A judge would typically not permit someone to represent themselves for an operating while intoxicated case. The problem is that an OWI conviction is a major traffic offense for the purpose of the Indiana Habitual Traffic Offenders statute.
This statute states that someone with 3 major traffic convictions whose dates of offense occurred within 10 years of each other would be designated a habitual traffic violator and they would lose their driving privileges for 10 years. It would also be a point on their license which would require them to have SR-22 insurance.
I have never seen a judge permit someone to admit guilt without the assistance of an attorney because of the adverse reactions to a conviction for operating while intoxicated.
What Should Someone Look For In An Attorney, And What Are Some Red Flags?
Well, one thing to look for is whether or not they had any training with respect to field sobriety testing, whether or not they had any training with respect to blood or breath alcohol testing, how many of these cases they have had and whether they take these cases to trial. They need to be experienced with litigating and defending someone with those types of cases.
Some of the red flags that might arise are if someone called an attorney and they said they would take the case if the person brought in $500. That type of an attorney would probably just be aiming to get the person the standard deal and try and keep him out of jail which would be about it.
That might be okay for a lot of people, but someone who really cares about their case would want an attorney who is able to recognize the potential legal issues with the case and hopefully get a better result. The traffic stop might have been illegal, maybe the breath test was administered incorrectly, the field sobriety tests were administered incorrectly, and those would all be things that a more experienced attorney could recognize and litigate.
Why Would It Be More Advantageous To Hire A Private Attorney Over A Public Defender?
A lot of people think that a public defender might not be as good as a private attorney, which is really not always the case. It would be important to see whether or not the attorneys in that criminal defense arena focused on operating while intoxicated. Even though an attorney would not need a special license, a special degree, or special certification to defend someone accused of operating while intoxicated, it would still be important to have.
Being aware of the law and how to best mount a defense on behalf of the client requires the attorney to really have an understanding of science, blood and breath testing, and field sobriety testing. An attorney who really does not have a good understanding of those areas would find it a lot harder to develop a defense for their clients.
Are There Clients Who Want To Give Up, Plead Guilty And Throw Themselves To The Mercy Of The Court?
Sure, absolutely, and it is not uncommon at all, which is why many attorneys do not focus on operating while intoxicated law because many attorneys do not know what they can do for a client or how to develop a defense for someone charged with drunk driving.
An Indiana attorney is not allowed to say they specialize in drunk driving or OWI law. Some people just want to give up, whereas some people say they just do not want jail time or they just want to get their license back as soon as they can. I represent some of those people, although typically the people who find their way to me are people who would really be affected by a conviction and they want the best defense they can find.
What Would Be The Difference Between Pleading Guilty Or Not Guilty In An OWI Case?
The difference would come with people, especially in the larger cities, where there might be an executive whose work might get affected or it could affect someone's insurance or something like that. Professionals like doctors or lawyers, whose licensing could be affected, or a lawyer or any other profession that required a license are situations that would also have to be looked at with regards to pleading not guilty or just pleading guilty.
What Are Some Things You Would Recommend to Help Someone's Case?
I would recommend for the person to remember they are not required to engage in conversation and they are not required to perform any field sobriety tests if they were pulled over by a police officer. It would help the case because the field sobriety tests are designed to make people fail rather than pass.
Ways for their case to go better after they have been arrested would depend on the case, but I typically have all my clients, regardless of whether they believe they are innocent or guilty, undergo alcohol evaluation and complete any recommended treatment, because it shows the judge and the prosecutor that the person is taking their case or their allegations seriously. Regardless of what my clients feel about the case or regardless of whether it is a strong case or not, if it ends up in a conviction then I would really hope they were never in that position again.
What Should People Mention To Their Attorney That Could Help Their Case?
I ask people if they have any physical disabilities, if they had been injured before and why they were pulled over. It would not be a sign of intoxication if someone was pulled over because their license plate was out. Speeding is not a sign of intoxication because people get pulled over all the time for speeding and they are not necessarily drunk.
I try to look at all of the factors and determine whether or not there might have been just a vehicular problem or something wrong with the mechanics of the vehicle that had nothing to do with whether or not the driver was intoxicated.
Does The Client Not Have To Show Up If They Hire An Attorney?
Sure, but every county has different rules. In LaPorte County, the person would typically be permitted to waive the initial hearing for a first time OWI charge.
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