Yesterday I appeared on behalf of a client on a DUI probation hearing. This client was not originally mine, but retained me just for the probation review hearing. When I was a public defender I literally appeared on a couple thousand of these types of hearings. They can be pretty simple or they can be very complicated, depending on the allegations and the underlying offense.
For those of you that don’t know what this type of a hearing is. Basically whenever a person is sentenced in a DUI case, it usually is to a suspended sentence. A suspended sentence means that the Judge will suspend a portion of the maximum jail sentence (for a DUI its 1 year) and hold that over your head for the entire jurisdiction of the case (for a DUI its 5 years). Now during this 5 year period, conditions of the sentence are imposed. For example on a DUI case, a person will be sentenced to jail, fines, alcohol treatment, ignition interlock devices, and usually they have to stay out of trouble for the 5 years.
So whenever a person doesn’t comply with the terms of the sentence or they get in trouble again. A Judge will be notified of this and will schedule a DUI probation review hearing to address these issues. And sometimes the allegations of the sentence violation are so serious the Judge will impose a portion or in some cases all of the suspended jail sentence that was hanging over the persons head. This is what recently happened to Lindsey Lohan on her Reckless Driving charge. One of the conditions of her sentence was that she had to stay out of trouble. Now there is a criminal charge of felony theft and the Judge in her Reckless driving case revoked a portion of her suspended sentence. I think it was 120 days or something like that.
Anyway the DUI probation review hearing case I was retained on, at first glance was a difficult situation. The client had been in front of the Judge many times for other Review hearings. These violations ranged from new charges, and not complying with alcohol treatment. And usually when a person appears in front of Judge so many times, the Judge just gets tired of it. They say to themselves that the defendant isn’t taking this seriously, and there is nothing that can be done other than putting the person in jail. And in this particular case this was the likely outcome.
However in the end I was able to convince the Judge to impose 14 community service hours, in lieu of the remaining suspended sentence. How did I do that, you might ask? Like I said, when I was a public defender I regularly appeared on these types of hearings. And learned early on from another Attorney how to handle the Judges in these particular cases. This particular attorney is a good talker and knows how to smooze. I’ll refer to him as Brabazon.
Anyway Brabazon taught me two things with these review hearings. First he taught me how to highlight all the positives the defendant is doing, but at the same time not minimize the current allegations. For example if a person hasn’t been going to treatment. I might say “its important for the court to note that my client hasn’t been in trouble since this incident, and they haven’t relapsed.” “Although treatment is important, my client is not drinking and driving, my client is not committing new crimes, my client is not falling back into their old ways.” Etc, and etc.
The second and probably greatest thing I learned was how to “land on the grenade” for the client. And yes this term was coined way before the Jersey Shore. What this means is as an attorney you have to know when to take the heat for your client. Lots of times in these Review hearings, the Judges are really pissed off and mad at your clients. And you don’t want them feeling that way when they decide what type of sanction to impose. So right before a Judge is going to impose a sanction, and right when they are at their maddest. I was taught to diffuse them. For example in this latest case, the Judge started to say how my client only does things her way, and how the Judge told her at the last hearing that this was her last chance, and how she was going to put in her jail for a year. I then politely interrupted the Judge. Made a small joke by saying, “I appreciate everything the court is saying, and I know that Im coming into this pretty late in the game.” I then went on to tell the Judge that putting my client in jail wouldn’t benefit anybody. That she was doing everything she could, and etc. The Judge then kind of turned her anger towards me, and told me how big the clients case file was, and how many times she has come before her. I just politely said I know, and continued to smooze the Judge. By the time the Judge got back to me client, I had taken all the heat. And 14 community service hours were imposed.
Long story short, if you’re facing a probation violation on a DUI charge. Its important you hire an attorney that knows how to handle these types of cases. Lots of times, private attorneys don’t have very much experience with probation violations, because all their clients do what they are supposed to do. And thus they never learned these tricks and strategies in representing someone on a probation case. Because I was once a public defender, I have tons of experience handling these types of situations. If you have an upcoming DUI probation hearing, please contact my office for a free 60 minute case consultation.