Is it worth it to hire an attorney for a DUI? This is one of the most common questions I get asked. "I mean really, what can you do for me? If I’m just going to get convicted anyway, why pay a lawyer?" My answer is simple, "Yes! You need a lawyer." No matter how bad your case looks, hire a "competent" lawyer that will not just do for you what you could do for yourself. Here is three examples of people that asked me that question over the past year, took a chance on me, and got their answer in August of 2010.
1. Citizen pulls out of a store on Hill Air Force Base and does not use his blinker. The officers pull him over for not signaling. The police notice slurred speech, odor of alcohol, horrible balance problems, and red blood shot eyes. He fails all the field sobriety tests and is taken to the station for an intoxilyzer test. The result was a .13. He hires me. We are in Federal Court where many people plead guilty, don’t hire lawyers, and take their blows. We stood up and said "Not Guilty your honor. We want a trial." We first did a suppression hearing. The government’s case was dismantled because just by doing that hearing we learned the officer was not certified on the intoxilyzer, that the intoxilyzer had not been checked for months, and the officer did not conduct test in an accurate and reliable manner that would ensure the Brac was accurate. Next we learned that the field tests were conducted by untrained officers and the officer wrote three different reports and reported different clues in each report. His answer at the end, "Mr. Neeley, it was worth it to fight this case."
2. A woman was pulled over in Tooele. The officer smelled alcohol, saw red blood shot eyes, and heard slurred speech. The woman failed all field sobriety tests according to the officer. She blew a .10 at the station. The woman hired another lawyer that told her to take a plea deal to an impaired driving. She was not comfortable with that and hired me. I reviewed the video and discovered things were not as the officer reported. The woman’s license plate light was not out as reported by the officer and she did not do bad on the field tests at all. We filed a motion to dismiss the case. The city attorney agreed with my motion and dismissed the case.
3. Salt Lake City officer arrested this citizen accused for DUI. He was driving down the road with his rear hatch open. The citizen pulled over, got out, locked his doors and through the keys in the car and shut the doors. He said, take me to jail, I have done nothing wrong. The officer claimed poor balance, slurred speech, red blood shot eyes, relaxed facial tones, and very uncooperative. The man elected not to take a breath test. This man’s case went to trial. Not Guilty by the Jury.
Is it worth it to hire a lawyer? Given the potential consequences of 10 years on your record, loss of job, loss of professional licensing, stigma, costs, and harm to reputation; well you will have to decide. Just because the government says you are guilty, does not make it so.