Whether you misjudged your level of intoxication or appeared intoxicated because of other factors, it only takes a moment for a DWI charge to cause potentially life-altering consequences. Even for a first offense, you could be facing fines, jail time, and loss of your license. Your criminal defense lawyer will help you navigate the legal process and get the best possible outcome. When you envision a criminal defense lawyer, you’re probably picturing them making an argument in a courtroom. However, your attorney can help in several important areas before it’s time to go to court. This article will discuss seven of your defense lawyer’s key responsibilities.
1. Investigate the Case
Your lawyer will perform their own investigation into your case to establish what happened. This includes visiting the location where you were stopped, talking to any witnesses, looking over the police report and reviewing any other evidence. In contrast to the police investigation, your attorney’s investigation will focus on finding weaknesses in the state’s argument that you’re guilty. The earlier this happens, the easier the process will be for your attorney. This is one reason it’s a good idea to hire an attorney as soon as possible.
2. Hire and Manage Investigators
In some complicated DWI cases, such as those involving multiple witnesses or a dispute over the facts of the case, your lawyer might recommend hiring investigators to help with the inquiry. These investigators can help find and speak with witnesses and look into other facets of your case. This frees up your attorney to focus on other aspects of your defense. Your attorney will look at the specifics of your case and will suggest working with investigators if necessary and depending on your situation. Because your attorney will hire these experts and manage their work for you, you don’t need to worry about vetting and hiring them yourself. Your attorney probably already has investigators they trust and work with regularly, so you’ll know that a qualified person is helping with your case.
3. Handling Paperwork
From forms that need to be filed with the court to notes from the investigation, your DWI case will involve a large amount of paperwork. Fortunately, your criminal defense lawyer will be responsible for keeping track of these documents for you. They’ll understand what paperwork needs to be completed and where and when that paperwork needs to be filed.
4. Negotiating With Prosecutors
Most DWI cases end with a plea bargain, not a trial. This means that negotiations with the prosecution will have a substantial impact on the outcome of your case. Depending on the specifics of your situation and the strength of the case against you, you might be able to plead guilty to a less serious charge like reckless driving. If you’re likely to be found guilty of DWI at trial, you may be able to negotiate a shorter jail sentence or avoid a driver’s license suspension. Your attorney will be familiar with both your local court and the type of charges you’re facing, so they’ll be able to tell you whether a plea offer is a good deal or not. They’ll also help you weigh other factors, like how a guilty plea might impact your job, your car insurance rates and other parts of your life.
5. Helping You Decide Whether to Go to Trial
You probably don’t have the expertise to assess your case and decide whether it’s a good idea to go to trial or accept a plea deal on your own. Your attorney will better understand the system you’re working within and how likely you are to be convicted at trial, so they’ll be able to help you decide. For example, if the police saw you driving erratically and your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was found to be above the legal limit and there’s no additional evidence in your favor, you might be better off taking the best plea deal available. If you failed a field sobriety test but tested below the legal BAC limit, you might be able to prove that you failed the test because of anxiety rather than intoxication at trial. Each case has its own nuances, so your attorney will give you professional advice based on your situation. While your attorney will advise you, it is ultimately your decision about how to proceed with your defense.
6. Selecting the Jury
If you go to trial, your attorney will be involved in choosing the jury that will decide your guilt. Your attorney will try to choose jurors that are more likely to be sympathetic to you and your argument. Jurors who have an obvious potential for bias, such as someone who knows the prosecutor, can be dismissed for that reason. Your attorney can also use peremptory challenges to dismiss a limited number of potential jurors without a justification. Attorneys consider factors like occupation, experience with the legal process and socioeconomic status in making these decisions. Putting together a jury that will listen to you increases your chance of success.
7. Defending You Through the Intricacies of a Trial
A criminal trial follows specific rules and procedures. Your lawyer understands this process and knows how to speak effectively on your behalf. This includes objecting to evidence that wasn’t disclosed properly, questioning witnesses, and making an argument in your favor to the jury. Your defense in a DWI case could involve challenging whether the police officer had a legitimate reason to stop you, providing evidence of good driving behavior, or questioning whether the breathalyzer machine was calibrated properly. Whatever the approach, your attorney will design a clear defense strategy ahead of time and use that strategy to defend you in court.
Your lawyer advocates for you throughout the process, whether you go to trial or accept a plea bargain. Their expert advice can help you avoid mistakes you might have otherwise made.