I was in a local municipal court earlier this week. In this particular courthouse there are generally two Prosecutors per courtroom. There is a negotiating Prosecutor that is outside in a separate room, and there is a Prosecutor inside the courtroom that is in front of the Judge.
So I was waiting to speak with the negotiating Prosecutor in the little attorney conference room with other defense attorneys. The defense attorney in front of me was someone I had never seen before, nor heard of. So it was probably a newer attorney, or someone who doesn't practice in the area of DUI Defense. Typically when there is a long line of defense attorneys waiting to speak with the Prosecutor I try to give the defense attorney in front of me some privacy. I have had situations before where I'm trying to negotiate a case with a Prosecutor and some defense attorney is right up on my business completely violating my personal space. So I don't do that.
But due to the tight quarters I couldn't help but overhear. I guess the defense attorney was asking for some plea deal on a Seattle DUI charge, but the Prosecutor said they wouldn't consider it until the defendant got an alcohol and drug assessment. Which is typically inquiry from the Prosecutor so I didn't think it was any big deal. The Defense attorney moved on, and I moved up in line.
After I was done speaking with the Prosecutor I walked out of the attorney conference room, and I started to look for my client to discuss with them what I had negotiated. As I was looking for my client I saw the defense attorney that was in front of me getting yelled at by his client. All I heard was the client saying how he has been in court four times, and the attorney has never told him to get an alcohol and drug assessment, and how upset he was for not hearing about this sooner.
Usually the first thing I do when I met with a client is tell them they need to get an alcohol and drug assessment. In fact I have written about the importance of getting an alcohol assessment previously on this blog for this very reason.
In my experience it is important to get an assessment done for two reasons. First often times it can help with negotiation especially when a Prosecutor wants to know whether there will be any lengthy treatment obligations. Additionally unless the DUI gets completely dismissed, any plea deal that gets offered and accepted will require the assessment. So you might as well get it done ahead of time so you have all the information in front of you before you make a decision. Obviously this defense attorney did not know what the assessment was, or didn't place a great emphasis on its importance. Either way he pretty much wasted his clients time, but not knowing one of the essentially items to do in representing someone accused of a DUI.
Matthew A. Leyba is an experienced DUI Attorney in Seattle, WA. His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other alcohol related offenses.