We are a trusted authority on impaired driving defense throughout the state. With over three decades of experience in defending drunk driving cases, our representation has extended to nearly every county. Legal standards in the resolution of these cases are not only different throughout the nation, but also within each county in the State of Indiana.
As a result, it is critical that your attorney have a thorough working knowledge of how to best protect our clients depending upon the county court we’re in together. Throughout my website I have tried to include real world defense information not easily found elsewhere to aid you in finding the best attorney to protect you. Prior to retaining a lawyer, I encourage you to review the “Truths” Top Defense Lawyers Wish People Knew as an initial guide when pro actively working toward effectively safeguarding your legal rights.
Left unchecked, prosecutors have broad powers to put unsuspecting motorists in jail or prison. License suspensions can initially begin at one hundred eighty days to the rest of one’s life. In addition, alternative sentencing options are available to prosecutors & judges ranging from house arrest sentences to work release confinements. Such release conditions require defendants to reside in a confined facility when not working or in rehabilitative treatment.
We do not allow our clients to be taken advantage of. The role of a county prosecutor is not always in synch with that of the interests of a defendant being sentenced. Too frequently, a self interested prosecutor used to dealing with a public defender or local general practice attorney will seek unreasonable outcomes to a criminal prosecution without regard to the impact such sentencing can have on a defendant and/or loved ones adversely effected.
Everyone makes mistakes in life. Where a client’s case cannot be dismissed without the risk of trial, it is essential that your lawyer ensure that any sentence is one that preserves employment, limits undue license suspensions and recognizes the unique needs of a client’s home and/or family circumstances.
One being represented in an impaired driving prosecution must be kept informed every step of the way as to what is going on with their case and why as we work together on the best results possible for our clients. Unfortunately, each month we are asked to take over the legal defense of good people who may have not had the best legal representation. Many times attorneys who may have had the best of intentions did not have the experience and/or knowledge as to how to best represent a client in their care. It is possible that such an attorney has not devoted their practice to impaired driving defense or is a lawyer in one community who may be unfamiliar with the workings of a different county where the case is being prosecuted. In other more unfortunate cases, attorneys might not have had the care or desire to fully inform their client as to the developments of their case or simply refused to timely respond to reasonable inquiries about their representation.
An attorney’s responsiveness is essential not only in keeping a client informed of the legal process but also in terms of the filing of timely pre trial motions with the court that can enhance the prospect of a dismissal and/or provide leverage in securing the best results possible on behalf of a concerned client.
We believe that knowledge is power. Clients are not to be ignored. Clients in our care are to be educated as to their case in clear language that can be easily understood. As top defense attorneys our role is to listen and also to learn. Only by learning and understanding a client’s unique circumstances are we best in position to provide needed help and guidance no matter the challenges a case may present to us.
When you or a loved one is in need of legal care it is always the best policy to call me for free, anytime. Only by personal contact can we address the unique facts of your case and determine how we can be of help whether needing the best lawyer in Indianapolis or Bloomington, a smaller county down south or the region in Lake county.
What can happen to me if convicted for impaired driving?
Please remember that although the maximum potential sentences are listed, if we have been retained early enough following an arrest or investigation, it is often that we secure sentencing options at or near the minimum range available where a case is not subject to dismissal. What those minimum options are can be very different depending upon the specific county in question. For example, at the present time, certain central counties, (Madison, Delaware, Grant) Certain northern counties (Lake, Porter) and in some southern counties, first time offenses can at times be dismissed through agreements between your attorney and prosecutor and/or reduced to reckless driving offenses. In such cases, license suspensions otherwise required can be avoided. Often the devil of such agreements is in the details. However, an experienced attorney’s ability to secure and negotiate such terms are often most beneficial and worthwhile.
The majority of counties in this state do not allow for negotiated agreements that allow for dismissals or reductions in first offense impaired driving cases. In fact, some counties will require jail time, community service work and/or other specified conditions for first time convictions.
For first time convictions for impaired driving, a person may be put in jail for up to one year with a maximum five thousand dollar fine. Although the law technically states a minimum license suspension of 0- 2 years, the reality is that license suspensions range from a presumptive minimum of ninety days in most jurisdictions to a maximum court ordered suspension of two years.
This court ordered suspension upon conviction occurs after the initial one hundred eighty day imposed suspension by the Indiana BMV during the outset of ones case. As a result, although this BMV suspension can be terminated once a case has been resolved, the reality is that in the vast majority of cases, final resolution to one’s license suspension cannot be completed until the criminal prosecution has been successfully resolved.
If one has a prior impaired driving conviction no matter how remote in time, a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 days in jail or 180 hours of community service must be imposed no matter when or where the prior conviction occurred.
If the prior conviction for impaired driving occurred within 5 years of the most recent arrest, if there was a minor in the vehicle at the time of arrest or if the impairment resulted in serious bodily injury, the prosecution in question would be filed as a Class 6 Felony.
In such a circumstance the penalty range is six months in jail up to two and one half years in prison. Court ordered license suspension in such a case will be for a maximum of two years. However, if the Level 6 felony conviction in question was the cause of serious bodily injury to someone other than the driver, the court must suspend an Indiana drivers license for two years to a maximum of five years. Further, if the bodily injury conviction is against a Defendant with a prior conviction for Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated, a 5 Felony conviction would be imposed. (1-6 years in the Department of Corrections) with the same 2-5 year court ordered license suspension requirement.
If the prior impaired driving conviction was beyond five years but within 10 the charge will be filed as a class A Misdemeanor with the same maximum court ordered license suspension availability of two years.
Third offense convictions or higher puts one in the habitual substance offender (HSO) eligibility range. One who has accumulated at least 2 prior qualifying impaired driving convictions whether misdemeanor or felony is subject to 8 years in prison in addition to sentence on the underlying third conviction. Should a habitual enhancement be filed the additional sentence of up to 8 years could be consecutive, or in other words, in addition to the 6 months to two and one half years required.
In the above example, if not eligible for dismissal, the best case outcome would be the prevention of the hso enhancement with a community corrections modification to allow for potential incarceration to be converted to a home detention or work release sentence.
In the case of a third offense misdemeanor the minimum sentence would be 10 days in jail or 360 hours community service up to one year in jail, in addition to up to 8 years eligible for an hso enhancement.
It is vitally important to understand that one with three major moving violations within ten years in this state is also subject to classification of what is called a “Habitual Traffic Violator” with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. If one has been determined to be a Habitual Traffic Violator the licensed driver would face a mandatory ten year license suspension separate to that impose by the court. This is significant, for on far too many occasions clients have come to us from other attorneys who did not realize a potential HTV classification was looming upon the client’s third courtroom conviction. As a result, a defendant must realize that although a court can only impose a license suspension for up to 2 years, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’s determination of one as a Habitual Traffic Violator will cause an additional ten year potential license suspension separate from the court.
As always, it is best to contact me for free at anytime as each case and potential sentencing options are different depending on a variety of unique fact patterns.
Where a prosecution cannot be dismissed without the risk of trial, a well informed client may wish to take advantage of a negotiated agreement with favorable terms negotiated between a lawyer and prosecutor. Often courtrooms within a county will have different policies in regard to sentencing based upon the views of what types of agreements a judge will accept.
Where a case cannot be dismissed and a favorable agreement can be worked out between attorney and prosecutor, a judge has the power to accept and/or reject the agreement. The most favorable agreement terms are of little use if a judge will not order the terms worked out on a client’s behalf. As a result, your attorney must not only know the best tactics and strategies for ensuring that terms beneficial to a client are worked out with a particular prosecutor, but a specific judge as well.
As each county is different, we’ll be pleased to discuss the unique policies of your specific Indiana county and how we can best get you protected in whatever court you’re in.
The Best Ways Lawyers “Beat” DUI Cases
Far and away the most effective means to have dui cases dismissed is through what I call “Objective Evidence Challenges.” In other words, evidence that does not rely upon your word versus the police officer’s. It is in this area where the admissibility of the breath test or blood draw as well as how field sobriety have been conducted becomes a key issue as to whether charges can succeed in a court of law.
In accordance with rules governed by the Department of Toxicology the time, place and manner of breath testing must be strictly scrutinized in order to achieve the goal of suppressing such test results. Further, certification records of the breath test equipment as well as the officer’s ability to legally administer the test on the date in question must be aggressively reviewed. Breath test equipment must be certified and re certified once every 180 days. Officers must be certified and re certified once every 2 years. Should both certifications be valid, an analysis of the maintenance records of the breath test equipment must be undertaken. Although proper certifications will allow for the tests’ admissibility, a record of maintenance and/or performance malfunctions of a given machine can often be used to undermine the credibility of the test result itself. It is in this area where toxicologists may be utilized to diminish the credibility of the state’s evidence and explain how the body absorbs alcohol. Significantly, depending upon the level of bac test, such experts can often cast doubt as to whether one was in a legal state of intoxication at the time first observed by the officer as opposed to when the test was ultimately conducted based upon body absorption rates. Further, how the officer conducted the breath test, whether proper procedures were followed and whether the test was given within a three hour window of time must always be investigated.
Where blood draw results are the foundation of the state’s case, it is imperative that a proper “chain of custody” be investigated. Without clear and concise records to determine the whereabouts and identification of a given blood sample, the state will be unable to introduce such evidence. In addition, how the vial of blood has been stored as well as how it has been treated and/or maintained will often be a deciding question as to whether guilt can be established. It is not uncommon for medical providers and their employees to be unfamiliar with the maintenance requirements necessary for the admissibility of blood evidence as related to DUI prosecutions. It is up to your attorney to investigate these potential weaknesses as related to blood draw cases.
The second prong in the successful attack against DUI prosecutions revolve around the issue of field sobriety testing. Although police officers may utilize countless methods to detect drunk driving in their own unique ways, there exist but three approved methods for field sobriety testing nationwide. Such approved testing encompasses: 1.) The Gaze Nystagmus Test. This test measures the movement of the eye as a basis to detect impairment. It should go without mention that such visual observation, often at night, or in hazardous roadway conditions is only as reliable as the officer performing such testing. Persistent cross examination in this area will usually uncover that the officer’s conduct in some way was not in accordance with the approved testing methods governed by NHTSA. 2.) The Walk and Turn Test. Such testing measures physical coordination by having one walk heel to toe and then back to the officer in a prescribed method. Once again, cross examination often yields a significant difference in the approved NHTSA method for conducting such testing and the actions of the Indiana officer. 3.) Lastly, the One Leg Stand is the final approved method for detection of impairment. Often a jury has been entertained by a police officer who is unable to perform such a test within trial and presumably sober. In such testing the suspect is commanded to stand on one leg counting in the manner instructed by the officer. It is your owi attorney’s obligation to square how such a test was conducted with approved NHTSA methods. Where a test officer might have physical limitations of his own, it is never a bad idea to allow him to demonstrate his own performance of such a test before a jury.
Speaking as a lawyer for over twenty years, it is important not to lose hope if confronting a drunk driving prosecution. As a case is investigated and we embark on what is called the “discovery” process, the most challenging cases can often be won. Through this investigative process called discovery, the skilled lawyer has the ability to uncover evidence that will many times allow a prosecution to go from a potential nightmare to a mere nuisance. At the conclusion of the discovery investigative process, your defense attorney’s efforts at investigating the case can often point out potential weaknesses to a prosecuting attorney; weaknesses that can provide an experienced trial attorney needed leverage in extracting the most favorable terms possible on your behalf. In the best of cases it is entirely possible for initial dui charges to be dismissed or reduced without trial. No two owi prosecutions are the same. Although each case may be different, our goal is always to do everything legally possible to secure the best outcome for you or someone you care for.