Common Mistakes in DWI Cases

We are often approached by perspective clients seeking a criminal defense attorney to handle their drinking and driving charges and it is evident that they have already made mistakes with respect to their handling of the case. The following is a summary of the more common mistakes that we hear in discussions of New Jersey DWI, DUI or refusal offenses:

  1. I Should Simply Plead Guility. The reality is that a DWI, DUI or refusal conviction in New Jersey carries significant penalties and ramifications which will be felt by an individual for many years if he or she simply pleads guilty. It is foolish to assume that there is no chance of success in a drunk driving case yet we are repeatedly faced with this common mistake. Indeed, if there was nothing that could be accomplished by an attorney in a New Jersey driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence or refusal case, why then does almost every municipal court judge encourage defendants to retain a defense attorney at the time of arraignment? The reason is that there are, in fact, many defenses to drinking and driving charges, but an individual will never have the advantage of utilizing those defenses unless they consult a knowledgeable attorney.
  2. I Can Handle the Case on My Own. We routinely receive telephone calls and conduct consultations wherein it is apparent that the individual on the other side of the table is simply trying to extract as much legal advice as possible because they intend on defending their DWI, DUI or refusal case on their own. This is disheartening as the honest truth is that most lay persons will have extreme difficulty in even obtaining discovery from the police department. I cannot tell you how many times potential clients have told me that they tried to obtain discovery (e.g. the results of the blood or breathalyzer test) and were told by the police department that the records could only be obtained by an attorney. Irrespective of whether or not this response from the police is proper, it is the norm. It would be extraordinarily difficult to overcome the more technical issues and hurdles which exist in this regard and, more importantly, to do so in a manner in which a genuine drunk driving defense is not compromised.
  3. I Hired the Cheapest Attorney. Attorneys are not widgets and each and every attorney’s experience and ability in handling a New Jersey DWI, DUI or refusal offense is different. Legal fees are predicated on the amount of time which an attorney anticipates committing to a case and the hourly rate he is seeking. If an attorney is the cheapest, that is not always a good reflection on the amount of time he intends on investing in a case or, alternatively, the perceived value of his services. We believe that price should be one of several criteria in selecting the appropriate attorney.
  4. I Already Spoke to the Prosecutor Myself. This is an extremely bad idea under any circumstance. While honesty is a virtue, your volunteering of facts when speaking to the prosecutor may foreclose a defense which you possess in the case. It is the prosecutor’s burden to prove a particular fact and a negative inference cannot be drawn from your silence (i.e. you cannot be found guilty because you did not speak up). In other words, your own words, which you have no obligation to volunteer nor will they typically assist you on your own, may very well make the prosecutor’s case on a New Jersey DWI, DUI or refusal case. It is always an extremely scary proposition when a potential client comes to my office and tells me that he or she already spoke to the prosecutor.
  5. I Talked to Someone Other than an Attorney for Advice. People do not realize that each and every case involves a different set of facts and can even involve different law. Accordingly, the pivotal issue is how do your facts and law apply. The best way to determine the answer(s) is a review of the facts and application of the current law (i.e. the law can change) by a knowledgeable attorney.