You’ll find a million articles about what a good DUI attorney can do for you. But there are things you need to do to help them as well.
Many people who have been arrested for DUI err on one side or the other of this equation. Either they count on their St. Augustine DUI attorney to do everything so that they don’t have to do anything at all, or they try to run the whole show and tell their defense lawyer what to do. Both approaches are big mistakes, and costly ones.
Attorneys and clients have a professional relationship. And like all relationships, it’s a two-way street that takes two active participants working toward the best possible outcome. Of course, since many DUIs are first offense occurrences, you might not even know what’s expected of you with regard to helping your lawyer defend you and bring you through the experience with as little damage as possible. So here are some tips!
1) Stay calm, and level-headed. It’s understandable that you’re under a lot of stress and maybe even scared, but have you ever tried to work effectively with someone who just surrenders to their emotions and is hysterical all the time? It makes arriving at timely and pragmatic strategies very difficult.
2) Don’t try to be pals with the officer who pulls you over. We’ve seen it time and again. Those pulled over and questioned are as gregarious and engaging and forthcoming as they can be, thinking that will somehow make the officer “like” them and let them off with a warning. If they pull you over on suspicion of DUI, they have two goals…getting you off the streets and prosecuting you. No matter how nice or helpful they sound, they aren’t thinking about your interests. They’re trying to legally get information out of you to convict you. And they’re trying to do that before you have legal representation.
3) Don’t let officers convict you in your mind. Police officers say all kinds of things, much of which is designed to make you feel really bad and hopeless. But your guilt is not determined in a police station, it’s determined in court.
4) Know your rights and politely, respectfully apply them. Ask the officer what the probable cause was for pulling you over, provide the documents requested, do NOT agree to roadside circus acts like “close your eyes and touch your nose,” do NOT agree to roadside sobriety tests, and do NOT agree to warrantless searches. Ask if you’re being arrested. If not, ask if you’re allowed to leave. If you are arrested, say you want a lawyer and keep you mouth shut. The officers will try to intimidate you, and they may seem really mad you know your rights, but you should absolutely exercise those rights.
5) Have a lawyer at the ready, just in case. Last minute frantic searching for a good St. Augustine DUI lawyer and trying to get last minute bidding wars going won’t result in the most qualified representation. If you have a cousin who’s an estate attorney who’ll represent you for free, and you honestly think that’s going to help you, good luck with that.
6) Continuing the “keep your mouth shut” theme, if you can’t make bail and have to stay in county jail until your court appearance, you still aren’t guilty, so don’t run your mouth or seek advice from other inmates. And as much as you want to pour your heart out to and get emotional support from friends and family, don’t talk about any specifics of the case with them. This is hard to do because your arrest is all you’re thinking about, and you want to talk about it. But there are numerous unintentional ways to incriminate yourself.
7) Tell your lawyer the truth. That may seem obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many arrestees try to “play” their own lawyers. That’s a waste of your money. You can safely tell your defense attorney all the facts. That doesn’t count as a confession in court.
8) Listen. Your lawyer is going to go over all the options, the process, your odds, then make recommendations. Your mind can’t be wandering. You need to fully understand what they’re telling you and ask as many questions as it takes to make sure you understand everything they’re telling you.
9) Don’t adopt a combative relationship with your lawyer. Unlike the police and prosecutor, they’re sincerely looking after your best interests based on their knowledge and experience, even if you’re not hearing what you want to hear. Leverage their ability to either get the case dismissed or minimize the damage.
10) Always look your very best in court.
11) Always show great respect for the prosecution (I know…it’s hard), the judge, and the court in general. Don’t gripe to everyone who will listen about the process and all your perceived injustices. They’ve heard it a million times and they’re deaf to it.
12) Ask your lawyer how they prefer to be contacted, and unless you have a legitimate question that needs answering, don’t hound them. Give them some breathing room to do their work.
13) Take your arrest and prosecution seriously. Your lawyer isn’t working to get you off so you can go brag to friends how you got away with something. Driving under the influence is serious. Be reflective and sincerely remorseful. Take this opportunity to make much-needed life corrections.
14) Follow your lawyer’s instructions, get them whatever they ask for quickly, and don’t drag your feet at any point in the process.
15) You may want to go ahead and start community service and/or alcohol education classes. It’s not an admission of guilt. But it might help persuade the DA to offer a better plea deal or reduce the charges. Plus, even if you’re convicted, you’ll have a jumpstart on those sentence requirements and be able to end your probation sooner.
16) Follow through, to the letter and in a timely manner, any conditions of your sentence and parole. If your lawyer got you a great plea deal and then you botch the terms of that great deal, you both look bad and will get no deference in future court appearances.
Look back at item #5. Being arrested for DUI is a traumatic experience that usually leaves people in shock and not thinking clearly. Wouldn’t it be nice to already have a qualified St. Augustine DUI lawyer lined up for if the unthinkable ever happens? Keep the name and number of Shoemaker Law in your wallet or phone, 904-872-SHOE.