HOW THE DUI BEGINS
Most likely, this all began in an “oh crap” moment. You saw the red flashing lights behind you and pulled over. The officer approached your vehicle and asked you for “Your license and registration, please.” Maybe the next question was “Sir, have you been drinking?” At this point, the officer is deciding whether to arrest you for DUI. You exit the vehicle, possibly unsure why you were pulled over in the first place, or whether you said anything that was wrong. You do a series of tests that you’re sure are designed to Olympic level athletes look uncoordinated. Things go downhill.
If you have been charged with DUI, your next steps affect your freedom, finances, reputation and driver’s license.
- Freedom. In Wyoming, a misdemeanor DUI is punishable by up to 180 days in jail. A first offense has a mandatory minimum of one day of jail. A second offense within 10 years has a mandatory minimum of 7 days jail. A third offense within 10 years has a mandatory minimum of 30 days jail.
- Finances. The maximum fine for a misdemeanor DUI is $750, although the Courts can and do tack on special assessments. Additionally, you can be required to drug and alcohol cases and must pay those costs. You typically are required to purchase special SR22 insurance for your vehicle.
- Reputation. People find out; some people will judge you, but many people will understand. Also, Teton County arrest photos are typically posted to the jail website. From that website, unscrupulous third parties copy your photo and post it to their lame websites like mugshots.com.
- Driver’s license. This is worthy of its own separate discussion. However, you should know that your license is likely going to be suspended for a minimum of 90 days and that you’ll have to take several steps after 90 days to get it back. You can fight the driver’s license suspension. If you don’t do anything, it typically is suspended 30 days after the arrest, although circumstances vary. Additionally, in some cases, you may be eligible for a probationary license. If you have an out-of-state license, or were charged with DUI in a National Park, it’s different. Either way, it’s complicated.
For the past 4 years, I have defended people accused of DUI in Teton County and Greater Yellowstone region. I have watched dashcam footage where the law enforcement officer says “I just want to get this guy” and pulls my client over for no reason. I have seen officers mix up the field sobriety tests a/k/a the monkey tests, and fail to follow the required protocols for the breath test instruments at the jail, or the blood draw at the hospital. I have also seen solid police work, fair prosecutors and good judging from the Courts. Like anything in life, it’s a mix. Additionally, and not all criminal defense attorneys can say this, but I was on the other side. For two years, I worked as a prosecutor. During that time I tried approximately 15 DUI cases to a jury. I prosecuted another 400plus DUI, reckless driving, and open container charges that never got that far. I know how law enforcement thinks, what the Court looks for, and the arguments that prosecutors fear most. Now, if you want someone who doesn’t understand the public safety risks of DUI or think that it’s a serious accusation, then I’m not your guy. But if you want someone who takes the charge seriously, and will do everything in his power to make sure that the State can prove its accusations beyond a reasonable doubt, then I want to help you. I became a criminal defense attorney because I want to help normal people, who are trying to do the best they can, the same as everyone else.
I use a systematic approach to evaluate each stage of a DUI arrest. Here is what I mean. Every DUI follows the same basic pattern: The officer makes pre-traffic stop observations, and there must be a lawful basis for the traffic stop. The officer makes observations during the traffic stop, and there must be a lawful basis to ask the driver out of the car to perform the field sobriety tests. The officer must correctly perform the field sobriety tests, and correctly administer the portable breath test, if given. If the roadside tests are correctly performed, then there must be a lawful basis for the arrest. During the arrest, the officer must continue to follow the laws and rules. After the arrest, if the officer requires the driver to take a breath test at the jail, or a blood test at the hospital, then the officer must follow certain requirements from the Wyoming Department of Transportation. Post arrest, there are other rules the officer must follow regarding asking the driver questions and booking him or her into jail. You’ve probably seen the “walk-and-turn” test on TV, where the police officer makes the driver walk out nine steps heel-to-toe, turn and come back. The officer has the clipboard and is writing down each “mistake” the driver makes in this monkey test. Well, my job is a little bit like that. As the defense attorney, it’s my job to make sure that law enforcement properly takes every single step of the DUI investigation that I mentioned above. There are rules, I know them, and it’s my job to make sure that the officer follows them. If the officer didn’t, then I gain leverage when negotiating with the prosecutor, and have arguments to use when trying your case.
Where possible, I want to get the case thrown out. I always want you to move through this process in an efficient manner. I want to protect your driver’s license. If we can get probation to a dismissal, that’s something to consider. Let’s keep you from going back to jail. If there are fines, let’s figure out the right payment plan. If you’re from out of town, let’s minimize your travel back. If you are required to do community service, let’s set that up in a way that suits your life. This happens. It’s not fun. But it’s something we can manage in a smart way. My goal for you is to protect your time, money and reputation.