For the average person, being arrested and charged with driving under the influence, or DUI, is a fairly traumatic event. If you recently found yourself in just this situation, you are undoubtedly worried about the outcome of the case and how it may impact your future. The most important thing you can do for yourself at this stage of the proceedings is to retain the services of an experienced Nebraska DUI defense attorney. Of course, if you have never needed a criminal defense attorney before, even that may seem like a daunting task. Once you have managed to choose an attorney, however, you will likely remain unsure of your relationship with your attorney. Like many defendants, you may be reluctant to be completely open and honest with your attorney; however, this reluctance could seriously harm your defense and hamper your attorney’s ability to do his/her job well. With that in mind, keep in mind that there are at least five things you should always tell your DUI attorney to ensure that he/she can provide you with the best advice and defense possible.
The Attorney-Client Relationship
All attorneys are required to abide by a set of ethical standards set forth in the Rules of Professional Conduct. One of those deals with the confidential nature of the attorney-client relationship. Except under very narrow circumstances where it is necessary to prevent future injury or death, an attorney is not allowed to divulge anything a client tells the attorney. Known as “attorney-client privilege,” it is considered necessary for an attorney to be able to truly represent a client. Therefore, you do not need to worry that anything you tell your attorney will be shared with the police, the prosecutor, or even your attorney’s spouse.
The Job of a Criminal Defense Attorney
Yet another important point is that a criminal defense attorney’s job is not to prove a client is innocent. In fact, the defense is not required to prove anything at all. The American judicial system puts the burden on the State, through the prosecuting attorney, to prove that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A criminal defense attorney’s job is to make sure the State cannot accomplish this goal. Put another way, a criminal defense attorney’s job is to make sure that a client is not convicted unless the State has proved every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
What Must You Tell Your DUI Attorney?
As a general rule, your DUI attorney will not ask a question unless the answer is important. While it is not important that you are innocent, an attorney cannot knowingly allow you to commit perjury, or lie, on the stand. Therefore, attorneys tend not to ask questions unless the answer is necessary to the preparation of the defense. Some answers are more important than others, such as the answer to the following questions:
- Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense? This is a crucial piece of information that your DUI attorney needs for several reasons. Any previous conviction could have an impact on you at sentencing if you are convicted of the instant offense; however, a previous drug or alcohol related conviction could also increase the severity of the instant offense. Even if the conviction was a long time ago in another state, be honest with your attorney about it.
- Who saw you drinking prior to your arrest? In other words, were you at a bar where 50 people watched you guzzle down drinks or where you at home having a beer and watching television. Attorneys do not like surprises so your attorney needs to know who can testify to how much you consumed.
- Did you answer questions during the stop? Despite being warned by TV cops and big screen detectives to remain silent when questioned by a police officer, most people start talking. Your answers can, and likely will, be used against you in court so your DUI attorney needs to know what you said.
- Were you able to perform the field sobriety tests? It is common practice for law enforcement officers to ask a suspect to perform a series of field sobriety tests (FSTs) if the officer has reason to believe that the suspect is under the influence. If you did perform the tests, and you are certain you performed them well, your attorney needs to know. These days, a dash mounted camera likely has the tests on video so your attorney may ask for a copy or let it go, depending whether it helps or hurts your case.
- Do you have any medical conditions? This can be a tremendously important question because certain conditions can affect a suspect’s performance on the FSTs and/or on the breath test typically administered after being placed under arrest.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence, or DUI, in Nebraska contact the Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense attorney.