Is Self-representation or a Court-appointed Public Defender Viable Options to Defend Your DUI Charge?
Interviewer: Yes, and do you have people that say, “Oh, well, maybe I’ll just represent myself or I will get a public defender.” What are the pros and cons of those options versus a private attorney?
Steven: I think years ago, people used to say, “I don’t want to go to a public defender, because they’re not very good,” but I think they’re pretty good. I think they’re very smart and very bright. I think a private attorney might handle things differently. In other words, if you hire a private attorney, he’s going do both matters for you.
Private Attorneys Can Devote More Time to Your Case
I think the private attorney might tend to investigate the matter a little more. I think the private attorney might be willing to stay with the case a little longer in order to have continued negotiations with the prosecutor and judicial pretrials. I would say that most people that can afford it do get themselves an attorney, at least in my experience. The public defenders are particularly good, in my opinion, but you must financially qualify to have one.
A Public Defender Cannot Represent You at the DMV Hearing
Interviewer: Well, if you have a public defender or you choose to defend yourself, I think you mentioned that you’ll get an incomplete defense, because the MVD part of it can’t be addressed by a public defender or by you alone.
Your Attorney Can Investigate Your Case during the DMV Hearing by Cross-Examining the Arresting Officer
Steven: They will not represent you at the DMV hearing. Here’s one thing about the DMV that’s important. If you’re charged with a criminal offense, you normally don’t see attorneys in the criminal bar taking a deposition of the police officer. I can’t think of any time that I have done that, although if you call a police officer and set up an appointment and he meets with you, generally, he’ll talk with you whether you’re a prosecutor or a defense attorney. Sometimes the prosecutors will tell him not to talk, but that’s not legal. With the DMV hearings, say I have a felony DUI case or one where there was a serious accident, I can have a full hearing and subpoena the police officer. I can put him on the stand and cross-examine him with regard to how he determined probably cause and why he did what he did, and where he stopped, and why he stopped the person. I can get a sense of how he’s going to be on the witness stand, and all of the questions that he says he asked the person in his report, and all the other reports that he generated, I am able to go over all of that with him. I can be a little bit ahead of the game at the point, later on, a year later, when I go to trial. If my client wants to go to trial, I can say, “You know, you got a really sharp officer here who’s not going to be flustered under cross-examination, because I cross-examined him before. He comes across as a pretty honest guy.”
Your Defense Attorney Can Subpoena Other Witnesses at the DMV Hearing to Help Prepare for Your Criminal Trial
It gives you a little more insight. You can subpoena other witnesses at this DMV hearing. Suppose you had a passenger in the car or a passenger that saw the police officer give the field sobriety test and they say, ‘The driver did what he was asked to do.” Coming back to self-representation, if you just go to the prosecutor and get the case dismissed through the AEP, that aspect isn’t handled. Generally, the public defender won’t do that. I’ve seen them do it on a few occasions where they decided to do it, but that’s rare.