As a Baltimore Maryland DUI/DWI Lawyer I handle DUI’s almost every day in the District Courts of Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Because I am always in court I am often in a position to watch other attorneys handle, and in many cases mishandle, DUI cases. I have blogged many times in the past about these cases usually positing the question, “are you being represented by the right lawyer”.
I recently got involved in a DUI case that was badly mishandled by another attorney in Baltimore City Circuit Court. Here are the facts:
The defendant was a late twenty early thirty something man. He was charged in a pretty garden variety DUI in which there was no accident and he blew a .16. The only real aggravating factor was that the defendant was pulled over for speeding at 8:AM while driving to work. He told the officer that he had been out the night before and had stopped drinking at 2 or 3 in the morning. He had one prior which occurred 11 years prior and no other record of any kind.
The case appeared was very strong against the defendant. As noted the stop was solid as he was pulled over for speeding. He was clocked on radar doing 71 in a MPH zone. He smelled badly of alcohol, performed very poorly on the field sobriety tests and as I noted blew a .16. DUI/DWI cases don’t get much easier for the State to prove than that. The case ended up in Circuit Court after his previous attorney prayed a jury trial from the District Court in Patapsco which, given the currently line up of judges down there was probably the right tactical move.
But that was the last thing he did right. He then plead his client guilty in front of a bad judge on the very first trial date even though the judge told him that she was going to give his client 4 months in jail. One of the easiest things to do in the practice of law is to postpone a case on the first trial date in Baltimore City Circuit Court. Indeed more often than not there is not a trial court available even in the instances where you do want to go to trial on one of the first few dates. The attorney made no attempt to postpone the case and instead let his client go to jail for the longest sentence I have ever heard of for a second offender not involving an accident.
The defendant turned out to be a friend of a friend and this friend contacted me after the debacle I just described.and that I would attempt to get the judge to change the sentence. I warned my friend and indirectly the defendant’s family, that it is always much more difficult to fix a legal mistake than it is to avoid it in the first place.
I went on to advise them that I would have at minimum advised the client to do a 48 hour and possibly a 28 day in-patient program in a situation such as this one, especially in Baltimore City where the judges are among the strictest in the State on DUI’s. (I know this seems hard to believe given the amount of violent crime in Baltimore City but trust me it is true). At any rate I filed a Motion to Modify Sentence along with a letter accepting him into the 28 day in-patient treatment program at Right Turn of Maryland and a copy of a certified check for the entire tuition. I had a letter from his employer attesting to the valuable service he performs for the not for profit company where he worked. I explained to the court in the motion that the defendant’s prior attorney failed to realize the serious nature of his client’s alcohol problem which was indicated by the facts of the case and asked the judge to allow him to serve the remainder of the sentence in Right Turn instead of the City Jail or to at least set the matter in for a hearing to hear argument on the merits of the motion. But as I warned the client’s family, it is always far more difficult to get a judge to change a bad sentence than it is to dissuade him or her from imposing it in the first place. The court denied the motion without a hearing.