I've been negotiating DUI's now for quite some time and it is an interesting art form. It takes a combination of knowing your client and their situation and knowing the location where you are negotiating – who is the judge, who is the prosecutor? How do they typically handle these cases?
What will move them and make them give a lesser charge or dismiss a case? This comes through experience and having a good feel for how a particular court system works – and also having a good feel for who you're dealing with. The prosecutors are people just like anybody else. Some of them are tough; some are middle-of-the-road, and some are very easy to work with.
Seeking Best Possible Resolution
I've gone into court, looked at a prosecutor and said, you know what, there's no way I'm going to get the resolution that I want out of this prosecutor. I'm just going to continue the case and come back to fight another day. There's nothing wrong with doing that.
The bottom line is, the job is to get the best possible resolution – whether that's a dismissal, a win in a jury trial or some negotiated plea bargain – but as an attorney who has been practicing DUI for a long time, you have to know how to negotiate with these prosecutors.
Sometimes you have to negotiate with the judge if the prosecutor is not being reasonable. It really just depends on the circumstances of the case, what your client has supposedly done and a number of other factors that you gain through working hard, getting the experience, and you have to have a knack for doing DUI cases and negotiating them. That's the bottom line.
Tough Negotiation Approach In A DUI Case
One approach that I've seen used and I've certainly used myself is to go in and say, the client is innocent. We're going to trial. We need this, this and this. You've got video. You've got body-cam. You've got MVAR's – we need them. Just make the prosecutors think that no matter what happens, you're going to trial.
Sometimes that tactic is nice. Sometimes you do decide to go to trial, but other times you can decide at the last minute to say, listen, we think we have a very strong case. Here's what we have, but, also, anybody could win or lose at a trial so, we'll consider resolving the case but we're not going to consider resolving it unless you give us this.
That brings me to another point. When you go in there to negotiate as a defense attorney – and this is where clients need to be aware – you need to have a game plan. You need to know what your client will take and what your client will not take and that requires communication between attorney and client about the DUI case – about the negotiation process.
The lawyer has to tell the client. Listen, here's what I need from you. If the person used prescription medication for example and ended up with a DUI, you need to get the bottle. You need to show me what it says on the bottle about driving and taking that prescription medication. We need something from the doctor.
Go in there. Be honest with the doctor. Tell him what happened. Maybe the doctor can come through with some sort of a letter explaining what's going on and it's really not your fault. You would have had no way to know not to drive with the prescription medication.
Maybe it's new medication. Maybe the warning label on the bottle doesn't say anything about driving. Maybe the doctor didn't tell you anything. I mean, I could go on and on and on. That's just one small example.
Getting character letters to show that you're a good person and have a good job, etc., there's nothing wrong with that. I don't know how effective that is though, because a lot of people who get DUI's have that. Most people who get a DUI are not criminals.
They just drank and drove and fell right into a police trap or got into an accident – or whatever happened to them. So, just because you can get character letters, that doesn't necessarily solve your problem. You're going to need to come up with a strategy with your attorney that relates to your case.
What happened? Was your blood alcohol level not that high? Was it close to the legal limit? Bam! You're in business.
Challenging Results of Chemical Tests
Now we can attack the breath machine or the way they did the blood or whatever other issues surround having a blood alcohol level that's low because that's usually the best-case scenario. That's when you can get cases dismissed. That's when you can get lesser charges.
So, there are all sorts of different negotiating angles, but I think one of the biggest things is that the lawyer and the client work together. The client listens to the lawyer and gets what the lawyer tells him to get.
Also, the client and the lawyer come to a meeting of the minds as to exactly what the client will take and what they won't take, because having that in my hip pocket – knowing what my client will take – that I can use some effective negotiating techniques to try to get one thing when I know that I'm angling for another thing that is what the client will take.
So, there are all sorts of different ways to handle cases. I can go on, and on, and on, but I think the bottom line is we get you in for a consultation. We look at your case. We see what happened and then we get our strategy together. Based on twenty-five years of experience, doing thousands of DUI cases in-and-out of the LA court system, there isn't a case that I haven't seen. There's not a scenario that I haven't seen and I know the strategy on how to get the job done when it comes to negotiating cases in Los Angeles.