Do I need a lawyer for my DUI case?
by Ariel Rief, Esq.
That depends. I'm not a lawyer who tells everyone that they absolutely need a lawyer in all cases, no exception. For example, if you want to simply show up to court and plead guilty and thus avoid the added expense of legal fees, that is one of your options. You are certainly not required to retain an attorney or accept assistance from a public defender. But remember that even if you feel you're totally guilty, you still may have a legal defense or at least avenues to negotiate your case to lesser punishment, so I wouldn't be quick to face your without the help of a criminal defense attorney.
In other words, if you're serious at all about potentially fighting your case or at least making sure you don't suffer unnecessary consequences, you'll need a lawyer. First of all, a lawyer will know how to review the evidence to spot weakness or avenues of attack. Secondly, he or she will have experience and know the best way to negotiate with the prosecutor and to convince a judge to lighten penalties prior to trial. Lastly, defending oneself in court, regardless of the type of case, is very complex. It takes attorneys years and years to become even just proficient in the rules of evidence, let alone show signs of mastery. And then there's the law itself. DUI cases can be very scientific and complex. If proceeding to trial, you'll need to need to know how to pick a jury that gives you the best chance for success. You'll probably have to cross-examine an expert forensic toxicologist in addition to the officers. You'll need to know when and how to properly object when the skilled and trained prosecutor presents the case. You'll need to know how to file motions. You'll need to know how to concisely and cogently argue your defense to a jury. I can go on and on about the nitty-gritty of litigation, but the bottom line is that you'll be at a major disadvantage to fight your case without legal representation.
Lastly, as a practical matter, with a retained lawyer, you don't need to deal with the hassle of going to court in most cases, which means you don't need to miss work or other obligations.