I sometimes overhear things in open court and marvel at the sabotage defendants will engage in regarding their own defense or instances where initiative is lacking in the construction of a defense in any sort of case but specifically DUIs. The best defense is almost always a good offense. A defense attorney can only champion what is brought to their attention and can only present at trial what they learn from interacting with the Government and their client. The Government certainly is not invested in a defendant leaving the courthouse with the best possible result, so the burden of working with the defense attorney to help craft the best conclusion possible rests with defendants themselves. Below are ten ways from the opening hours or days of a DUI case that a defendant can help their attorney and, in so doing, help themselves.
- Be truthful at all times!
When you retain an attorney it is really no different than securing the services of a physician or an accountant. You are relying on a professional to provide a professional service. When seeking a diagnosis from a physician, would you knowingly misinform that physician? Would you deliberately provide phony or inaccurate numbers to your accountant? Of course not, because they could not provide a proper service if they are misinformed. The same holds true for your attorney. If you choose to misinform or underinform your attorney, almost always, the day will come when, while basking in a self-congratulatory glow, you will be approached by your attorney while the attorney has a scowl on their face. That scowl will originate from an embarassing moment where your attorney learned something from the prosecutor that they should have learned from you. That moment undermines your attorney’s credibility and forever taints any representation your attorney makes from that moment on in your case. Additionally, your attorney cannot protect you from or advise you about what they are not told. This is far and away the biggest mistake defendants make.
- Keep all of the paperwork that you received when you were released from jail
This will include your citations or tickets, your bond sheet, a copy of what is called the Warning to Motorist, and documents regarding the towing of your vehicle.
- Get your court purposes driving abstract
These are available for $12 at any Secretary of State location. This abstract will give your attorney the opportunity to review your local history and should help your attorney provide efficiently accurate advice and counsel.
- Generate a written narrative of everything that happened once you came into contact with law enforcement
Do not use this narrative as an opportunity to use adjectives or to provide commentary. Neither of those things move the ball forward for you and your attorney. This narrative should be as clinical and objective as possible. Squad car recording devices nowadays are of excellent quality but it is surprising how many squad cars do not have recording devices in 2017. This will assist your attorney if there is no DVD of the stop and/or what took place at the jail. This narrative will also aid your attorney in what specifically to look for while viewing the recorded media.
- Create a list of all the family and friends who were with you in the hours prior to your arrest
Those friends and family might be able to discuss what they did or did not notice about you prior to your arrest, how much they saw you drink, etc.
- Provide receipts from where you were at prior to your arrest
If you were at a restaurant and only had two drinks, the receipt that closed out your table should show that. If there were others drinks on the receipt, be prepared to explain who consumed those drinks and have that person (or those people) available to speak to your attorney.
- Gather all relevant medical documentation and history you might have
There are legion medical issues that might be relevant to one’s performance on Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Anything from back injuries to bad knees to a traumatic brain injury could be relevant to how you performed on those tests or how you appear on the DVD of the stop. It is extremely important to not just notify your attorney of the existence of these ailments or injuries but to immediately begin to gather the records and documentation of them for the sake of trial. If you wait until a trial is set to begin to construct your defense it might be too late.
- Document recent issues and repairs to the vehicle
If an estimate was done on brake work just before you came into contact with law enforcement but you did not get the work done due to time or finances and the reasonable suspicion for stopping you was rolling through a stop sign, there is an explanation for that driving other than intoxication. Another example would be if you just had your brake lights replaced and, two or three days later, you are stopped because your brake lights allegedly did not come on, the proper working order of those lights is very much in play in your case. It does your attorney no good to have you approach them after trial with a yarn to spin about brake lights you got at AutoZone. Get the receipts and explanation to your attorney at your first opportunity.
- Take photos and document any injuries you might have sustained if there was a crash
Sometimes the day or two after a crash or anything unpleasantly physical are appreciably worse than the day itself. If adrenaline or fear masked an injury or pain in your back or another body part at the scene of a crash but a day or two later you sought proper medical care and can document issues that you had as a result, provide that information to your attorney. If there are photos that can be taken of the trauma, take those photos. The last thing you need to hear in the Government’s rebuttal closing argument is that an injury you discussed should not be believed because it was not documented.
- Leave the legal brillance of your friends and family at home
Attorneys have a unique status in our society. Attorneys are the only professionals who provide services to a community that believes they know how to properly practice the profession due to what they watch on television. Imagine someone thinking they could perform surgery because they used to watch NBC’s hit ER. That is how people sound when they discuss their legal acumen based on what they saw on Law and Order, Judge Judy, or any of the other dreck that is on television today. Even if your uncle’s cousin’s best friend’s neighbor did get a certain disposition on a case or was found not guilty in their case, that does not mean your case is automatically going to have the same result by virtue of tyranny of will. The best mechanisms for securing the best possible result to a DUI charge are candor and preparation between attorney and client. The relationship between an attorney and their client is a two-way street. The best results come from mutual respect, open communication, and proper preparation.
If you or a loved one are facing a charge of DUI or any other traffic or criminal charge, please call Attorney Myzia at 815-345-4808 to schedule a conversation to discuss the situation and learn how Attorney Myzia can help. Attorney Myzia provides quality legal representation for clients in Stephenson, Ogle, Lee, Winnebago, Boone, McHenry, and Kane counties in Illinois out of his Rockford office.