In most cases, your first interview with your DUI attorney will take place at your attorney’s office. At that first meeting, your DUI attorney will: (1) ask you about what happened before, during, and after your arrest; (2) educate you concerning the charges, penalties, and your chances for success at trial; and (3) begin the preparation of your defense. See What your DUI attorney will educate you about.
An experienced DUI attorney will realize that your drunk driving arrest may be your first exposure to the criminal justice system. Therefore, your attorney should attempt to put you at ease and make you feel confident you will receive a well-prepared and well-informed defense.
Chronology of the incident
Your DUI lawyer should ask you to recite in chronological order the entire factual situation, starting several hours before the arrest, through your eventual release from police custody. It is important for your lawyer to know whether you consumed any food or other beverages prior to the arrest, as well as what types of alcoholic beverages you consumed and over what period of time you consumed them.
Prior criminal record
In addition to personal information (your name, address, telephone number, marital status, business, height, weight, and other personal information) your DUI attorney should also get a history of your prior contact with law enforcement officers, including any prior motor vehicle convictions and violations, or other criminal convictions. This information is important for the following reasons:
- Your DUI attorney will review and verify this information to ensure that you are being truthful.
- Prior convictions will affect any decision to negotiate a plea, if that option is available.
- Your DUI attorney may need to attack the validity of prior DUI convictions if you are found guilty, because, in many cases, a prior DUI conviction serves as the basis for a mandatory jail sentence.
Identity of witnesses
Your DUI lawyer will need to determine whether there are any witnesses to your alleged operation of the motor vehicle. You cannot be convicted of drunk driving if the state cannot prove that you were driving. If there are witnesses, your lawyer will need to interview them as soon as possible.
Statements or admissions
Your DUI attorney will ask you whether you gave any statements or made any admissions to the police. It is important for your attorney to know whether you remember making any statements or admitting anything to the police, especially with respect to the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed, the period of time during which they were consumed, and whether you were operating a motor vehicle.
Other factors that your DUI lawyer should cover in your initial interview include your physical condition at the time of the arrest, e.g., how much sleep you had, your weight, whether you had any disabilities that caused you to have imperfect balance or to limp, and whether you were in any way injured at the time of the arrest. Also, your DUI lawyer should asked you whether you were taking any medicine or drugs (prescription or otherwise), and whether you had a speech impairment or any other physical condition, such as diabetes, epilepsy, or heart disease, that might have affected either the result of the chemical test or your performance on a field sobriety test.
Evaluating your potential as a witness
Finally, the initial interview will help your DUI lawyer evaluate your potential as a witness. Basically, individuals charged with a DUI offense fall into one of three groups.
- First, there are the individuals who blacked out. Formerly, it was assumed that a DUI defendant who blacked out could not assist in any defenses because he or she could not remember anything; lack of memory precluded the defendant from being put on the witness stand. There is now a potential way to re-awaken that memory through the use of hypnosis in drunk driving cases.
- DUI defendants in the second category have some recollection of the incident but that recollection fades in and out. These defendants may also be assisted through the use of hypnosis. But they present a risk on the witness stand because of the substantial gaps in memory.
- DUI defendants in the third category have excellent memories of the incident. This type of defendant is a good candidate for trial, especially a jury trial. The defendant’s memory and attention to detail can assist in demonstrating to the court that he or she was not intoxicated.
During the initial interview, your DUI attorney will also be able to determine from your demeanor whether you are capable of “selling yourself” to the jury, or, conversely, whether you would project a negative impression to the jury. This factor will come into play when your DUI attorney determines whether to demand a jury trial.
Finally, the initial interview will assist your attorney in estimating whether you will be capable of withstanding the demands of a trial, especially a vigorous cross-examination by the prosecutor. Your DUI lawyer may run you through a mock examination to get a feel for how you will withstand cross-examination.