case, breath or blood, level of charges) and who we are dealing with (court, judge, prosecutor, etc.) we can then estimate the time line. Some court and judges are quick and some are notoriously slow. Having experience with prior DWI cases allows us to give clients a pretty good overview of what to expect. 

The Court arraignment on the charges, pre-trial conferences, pre-trial motions, administrative license hearings, and pre-trial hearings all follow fairly predictable time schedules. Give or take a few weeks in either direction we can predict the course of the case. If we are pro-active (and anticipate what is needed) we can forestall some events and accelerate the proceedings further.

4. Fourth Question: Can you (the attorney) help me, and how much will this cost?

If you are utilizing an attorney that focuses in the area of DWI defense then it is likely that they can help you with a DWI or DWAI drugs case. All the collateral areas that are potentially affected by a DWI, such as a driver's license, professional license, teaching certification, gun permits, etc. need to be addressed as well.

The cost of representation is dependent upon numerous factors: the level of the charges, the court, the judge, the facts of the case, the potential defenses, whether it is a blood or breath case, whether you refused a chemical test, how many charges are present, are there prior criminal charges, was there an accident, did you give statements to the police, was there video, etc.

Remember to insist that your DWI attorney answer these four questions to the best of their ability. I believe that YOUR understanding of the above four questions, and having a high level of communication with your attorney is vital to having a great result. The attorney-client relationship is the foundation of your defense and ensures a more successful outcome overall.

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