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TOP TEN Mistakes to Avoid in A DUI/DWI Case


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1. Thinking That a DUI Conviction is No Big Deal

A criminal conviction is like luggage, it travels with you wherever you go. You CANNOT get rid of a drunk driving conviction. You cannot get it expunged from your record. You can’t hide it from your employer or spouse. A conviction is a permanent part of your record and driving history and will follow you from state to state even if you try to avoid it by applying for a new driver’s license in another state.

A conviction can result in increased insurance fees, and possible referral to the MVA’s Medical Advisory Board, where you could lose your privilege entirely. In addition to legal fees, a DUI conviction may include the following additional estimated costs:

  • Car tow costs $250
  • Car storage fee per day $25 – $100
  • Bail bond fee – $500 – $10,000.00
  • Court fine – possible $1,000.00 for first offense
  • Court Costs $57.50 – $150.00
  • Alcohol Counseling $500 – $25,000.00
  • License reinstatement fee $35
  • Insurance rate increase of up to 400% per year based on past history or even complete loss of insurance
  • Total estimated costs = WAY MORE THAN THE BENEFITS OF A FEW DRINKS!

2. Representing Yourself

This one may appear to be obvious but many people think they will save money by pleading guilty or trying to convince the State’s Attorney to give them a break. There is a reason why lawyers went to law school for three years and then spend the rest of their careers learning how to properly identify the issues involved in DUI/DWI cases.

The law is complex and you NEED competent and zealous representation. Most Judges will not give you the benefit of the doubt or cut you a break if you represent yourself. You will be expected to know the law and the rules of evidence. You must raise the proper defenses and objections or you will lose them.

3. Retaining the Guy Who Quotes You the Lowest Fee

If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Just as in any field, quality comes at a premium. If an attorney is taking your case for a fee drastically below prime, chances are he or she won’t or can’t put the time in necessary to raise all of the defenses, explore all the issues, and in turn, properly defend you.

Ask your attorney to explain why his or her fees are set at the rates they quoted. A good and confident DUI attorney will tell you exactly why you are being charged at a certain rate. After all, when you go to the Mercedes Benz dealership and ask what you are getting they are proud to explain and expand.

4. Failing to Request an MVA Hearing

If you don’t request a hearing, you will be automatically suspended for anywhere from 45 days to 1 year or more. Driving during the suspension period is a serious criminal traffic offense, which could realistically result in a jail sentence. There are vast arrays of defenses that can be presented to the MVA to save one from losing his or her privilege, but these defenses can only be raised after a hearing is properly requested.

5. Failing to Cross-Examine the Investigating Police Officer at Your MVA Suspension Hearing

If you hire the wrong attorney, someone who is either inexperienced or uninterested in your case, and that attorney fails to properly cross-examine or subpoena the police officer about all of the issues surrounding your MVA case, you will have failed to take advantage of one of the essential avenues for which you can possibly retain your driving privilege.

The hearing will be based on the officer’s brief report and to an extent his memory and this the MVA hearing is a valuable opportunity to lock the police officer into his testimony for future criminal proceedings. This can only be done with the assistance of competent and experienced counsel.

6. Speaking With the District Attorney and Taking His or Her Initial Offer

The truth is that the State’s Attorney will attempt to have you plead guilty. The State’s Attorney’s initial offer is often an unrealistic offer when compared to the facts. The first offer is usually not bargain; it’s just a way to get rid of your case with the least amount of work. Very few cases are dismissed or reduced at this stage. By accepting the first offer, you waive your rights to a judge or jury trial, to raise constitutional challenges, to consult with an attorney and to fight the charges. You give up your right to raise any and all issues and make the State prove its case.

7. Talk to Everyone But a DUI/DWI Attorney About Your Case

If you owned an Aston Martin Vantage, would you take that car to your neighborhood mechanic for an engine problem? Absolutely not! You’d take it to an Aston Martin mechanic, a British specialist, because that car is way too valuable to put in the hands of an average Joe. Then why in the world would you trust your future and freedom with a general practitioner?

An attorney who handles criminal cases, divorces, real estate matters, wills and probate and the occasional DUI charge is probably woefully unprepared to properly defend your case. You need to speak with a specifically trained defense attorney if you want to have a shot at effectively handling your case.

8. Thinking That Talking to Numerous Attorneys Will Help You Handle it on Your Own

There is no substitute for a qualified DUI attorney! Many lawyers, including Shapiro Zwanetz & Lake, offer free consultations. However, it is virtually impossible that information gained at these meetings will supplant competent, zealous, and specified representation. The great Abraham Lincoln once said, “A man who represents himself has a fool for a client.” That is as true today as it was one-hundred and fifty years ago.

9. Not Investigating All Available Evidence

In an average DUI case there are two separate police reports, a breath sample report, multiple citations, and often times A DASH CAM VIDEO. Without counsel, it is unlikely that you will have an opportunity to thoroughly inspect these critical documents. After all, one must be proven guilty BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. However, without specific subpoena requests much of this important evidence can be lost in the abyss of the trial process. It is imperative that all reports be reviewed and requested and that “no stone be left unturned.”

10. Not Taking Advantage of a FREE Consultation With Shapiro Zwanetz & Lake

This one is obviously biased and self-explanatory but in our opinion it is very true. The perfect way to test if we practice what we preach is to come in for a free consult. Contact us today!