10 Do It Yourself (DIY) Mistakes
The Top 10 Mistakes That People Make When Handling Their Own DUI Case in Los Angeles County
I am The Los Angeles DUI Guy: DUI Defense Attorney Mark Rosenfeld.
I have been doing criminal defense work for over ten years. After witnessing some stupid, needless legal injustices, I decided to specialize my practice on DUI / DWI. I have focused my practice exclusively on defending DUI’s and driving related offenses for the last seven years. I have found that many people make the same statements in court, and make the same mistakes when they try to represent themselves.
Defending yourself in a criminal case is always a bad idea. It is such a bad idea that the judge will not even allow you do attempt self-representation without acknowledging and signing a waiver.
Now let me share with you just 10 DUI Mistakes I have learned:
1. “The cop said I was over the legal limit, I’m done for.”
Not so. Just because the cop thinks he or she knows what your blood alcohol level is does not matter. What matters is what the government can prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt can be one mistake the police make. There are a lot of factors the cops and prosecutors will not tell you about that can affect the reliability (and admissibility) of breath and blood testing. This is not a simple process of just pressing a button and blowing. What the cops say, or the machine shows, is just the start of the case: and it is only one piece of a big puzzle.
2. “A DUI is just like a speeding ticket.”
Very wrong. A first time DUI is, at best, a misdemeanor, which has the possibility of up to six months in county jail. But the possibility of jail time is just the beginning. On a regular ticket you can pay a fine, and for the most part it goes away. A DUI carries a lot of additional hardships that follow you around for years. People who are charged with a misdemeanor have the right to an attorney, and will not be given a break by the judge or prosecutors. This is not speeding ticket.
3. “I will just pay the fine and be done with it.”
Not true. You can’t just pay a fine and be done with it. People do go in and plead guilty, pay a fine and think they are done. But, they come to find out later that they are facing bigger problems because they did not really understand what was going on in court. The penalties are very stiff, including jail time of up to six months on a first time DUI. If you are convicted of even a first time DUI in Los Angeles County, you are looking at years of probation, suspended drivers license, years of increased insurance rates, fines, fees, court costs, treatment programs, breath testing ignition interlock device installation on your car, as well as immigration or international travel problems, and a conviction on your permanent record. Some, if not all, of these penalties can be lessened or eliminated with the help of a good DUI attorney.
4. “I can go to court on my own.”
Yes many people do go to court on their own…but do they know what to do once they get there? As mentioned above, a lot of people get into more trouble (driving on a suspended license, failure to appear, probation violations, jail time) because nobody took the time to explain to them what they were doing, and what they would have to do in the future. Each courthouse in Los Angeles has a different procedure for handing DUI’s. Each judge may also have a way they like to handle DUI’s as well. A qualified DUI attorney in Los Angeles is going to know which judges to stay away from, and where your best bet is to work out a deal if you can. An experienced DUI attorney can help you to decide when and what plea to enter, what motions to file and when, and when and how to get a case before a jury if necessary. If you don’t know how to get through the entire process, you may be able to go to court on your own…but you really should not.
5. “I will talk to the DMV myself about why I need my license.”
Bad idea. The DMV and the Hearing Officers at the Driver Safety Offices in Los Angeles County do not care about why you need your license, and they don’t care if you will lose your job if your license is suspended. They are merely interested in keeping their jobs; and that means suspending every license that the law allows them to suspend. The Hearing Officers are not lawyers or judges, and they are not looking to be fair. An impassioned speech about why you need your license will not admit or exclude evidence from a hearing. In order to win a DUI APS (administrative per se) hearing, one must pay close attention to the details of the Departments’ “evidence” and make the proper legal, factual and scientific arguments.
6. “I believe the breath test was done right. The cops told me to blow, and after the thing beeped they arrested me.”
Breath testing is complicated business, and if not done correctly can have very misleading results. The breathing testing unit itself must be properly maintained; but, even if it is working perfectly it can still have errors that cause it to give a false high reading. An experienced DUI attorney will be looking for hidden signs that the breath testing device was not used properly, and could have given an incorrect reading.
7. “I did the field sobriety tests perfectly.”
Maybe you did, or maybe you did not. The real question is, did the cops give the field sobriety tests properly? A person who is taking a field sobriety test cannot always tell how they are doing. After all, you cannot see your own eyes during the eye test, and the cops are not telling you what they are looking for in any particular test. The truly important information is how you were told to do the tests, and how the results were documented. If the cop gave you standardized field sobriety tests, (such as Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk and Turn, and the One Leg Stand) there is a standard way to instruct and score the tests. If the cops did not instruct properly, the tests do not mean much.
8. “This is only a DUI the judge won’t put me in jail.”
The judge may not have a choice. There are certain minimum penalties; and, depending on the charges you could be looking at mandatory jail time. If you cannot be on probation, or if you did not take a chemical test, you are looking at mandatory jail time. If you were speeding too fast and driving poorly, you could be looking at a minimum of sixty (60) days in jail. The right attorney will know what to do to fight these charges and give you options and keep you out of County jail.
9. “Judge, let me explain…:
Talking too much gets people in trouble ALL the time. You have the right to remain silent, USE IT. People often think they can explain away driving, performance on field sobriety tests, odor of alcohol, breath test results and the like. All this does is educate the prosecutor and annoy the judge, or worse cause the judge to increase the burden on a defendant. Talk to your DUI defense attorney, and to your DUI defense attorney only.
10. “I can’t afford a good DUI defense attorney.”
You can’t afford not to hire a good DUI defense attorney. It is usually true that good lawyers are not cheap, and cheap lawyers are not good…but with some investigation you can find a good lawyer at a fair price. Without proper representation you will likely end up spending thousands ($1,000’s) of dollars more then you have to, and wasting your time as well. A good DUI defense attorney in Los Angeles will likely save you more money then they will cost you.
If you would like to discuss your Los Angeles County DUI case with an experienced and professional lawyer, please give me a call. I would be happy to give you a half hour free consultation and discuss the strengths of your case.
Call me – let’s talk…
—Los Angeles DUI Guy
Law Offices of Mark Rosenfeld