Friday, March 2, 2012

When in doubt listen to your client on their DUI case

This week I had a jury trial in Seattle on a DUI case.  After 2 hours of deliberation the jury found my client NOT GUILTY.  Throughout my career I have litigated almost 125 jury trials, which not many Seattle DUI Attorneys out there than can say.   But one thing I have learned from all those trials is to listen to your client and trust your gut.

This particular case I had was a pretty good case for us.  My client performed reasonably well on the field sobriety tests, his driving wasnt bad, and he didnt provide a breath test.  But the interesting thing about this case was my client turned down an incredible deal from the Prosecution.  A deal that would not have resulted in any jail, license suspension, ignition interlock requirements, SR 22 insurance, probation, and only a nominal fee.  He would not have had a DUI conviction on his record and he potentially would have been allowed to ask a Judge to vacate the charge off his record after 5 years.  

My goal in every DUI case I take is to try and get the charge dismissed, but if that cant happen then to try and get this exact same deal my client turned down.  Needless to say I thought he should have taken the deal, and I even told to strongly consider it.  But when he told me that he didnt think he was guilty of anything, and his trusted me at trial.  Well I was sold at that point, and I did everything I possibly could not to let him down.  

Of course it was an incredible risk to go to trial.  As I stated before juries are a fickle group.  Even though you get to ask them questions, and you get to pick some of the jurors to hear the case, and you get to have some control over who will ultimately judge your client.  It really is just a crap shoot.  There certainly have been times when I have gone to trial expecting a certain result and the exact opposite has happened.  Any any experienced trial attorney will tell you the same thing.  So you never want to expect or bank on a certain result when a case goes to trial.  Especially in criminal cases that are emotionally charged, like DUIs.

But in the end my client was right to believe in his case, and I feel honored that he had enough faith in me and my abilities as a DUI trial attorney to risk it all.  I was extremely nervous to try this case considering all that was at risk.  Plus the fact that my client turned down a great deal added to the pressure.  He was expecting a certain result, and he expected me to come through for him.  

When we got word that a verdict was in I remember I started to feel the butterflies in my stomach.  In fact I cant remember the last time I ever felt the combination of nerves and excitement at the same time.  Probably on my wedding day.  When the jury read the verdict it seemed like everything was in slow motion.  But when I heard the words NOT GUILTY a flood of emotion came over me.  I have never cried at a verdict, but I was pretty darn close in this case.  I remember my client looking at me, putting forth his had and telling me thank you.  And I have to say knowing I changed his life, and helped him in his time of need made me feel pretty good.  At that moment Im glad he chose to proceed that way, and now he has no criminal conviction on his record and he can move on with his life.  Just a great week for the firm.

On a side note.  When the Jury was walking into the courtroom prior to reading the verdict, several of them were smiling and laughing with the bailiff.  I remember thinking to myself these people are either completely cold about what they are going to do to my client, or they are going to walk him and they feel good about it.  Turns it was the later of the two.      

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