You’ve just been arrested for DUI. The police hold you for a few hours then you’re granted bond and walk out of the county jail. Now what?
You should call an attorney immediately. There are certain rights that are implicated on some DUI arrests that you’ll need to address ASAP. The main ones relate to your right to drive and an Administrative License Suspension (ALS), and others involve collecting and preserving evidence that may be useful to your defense that only an experienced attorney will be able to identify and help collect. That’s not the point of this article. The point of this article is to give you some generally “good ideas” that will make the defense of your case much easier.
I recommend doing these in this order. The evaluation and treatment is important because it shows that you are pro-active in identifying and dealing with any underlying issues that may have led to your arrest. The community service shows that you take this matter seriously and are wanting to make recompense for any wrong that you might have done to get you arrested. The other two are less important for negotiations.
The main goal is to get the charges reduced to “not-a-DUI”. Prosecutors are more inclined to do this if the defense attorney gives the prosecutors good reasons to reduce the charge – being pro-active and getting professional opinions and help shows responsibility and gives your attorney something to show on your behalf. A second benefit is that, if you are convicted of anything – DUI or not – then you will likely be required to do these things. Doing them ahead of time will keep you from having to do them on probation and will give your probation officer less reasons to try to violate you and throw you in jail.
The vast majority of cases don’t go to trial. Most cases are resolved by some plea agreement where the state and defense “meet in the middle” where everyone can agree. Doing these simple things helps grease the wheels and helps your attorney negotiate for the best deal possible.
That being said, you need an attorney who is willing and ready to fight your case through trial in order to get the best deal. At Perrotta, Lamb, and Johnson we prepare every case for trial from the very first day we get in it. Often times an aggressive and prepared defense causes the state to back down on some or all of the charges. Sometimes the state’s attorneys won’t, even when the defense has a good case. When that happens you’ll want a team of experienced and ready litigators in your corner ready to defend you, your case, and your freedom at trial.
"There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop!"
Mario Savio, 1962.
Tony wouldn't take "no" for an answer. He had tried to solve the problem peacefully, through all the appropriate routes, but the administrative agency simply would not help. After the third time trying to meet the boss in person, and on the third time being refused and turned away, he refused to go. He expressed his frustration with the system and with the administration and with each administrator, so they called the cops. He expressed his frustration with the police and how they were 'handling' him and how the entire situation was completely absurd. His voice, his protest, fell on deaf ears. He was arrested and charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.
But let’s back this story up about two years.
Tony lived peacefully in North Georgia. He was on disability and working his way through school, but otherwise kept to himself and spent a lot of time doing research in the library. One day he received a notice in the mail about his medicaid use in South Georgia. Someone, using his name and identity, had been receiving addiction counseling and care in a South Georgia rehab facility, and Tony was going to be on the hook for it.
Tony called medicaid to report the fraud. They directed him to the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), the administration that manages Tony's medicaid benefits. He called DFCS to report the fraud. They tell him to fill out some forms and send them in; he does. Months pass and he gets another notice about his medicaid benefits being used in a different area of Georgia for addiction and related services - but still no word from DFCS about solving this fraud problem. He calls them again and they tell him to fill out the same forms and send them in; he does. Nothing happens for months. He calls them and they make him do the same thing. This time though, someone from DFCS gives Tony his contact information - a main point of contact to personally handle Tony's fraud case.
For months, Tony and his contact exchanged periodic e-mails. These were mostly Tony checking in every few weeks to see if there was any progress - there was none. Over the course of the next few months, Tony was sent up and down the administrative ladder. He was bounced between many departments and spoke to a number of various supervisors with fancy government titles, but nobody actually helped him. Finally he was sent back to his original 'personal' point of contact and told to come into his office to handle this fraud.
Tony doesn't own a car - it's part of his disability. He walks and takes public transit everywhere he goes. His trip to the DFCS office to meet with his personal point of contact took him over 3 hours, one way. When he got to the DFCS office, they turned him away at the door - he "didn't have the appropriate papers" even though he had everything that they told him to bring. After a few weeks and more calls, e-mails, and letters, Tony was told to come back to the DFCS office to meet with his point of contact. He traveled three hours out to the DFCS office and was promptly turned away at the door - his point of contact hadn't properly scheduled the meeting. Another month later, after more calls, e-mails, and letters, Tony was told to come back to the DFCS office AGAIN. He traveled three hours there, waited in line, and then was told again that they didn't schedule him right.
That broke his patience. After months of calls, e-mails, letters, 15 hours of travel to and from the DFCS office, and their continued refusal to help him report and fix a fraud, he couldn't take it anymore. He lost it in the DFCS waiting room, the police came, and he was arrested.
He bonded out and hired attorney Chris Cahill to represent him. The procedure in the misdemeanor case took about a year. Mr. Cahill negotiated the case to where he would receive no punishment - no fines, no jail, no probation - if he pleaded guilty and admitted that he was out of place. Tony rejected that deal, "f*** them, take it to trial!" knowing that a loss at trial would very likely result in some jail time, fines, and probation.
Jury selection proved interesting. Through dozens of questions across a panel of prospective jurors, attorneys try to pick a fair jury. Really it's juror DEselection, because the lawyers don't get to pick who they can keep, but rather they get to remove jurors that they think won't like their case. Attorney Cahill asked if anyone had actually seen a DFCS office - these offices are absolute chaos because they are the dustbin for all the difficult government functions, mixing the worst stereotypes of the DMV and government employees with families in complete crisis and folks with serious disabilities and health issues. Three jurors stated that they'd been to the DFCS office, and the state removed all three of them because they didn't want anyone on the jury who had actually experienced the frustration of the DFCS office. Another question Mr. Cahill asked was, "Who has participated in any protests or demonstrations?" About half the jury pool raised their hands. There were some who participated in the women's march and BLM recently, and then very last prospective juror - a lady with a kind face and knee-length salt-and-pepper hair - told us that she had participated in the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots. "Yeah I was there. I got pepper-sprayed and everything! It was a good time." With the attorney for the state having already used all of her strikes, Mr. Cahill planned his strikes to keep this salty original hippy.
The trial proceeded immediately after jury selection. The state first put the officer on the stand - he stated that he didn't see anything but that he told Tony to leave, Tony didn't leave, so he arrested Tony. Next was the security officer who stated pretty much what the police officer stated. Finally there was the manager of that location, Tony's personal contact. This man stated that he knew about Tony's issue, but didn't know a lot about it. He stated that it was his job to address medicaid fraud complaints, like Tony's. He knew that Tony had a long-standing fraud issue, and he knew that it had not been resolved. He knew that the fraud issue was what Tony was trying to solve that day. Mr. Cahill then asked a fairly simple question: "Who owns DFCS?" The manager couldn't answer the question. "The people of the State of Georgia, I guess."
Once the State closed their case, Tony took the stand. He described the fraud issue and all his efforts to resolve it through the proper channels. He described how all of his efforts, following their instructions to the letter, were in all useless. He described how he was told to come the the DFCS office to resolve the issue, and how it took him three hours to travel each way to and from the DFCS office. He described how, despite his best efforts, he was continuously rejected by the very people who were supposed to help him. On the stand he testified that, even after everything that he did, and after everything he continued to try over the year in which the criminal case against him was pending, that the fraud had STILL not been addressed.
The state's attorney then tried to cross examine Tony using all their standard methods. Tony, however, is an exceedingly intelligent person who spent over two years studying DFCS procedures in order to deal with the fraud claim. Tony didn't just stand up to a thorough cross examination, he dominated it. By the end of the cross examination the attorney for the state was completely defeated.
Closing arguments were brief. The attorney for the state's theme revolved around keeping order in the government office and emphasizing that Tony wanted the DFCS office to work how he wanted them to work. Mr. Cahill's closing focused on the cost to Tony of DFCS's mismanaging Tony's complaint, rationalizing Tony's frustration, and stating firmly that all we want the DFCS office to do is their job duties. Mr. Cahill framed Tony's outburst as an act of protest and that he, as a citizen of the State of Georgia, was entitled to the basic governmental services that the government took upon itself to complete. "All we're asking is that they just DO THEIR JOB."
The jury deliberated for less than 30 minutes. They came back and announced NOT GUILTY on both misdemeanors. Tony was free to go.
This case had a number of interesting facets. First, there is the mind-boggling inefficiency of government administration. They set up a system, the system breaks or is abused, a person tries to follow the system to fix the problem, and the system breaks for him too. Second there's the way that the government deals with criticism - with the upstart's immediate arrest. Third we have the absolute refusal of the state prosecutors to admit when they are wrong. The negotiations were to a point of NO PUNISHMENT. The prosecutors were willing to let this guy go but they weren't willing to do that unless he said he was guilty of a crime, and if he continued to assert his innocence then he risks being put in jail by the judge after trial. They were saying, in a way, that they'd want to let a guilty man go free and let an innocent man risk jail. Fourth we have an interesting juror dynamic. On the one side, the state specifically excluded jurors who had actually seen how DFCS works - the most valuable people to have on a jury because they have first-hand experience with the exact government office being scrutinized. That means that the state's attorney wanted to pick a jury that was not knowledgeable on the subject matter. On the other side, Tony and Mr. Cahill had the 'pick of the litter' as to folks who participated in active protest, the folks who could best identify with the defendant and the defense theory of protest. The final really interesting aspect is Tony's testimony. He was able to tell his story in excellent detail and he was the most knowledgeable person about DFCS procedures (even compared to the DFCS manager who testified).
Together, Tony and Mr. Cahill fought the uphill battle against the system. They fought against a system that refuses to help and responds to criticism with persecution. They picked a good fight and got a fair jury. They presented their case and ultimately the jury made the right decision, finding the defendant not guilty on all counts.
Despite the win, Tony’s fraud claim has still not been resolved.
In Georgia and around the country, there are an endless number of lawyers who represent people pursuing claims for personal injuries. Some of these lawyers practice in giant corporate firms with hundreds of lawyers; others practice in medium or small law firms, or even practice by themselves. Lawyers who represent people who have been injured use different means to advertise their services to the public. Many of the larger firms use television ads to promote their law firms. These lawyers create impressive television commercials, and they tell us that they have the best attorneys available to meet your needs. They tell us that all of the other attorneys are bad.
But are you really getting the best possible legal services when you contact the giant law firms with television advertisements? In my mind, the best answer to that question is: “who knows?” A gigantic corporate injury law firm is set up to operate like a vast machine. When you contact the number on your screen, your call goes to the firm’s out-of-state central office building to a multi-floor bank of call screeners. If you pass their test questions, they ascertain your location and then farm your legal matter out to a satellite office in your general region. You are assigned an attorney with support employees. Then those persons begin the process of running your case through the mill in attempts to reach a settlement. If settlement doesn’t happen, then your claim continues through the mill into a lawsuit. Statistically, only a tiny percentage of personal injury lawsuits ever go to a jury trial.
To be sure, the giant corporate law firm has thousands and thousands of cases that must be processed at any given time. And to be sure, for purely business reasons, the gigantic law firm must make every effort to keep the process as uniform, streamlined and efficient as possible. But the further your case goes through the process, the less uniform, streamlined and efficient it becomes. The further your case goes, the closer it is to becoming a “problem child.” Welcome to the machine.
Given these facts, you can imagine the complaints that clients of giant corporate injury law firms have about their representation. Clients tell us that neither the man on the commercial, nor his look-alike sons ever provided any legal services to them; they never even met the folks in the commercials. In fact, they never met the lawyer who was assigned to them, or the lawyer’s helpers, in person. The firm’s offices are too far away. They have trouble getting anyone on the phone; they have trouble getting information from their lawyer, they don’t receive return phone calls. Time passes and they never know what is going on with their case. Some complain that they have no specific person to contact; they’ve called the firm over time and have spoken to five different people. And often times the person they speak to is unfamiliar with their case.
But when a firm has 400 lawyers, 1000s of employees and tens of thousands of clients at any given time, what else can one expect? The bottom line is that it is a big mistake to expect that you are going to get any kind of personalized service from a giant TV law firm. Maybe you will; maybe you won’t. Who knows?
But in reality, injury lawsuits can involve issues that are critical to our lives. And every person’s legal matter is completely different from every other person’s legal matter. So it is impossible to effectively approach clients’ legal matters in any kind of uniform, cookie-cutter manner. It is absolutely critical that each person’s legal matter gets the individualized attention that it needs and deserves. So one should be very cautious when turning over the most important matters in their lives to giant, corporate injury law firm “machines.”
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for more about giant corporate TV law firms in the near future!