Saturday, December 31, 2005

Nassau DA-Elect to Nassau Criminal Defense Bar: When It Comes To DWI, IT'S ON!!

In her first policy statement since shocking Nassau County's legal circle with her election win over long time Nassau County DA Dennis Dillon , Nassau District Attorney Elect Kathleen Rice has announced that she intends to be tough on DWI. In her remarks before the New Year's day holiday, she has told the public that she intends not to plea bargain Felony DWI charges. Hence if you are arrested in Nassau County for Felony DWI you can expect to go to trial or go to jail.

Ms. Rice is not the first to notice that many Long Island lawyers who handle DWI's are reticent to go to trial. It will now be important not only to try Felony DWI's, but counsel should seriously consider trying all DWI charges, especially those at the misdemeanor level. Those first misdemeanor convictions are the predicate to a later felony charge.

Defendants in Nassau County often think that DWI's are unwinnable. Actually, if the money is invested into the defense, the cases are very beatable. I have won cases where the defendant was painting all day and went out to buy a cup of coffee. He was stopped and blew a .15 on the machine. I have won buy attacking the documents that support the arrest or the lack thereof. I have even won by showing documents and evidence was missing.

A major problem, is that many first time offenders do not hire expierenced DWI lawyers. They go with attorneys who have plea bargained a couple of criminal cases or who actually lie about their credentials. Learning to hire a real criminal lawyer, is one way to put a stop to prosecution edicts such as this one. Nothing stops expensive rules like this one than losing at trial.

Now the prosecution does not give winning information up willingly. We had to dig for it at hearings. We had to make motions, and seek discovery. We had to hire experts and we had to purchase manuals. We had to attend seminars. We had to go the extra mile (or two). Our clients were told ahead of time that the defense was going to cost over Six Thousand dollars and in fact some cases have cost over Twenty Thousand Dollars. Nevertheless, it was a better result than going to jail or losing an important job. DWI cases can be won. The machine is not perfect, in fact it is far from it. Many clients hired dump truck attorneys who bled them and pled them for a few hundred dollars. These people would return to us with even greater problems thanks to the half-ass efforts of prior non-criminal defense attorney counsel.

The facts are, that many, many, DWI arrests do not, and should not, end in conviction when the cases go to trial. The only issue is: Does the Nassau bar have the intestinal fortitude to be honest with defendants to tell them what the cost of a conviction really is, and how much a "real" defense is going to cost. Do clients, their families, and employers have the means and the trust to go forward with an attorney who knows how to handle this kind of a case.

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