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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Raleigh DWI Trial | Why Not Go To Trial?

Recently, I was having lunch with another North Carolina DWI Attorney. Included in this Attorney's practice is Raleigh/Durham DWI Defense. I was explaining to him a case I had coming up the following day. As we went over the facts, I explained to him that I intended to call this matter for trial. He reiterated to me the facts of the case I had just explained and asked me what there was to have a trial on. I explained to him my strategy for trial and that was the end of the conversation. As it turned out, neither of us were proven correct as I didn't get to trial. Rather, the Prosecutor was forced to dismiss my client's North Carolina DWI Charge due to the fact that the Police Officer was in training the day of trial and would not be able to make it. Now, when this normally happens, the State would just ask for a continuance, the Judge would grant it, and the State would get another opportunity to get their Police Officer in for this Durham DWI Trial. In this particular case, I had already called it for trial before and at that time, the Officer wasn't available, so the State was forced to continue it, and the Judge explained that it would not be continued again. Fast-Forward to the new court date, Officer isn't available, and the Judge denied State's motion. Though the State has the option of re-charging my client (which I find totally unconstitutional, but unfortunately, presently acceptable due to case law) my client and me are hoping that this will be the end of the ordeal. I write about this today because it struck me as odd that my friend would think it shouldn't be tried. First, I felt that my arguments I planned to make in my Pre-trial motions to suppress had a decent change of being persuasive, in which case, had the Judge granted my Motion to Suppress, the case would have had to been dismissed or the motion appealed (the latter being the more common practice in this particular county). But, more importantly, I feel like most DWI charges should be taken to trial. I believe there are many reasons for this, but most importantly is, the trial is the unknown; you never know what will happen. You may have a good idea as to what will happen, but can't be sure. But, you may ask, what about pleading them out instead of trial? Well, funny you should (rhetorically) ask. In the counties that I practice (Wake, Durham and Harnett) as I assume in all other North Carolina Counties, the Prosecutor will not plead out a North Carolina DWI Charge to something other then a DWI charge. They will almost always dismiss the other associated charges (like if they originally pulled you for speeding) but not the DWI. So, a Defendant's only hope of avoiding the DWI charge is trial. In my conversations with other Raleigh DWI Attorneys, I am starting to get the impression that my theory is more in the minority then the majority. If true, I find this very upsetting. I charge a middle-of-the-road rate for representing someone facing a North Carolina DWI Charge. My fee is, what I believe to be, a fair representation of the time and effort I put into a case (well, technically, I think I should earn more, but the market being what it is, I do have to be competitive). Every client I get who is facing a North Carolina DWI Charge I spend a good amount of time investigating their case in order to determine whether their are any try-able facts. Even if there is nothing to hang a Defense on, my recommendation is almost always trial, just to see what happens. The North Carolina DWI Sentence the DWI Defendant faces is the same whether they plead guilty or are found guilty. So, unless there are other charges which could be dismissed that the Defendant wants to avoid, the best bet is almost always trial. Which brings me back to my conversation with the other Durham DWI Lawyer. Granted, my client had indication of impairment at the time of the arrest (though not enough, in my assessment) and he blew above the limit. For all intents and purposes, my client was likely guilty of Driving While Impaired. However, I felt there were problems with the stop and the arrest (see my blog post about defending these types of Constitutional issues and why it is important) and decided to have a trial. For my efforts, my client has avoided a DWI conviction (though not without punishment, when you consider multiple trips to court - time and money, my cost, losing his driving privilege for 30 days, $100 for the implied consent offense fee, and he completed a Substance Abuse Assessment in anticipation of a conviction). I guess my point is, this is an instance where due diligence and an eye on trial paid off for my client and should be the practice of all Raleigh DWI Attorneys.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

North Carolina DWI Law | What to Do When You Decide You've Had Too Many

Alright everyone, let's take today's Raleigh DWI Attorney Blog to discuss those who were smart enough to realize they had too much to drink, but still ended up catching a North Carolina DWI Charge. In the best of all worlds, when someone realizes they shouldn't be driving (and when I say, 'shouldn't' that includes realizing that, though you are fine to drive, you could still be arrested and convicted of a DWI regardless of how you 'feel'). For those who figured out this important fact early, they never get behind the wheel and therefore never run the risk of getting a DWI charge. For those who come to this realization AFTER having started driving, this blog will discuss some very basic advice that should be followed to help you avoid getting a 'Driving' While Intoxicated, even though you are driving.

Once you realize you shouldn't be driving, get off the road as soon as you safely can. Preferably find a parking lot or side street where you can park safely. Once parked TURN OFF THE VEHICLE AND REMOVE THE KEYS FROM THE IGNITION! Under North Carolina DWI Law, a Driver can meet the element of 'driving' in the North Carolina Driving While Intoxicated law by having the keys in the ignition and the car running. I have even seen convictions for keys in the ignition and the car NOT running.

Next, get OUT OF THE DRIVER'S SEAT! It's hard to argue that you were driving the vehicle if you are not behind the wheel!

Then, either sleep it off, or call someone to come pick you up.

If the Police were to come by, here are some basic things you need to remember. First, DO NOT ADMIT ANYTHING, but especially do not admit DRIVING! If you have followed these simple suggestions AND you don't admit driving, it will be hard for the State to prove that part of a DWI charge, which will be required for a conviction. If the Police Officer asks you to perform any Field Sobriety Testf and/or ask you to blow into a portable breathalyzer, can you refuse those as well. In fact, the only thing you cannot refuse without consequence is the Intoxilyzer, which is the machine they have you blow in AFTER you have been arrested. If you refuse, you will have your license revoked for 1 year, so it's up to each person whether they refuse or not. However, if you have done what this Raleigh DWI Lawyer suggested and turn off the car, remove the keys, get in the passenger seat or back seat, then you've already done yourself a great favor. With the addition of "Laura’s Law" a DWI Conviction is getting more and more serious, you want to do your best to avoid it!

If you have received a Raleigh DWI Charge or other North Carolina DWI Charge in the area, and are in need of a good Raleigh DWI Lawyer, feel free to contact me at 919-335-5291 to discuss your case for free!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

North Carolina Criminal Law | YOUR Court Date!

Back again to posting about my experience as a Raleigh DWI Lawyer and Raleigh Criminal Attorney. Today I found myself in a familiar, if not uncomfortable position. I was in court this A.M. for a court-appointed client. I waited one and a half hours for him to arrive, which he never did. I made a motion to continue the case, however the Judge denied my motion and issued an Order for Arrest. The Judge may have been willing to grant my motion had my client gotten in touch with me before his court date to let me know WHY he was unable to attend today. As it was, I had to admit to the Judge that I have had no contact with this client and could offer no explanation for his absence. To add insult to injury (which I obviously didn't share with the Judge) this client was over an hour late to his previous court date.

I realize coming to court is a big inconvenience. It's schedule during the week, when most people are working. To take time out of your work/life and come sit in a boring courtroom is nobody's idea of fun. But, regardless of how inconvenient it may be, it is still a REQUIREMENT that you attend. This is your court date, and your appearance is mandatory for most North Carolina Criminal Charges.

If, for some reason, you are unable to attend, it is imperative that you contact your Attorney BEFORE your court date so they may have a chance of getting the case continued without you present. Otherwise, you need to be seated in court, on time.

Something to consider, other then having an Order for Arrest being issued against you, is what your Failure to Appear in court can mean for your case. Your Shuck (the envelope which contains all the paperwork about your case) will be marked that you missed your court date. This is something that District Attorneys AND Judge's look at. They pay particular attention to it when being asked for a lenient plea or sentence for that individual's case. The court's position is, everyone else who is required to be there for your case was present, so why weren't you?

So, as a recommendation, do not miss your court date, and if you have something come up, contact your Raleigh DUI Attorney or Raleigh Criminal Attorney as soon as possible!