Recently I had the opportunity to teach a class to other attorneys. All attorneys are required to attend and complete mandatory continuing education classes on various issues in the law. One of those classes offered was “How To Defend A First Time DUI”. Since I am a Certified Specialist in Criminal I was asked to teach this six hour class.
The questions I had to ask myself started with, what would I want to know if I had to defend someone who is charged with a DUI and I had no experience in defending against such a charge? That answer is, I would want to start at the beginning of the case and go through to the end of a trial so I would know what to tell the client to expect. I had to remember that the knowledge I take for granted isn’t necessarily shared by the lawyers in the class because they don’t have the experience I have.
The class focused on how to start the process of defending someone against a DUI. The request for a DMV hearing has to be made within ten days of the arrest. An appearance has to be made at the arraignment. A decision has to be made on issues such as, can I get a better deal in the arraignment court than I can if I enter a not guilty and discuss the case with the DA later? The lawyer has to do his or her homework to know the judge who is sitting in the arraignment court so as to know if settling the case earlier rather than later is better for the client. Is it a case that should go to trial? The lawyer has to know his court, the DA, and his facts. If he goes to trial and loses will his client be punished more harshly than if he had settled before trial? What’s a good settlement?
The hardest issue for the lawyer teaching other lawyers is to make the class interesting and informative. Maybe that’s the challenge for every teacher. But, lawyers being who they are, become a critical crowd and one that already feels they know what they are doing, even when they don’t. However, I guess the crowd of lawyers liked the “inside” knowledge and tips I gave them because they asked me back.