DWI Client Checklist

This is a road map that applies to most cases in which a client is charged with DWI.  It isn’t meant as a substitute for consultation between an Attorney and Client, it’s meant as a general guide:

1.     Arrest.  After the Police have obtained enough evidence to have probable cause to believe you have committed the crime of DWI, you will be arrested.  This doesn’t always mean you’ll be taken to jail.  In most first time offenses, you will be issued an appearance ticket, which tells you when you will have to appear in Court.  In most cases, your arraignment will come less than two weeks after your arrest. During the time between your arrest and arraignment:

  • Find an Attorney.  The most important factor in selecting an attorney is how comfortable you are with any potential attorney as a person.  Don’t hesitate to call more than one attorney, and try to meet each candidate in person.  Most criminal attorneys will make time for a potential client, and its reasonable to expect him or her to take 30 minutes to sit down with you.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and if the attorney does not appear willing to answer your questions, becomes defensive or evasive, it may be a pretty good indication of their willingness to communicate with you as the case progresses.
  • Be sure to ask how many DWI’s the attorney has handled over the last six months.  Because the law frequently changes, it is important to retain someone that is familiar with the law, and has had recent and frequent exposure to it.
  • Make certain the attorney you meet with is the attorney that will handle your case.  There are some larger firms that will assign a case to a less experienced associate or farm your case out to another lawyer.  You want to know who you’ll be dealing with.
  • Ask how many DWI trials they’ve handled.  It’s important for any defense attorney to have a sufficient track record at trial, so that they are able to provide credible advice to you as your case goes forward.
  • Ask how often the attorney appears in the Court your case is pending in. If your attorney is not familiar with the Court your case is in, he might not be able to anticipate developments in your case in advance.
  • Ask how many clients the Attorney currently has with open files.

Warning signs:

  • If an attorney quotes you a price that is exceptionally lower than others, it’s likely a sign that he or she accepts a higher number of cases at lower prices.  Think of it as a volume discount. The problem with this approach is that every attorney has the same amount of time to spend on their cases, and the more cases you have, the less time you have to spend with each one.
  • If an attorney is evasive of unsure about your questions, or appears to take offense from your questions about their experience, it may be a sign of their ability to communicate with you as a client, and worse, could be a sign that they are simply not confident in their skills.
  • If an attorney asks you who else you’ve met with, and provides criticism of those attorneys, it’s a pretty good sign that they don’t believe their experience, skill or ability is good enough to stand on its own.
  • If an attorney’s office is disorganized or in poor repair, it may be a pretty good indication of the quality of their work.

Schedule an Impaired Driver Assessment and Evaluation

  • New York State Law requires any person charged with DWI (with some exceptions) to obtain a drug and alcohol evaluation from a provider that is certified by the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services.  Regardless of the results of your case, it will be important for a number of reasons to get the process of obtaining this evaluation as soon as possible.  You can find a provider here.
  • It doesn’t matter if you think you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, it is important to show that you have obtained an objective assessment of your drug and alcohol use.  These evaluations usually take place over a series of 3 or 4 sessions with a Social Worker, Psychologist or similar professional, and result in a report that will be released to the Judge in your case.

Hardship and preparing for the possibilities

  • In many cases, you may go without a license for a time.  While your case is pending, a judge will likely suspend your license pending prosecution, but may provide you with a hardship license.  This hardship license will only be granted where your attorney has made a sufficient showing that the suspension of your license will represent an undue burden on you and/or your family.  Your attorney should prepare a written application for a hardship license by either interviewing you or asking you to answer a questionnaire with relevant questions to the degree of hardship.  Most quality attorneys will want to present a hardship application only where there are credible grounds to believe you need one.  It’s just not in your best interest to present an application where it is clear, under the standards of the law, that you don’t really need one.  You are not entitled to hardship application as a right, and where an application is baseless, it may leave the Court with the wrong impression.
  • Because you may be without a license following your arraignment, you will want to make sure to be prepared by doing all the things you would need your license for in advance.

Stop drinking.

  • It’s a good idea to avoid drinking while your case is pending.  While drinking itself isn’t a crime (if you’re over 21), you’re likely to be going through a very stressful time in your life and may have the potential to abuse alcohol to a greater degree.  We all know that drinking to excess impairs our judgment, and you need all the brains you can muster during this time.
  • You also don’t want to risk the appearance that you have not learned from this.  More than once, we’ve heard stories of a defendant running into a judge or police officer in a social setting, such as a bar, leaving them with the impression that you simply didn’t learn your lesson.  Whether that’s right or wrong is irrelevant, it’s just something you should avoid altogether.

Edit your social network

  • The internet is a wonderful tool for social interaction, but it also compromises our privacy.  If you have a Facebook, Google+ or MySpace page, you want to take a look at it and consider how its content portrays  you.  You don’t have to isolate yourself, delete your account, shut out your friends and become a recluse, but obviously pictures of you doing a keg stand aren’t a good idea either.  It’s not unusual for prosecutors to search the internet for your name to try and gather an impression of you, or worse, obtain evidence that you’re a raging drunk.  To avoid the issue, just take a second look at your appearance on the internet and do what you can to clean it up.

Don’t discuss your case

  • It’s unlikely that the prosecutor or police would question your friends and family about your case, but it’s never a good idea to discuss the facts of your case with anyone other than your attorney.  If someone asks about your case, we tell our clients to say that we’ve instructed them not to discuss the matter with anyone.  It’s a pretty effective way of ending the conversation.

Start Saving Money

  • The fines and surcharges which will result from your case are likely to be substantial if you are convicted of any offense.  Court’s may set short deadlines for the payment of these fines, and may suspend your license or issue a bench warrant if you don’t pay by the date they set.  It’s wise to anticipate these fines so that you can get them out of the way as soon as your case is concluded.

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