A real life example of hiring the wrong lawyer to defend a DWI case

I've written before about the importance of hiring the right lawyer to represent you . It's importance in any case, but especially important in a DWI case.

You probably think I'm saying that because I'm a lawyer. So I want to show you a real life example of what can wrong. This story is from a case report, so I'm not revealing any client confidences. It's not even a case I was involved in. It is however and example of what can happen when you get the wrong lawer.

The case is Ex Parte Watkins. If you know anything about the criminal system you know that the style "Ex Parte" means it's an application for habeas corpus - which means that you've been convicted, and trying to fix it. Mr. Watkins was charged with felony DWI (which means he had been convicted of driving while intoxicated twice before). He pled guilty, and was sentenced to 8 years in prison. He decided he didn't like that, and ended up getting another lawyer who filed an application for habeas corpus.

Mr. Watkins claimed this lawyer had advised him to plead guilty because he had looked at the video, and it showed he was intoxicated. The lawyer didn't show him the video though - Mr. Watkins just relied on his advice and representation. Mr. Watkins claims he didn't agree what the reports saying he performed poorly on the field sobriety tests, but apparently his claims were ignored. He later filed a writ claiming his lawyer was ineffective.

A hearing was held on the writ, and the court looked at the two videos in Mr. Watkins' case. The court agreed with Mr. Watkins, and found the lawyer was ineffective for not showing the video to him, and and telling him the video was not helpful to his defense. While the opinion doesn't say this, you can assume the video would have been helpful if Mr. Watkins had gone to trial. Otherwise, he would have been making accurate statement when he said the video looked bad, and there would be no harm.

I don't know the specifics of this case, but it does show the importance of hiring a lawyer who is going to do everything they can to defend you. I'm assuming he never looked at the video; otherwise, he would have known it wasn't as bad as the police claimed. That points out an important issue in DWI cases; just because the police report says you performed poorly on the field sobriety tests, doesn't mean you did. I cannot begin to estimate the number of cases I've seen where statements in offense reports were contradicted by what was in a video or audio recording. There is no substitute for a thorough investigation, and you cannot assume anything is accurate unless you verify it yourself.

Cases like this are the extreme, but they do happen. The problem is that most people don't know whether their lawyer is doing a good job or not. That's why it is so important to make sure you hire the right  lawyer for your case.

If you're looking for a lawyer, make sure you get a free guide to hiring a lawyer for your DWI case. If you want to talk to us about handling your case, give us a call, or fill out our contact form.

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 30 years.
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