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The Hudson Law Office
Aggressive DUI Defense
Sarasota, Bradenton (941) 957-0500
Key West (305) 292-8384
Seven Crucial Tips to Avoid a Bad DUI Lawyer
by Tom Hudson
Admit it. You really donít like lawyers anyway. But there is no feeling worse than discovering that the lawyer you trusted
just wasnít up to the task. And of course, you'll never find that out until after the damage is done. So how do you avoid
an unpleasant surprise? Here are some common-sense recommendations:
1. Spend at least as much effort to find your lawyer as you would to find a barber.
If you moved to a new city, you would probably ask around before you chose a barber (or a hairdresser). At the very least,
you might talk to somebody who had gotten good results. And your hair will grow back in a few weeks.
Hiring a lawyer is a
whole different story. If your problem is a criminal charge, then the result is something that you'll be living with for
years to come. Do your homework. The Yellow Pages is only a starting point.
Talk to someone who has actually had to hire a DUI lawyer. Or
go to a lawyer who practices some other specialty, and ask him (or her) who is the best
DUI lawyer in town.
2. If you want to find a shark, look in the water.
If you need a trial lawyer, go to the courthouse. Ask the people who work there: deputies, bailiffs, court reporters. They
see lots of lawyers, and they know who is good and who is not. They may give you a few names. Often, court employees will
tell you that they aren't supposed to make recommendations, but be persistent. If you strike up a conversation and make a
friend, you are likely to at least find out who to avoid.
3. Experience Counts.
It may be hard to believe, but most lawyers never try a case in their entire careers. When you talk to lawyers, ask them how
many trials they have had. Get details. Civil or criminal? Jury trials or judge trials?
Wins or losses? How many in the last year? In the last
month? You wouldn't want to have your
appendix taken out by a doctor who had never operated before. Many
general practice criminal lawyers won't try DUI cases, but instead try to negotiate a
guilty plea on every case.
4. Don't hire a general practitioner to do a specialized job.
Some types of cases don't demand specialized knowledge. Certain types, such as DUI cases, do. More than any type of
criminal case, except perhaps homicides, DUI cases involve detailed scientific evidence. A complete defense requires command
of principles of chemistry, biology and physics, and familiarity with hundreds of scientific studies. Ask your prospective
lawyer if he has training in breath testing or the field sobriety tests. Don't be pennywise and pound foolish. If it's
worth hiring a lawyer at all, then it's worth hiring the best lawyer you can afford.
5. Learn some of the lingo.
Because DUI is one of the most
technically-challenging areas of criminal defense, it is helpful for you
to know whether your chosen lawyer knows his (or her) stuff. A few
questions may help you judge whether the lawyer you are interviewing
knows the science well enough to spot all of the critical issues in your
a. What is the "Partition Ratio?"
Any lawyer handling a DUI case should know that the "Partition
Ratio" is the conversion factor between the concentration of
alcohol in human blood and the
concentration in human breath.
In the U.S., the partition ratio is presumed to be 2,100 to 1.
Every competent DUI lawyer should know what the "partition
ratio" is, and what the authorities (rather arbitrarily) presume
it to be.
b. What is "optikinetic nystagmus?" When the police
administer the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests to a suspect,
one of the things they are looking for is "nystagmus," or a
jerking of the eyeballs when they track side-to-side.
Nystagmus can be caused by alcohol. However, when the
police administer the tests in the presence of strobe lights or
flashing or rotating lights, those lights can create the
very jerkiness that the police are trying
to observe. The jerkiness caused by doing the Field
Sobriety Tests with flashing lights or passing traffic within
view is called "optikinetic nystagmus." Any competent DUI
lawyer should be well-versed in this phenomenon, or should at
least know what it is.
What is the "Lambert-Beer" Law? The Intoxilyzer 8000
operates by shining an infrared light through a sample chamber
filled with the subject's breath. The "Lambert-Beer Law"
states that when there is alcohol in the chamber, it will absorb
a fixed portion of the light passing through. It operates
like a car's headlights, which will be partially-obscured on a
foggy night. The Lambert-Beer Law is the theoretical basis
of all infrared breath testing, and if your lawyer doesn't know
what it is, then he shouldn't be your lawyer.
6. Ask how much commitment the
lawyer has to DUI defense law.
There are few areas of the law more
complex than DUI defense. Nearly every DUI case involves
scientific evidence--from gas chromatography to infrared spectrometry,
from biochemistry to accident reconstruction. There are hundreds
of scientific studies which establish that some investigative strategies
that work, and others that are simply junk science. If your lawyer
hasn't read those studies, he or she won't know how to attack bad
Tom Hudson is nationally Board-Certified
in DUI Defense Law. That means that he has focussed his criminal
practice on DUI defense, and has undergone exhaustive
testing on his knowledge of the intricacies
of DUI investigation. He is certified as an Instructor in DUI
Investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and
has been trained as a Breath Test Operator under Florida law.
7. Understand the limitations of any lawyer.
You are hiring a lawyer, not a magician. Beware of false promises. Any lawyer that tells you that a case is a "lock" is
simply not trustworthy. Sad to say, an unscrupulous lawyer can make worthless guarantees with the knowledge that, if things go
wrong, then the client will not be in a position to do much about it.
If a lawyer tells you that a case
is a slam dunk, do one thing: Ask him to put his guarantee in writing. A conscientious and competent lawyer will tell you
the truth. No one can guarantee a particular outcome.
At the Hudson Law
Office, we focus
our criminal practice on one thing: the defense of DUI cases. Tom
Hudson is trained as a Breath Test Operator, as a NHTSA Drug Recognition
Expert (DRE), and as an Instructor of the
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. He regularly trains other lawyers
in the scientific principles underlying DUI prosecutions, and he is the
only lawyer in Florida who has successfully
completed the challenging Board Certification Examination given by the
National College for DUI Defense. There is
simply no one in this region with more training and experience to defend
your DUI charge. We try a lot of DUI cases, which means
that the State Attorneys know us and know that we are not bluffing.
Experience makes a difference. Let us make a difference for you. Call
us at 941-957-0500.
Our friend Jay Ruane of Connecticut tells you his take on what to avoid.
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