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It’s understandable that people are often intimidated by the process of hiring an attorney and fighting their DWI charge. Most people I come across have never been summoned into court before, even as a witness. And now, the government is saying they're a criminal and prosecuting them!



Stakes are understandably high. Stress is understandably high. But the last thing that you or anyone else facing a DWI needs is to be too stressed or too scared to meet with me about your defense. To help ease your mind, here's what that meeting looks like:

Hit Back at the Officer's Testing!

Brannen Payne teaching Officers DWI Field Sobriety

Brannen is trained as an instructor under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's SFST Guidelines.

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Right off the bat, you've got two options:


Option one is to call and get scheduled for a phone appointment. That's a full consultation, just done by phone. I'm happy to take meetings by phone when that works best for you.


The second option is to call and schedule an appointment in the office for an in-person meeting. Most of the time that's preferable because you can bring your documents with you—medical records, a copy of your citation, a copy of the pink driver control sheets (though I have extras if you don’t have yours)—and anything else that you may have that has to do with your arrest.


If you bring all that in with you, what we can do is run the whole batch through the scanner, and that takes maybe 15 seconds or so to zip it all through. Then you and I have got a copy of all of our starting documents, and we’re off-to-the-races on your defense.

In either situation, my goal is that after our conversation you have a clear roadmap of your case and what our next steps are. Most of the time, the vast majority of those “next steps” are mine! That means that you get to leave the office with an incredible weight lifted off of your shoulders.

Getting Your Story


When we first start our meeting, I’ll get your birth date, contact info, and permission to speak with anyone else that you may want to be involved in our case—oftentimes there’s a spouse, parent, of friend that you want to list as an alternate contact. Of course, many people want to keep their case as under-wraps as possible and prefer not to list any other contacts.


Then it’s my time to turn the mic over to you to tell me your story. Some clients are comfortable launching into the full story of the stop and arrest, and others like to be guided with questions a bit more.


What I'm going to need to know to start is this: Where were you before you got stopped or before you got in the car? Were you at a bar? Your house? How much were you drinking? Again, anything that we discuss is completely confidential.

Then we'll walk through the stop by the officer.


We’ll need to figure out what his most likely reason for stopping you was. Going left of center, speeding, driving too slow, weaving within lane, and countless other traffic violations could all be claimed as the reason for his initial contact. This is one of our first avenues of attack on your case—attacking the stop itself.


Once he's up to the window, we'll deal with whether he had enough information to even get you out of the car to begin his field sobriety investigation at all. Then, of course, I’ll want to know how you did on the three-part field sobriety test. (See the following links for a discussion of the individual tests.)


The “Standardized Field Sobriety Test” is broken down into three different parts. There's the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (the HGN), the Walk and Turn, and the One Leg Stand.


During our meeting I'll walk you through each of these phases from start to finish. We’ll discuss what each of the clues are that the officer is trained to identify when he's performing those tests and how you think you did on each of them.


Once we’ve made it through field testing, we'll talk about whether a portable breath test was offered in your case, what the result was, the arrest process, and how the officer went about cuffing you and putting you in the back of the squad car. Was your car towed and inventory searched?


It’s likely that you were taken to either a city or county jail. Once you made it there, I’ll need to know if you gave a breath, urine, or blood sample, whether you were even offered one, or whether you decided not to take one.


If there's a breath or blood alcohol number in your case, we'll talk about the result and whether your bodily alcohol content was likely rising or falling at the time you gave the sample. Your BAC print-out will usually have two different results for your samples. Many times, those two numbers are not identical. It's either going up or it's going down. We'll dig into all of that and what it means for your case.


It’s likely that you were not given a copy of this BAC ticket when you were released or bonded out of jail—that’s normal. Getting a copy of your result is part of my homework, not yours.


We can then circle back with any questions that either of us may have about the field sobriety test, the stop, what you said to the officer, or anything else that we’ve gotten out there for discussion at that point.

Building Our Case Roadmap


Once we’ve got our story laid out, I'll take a few minutes to really dig into the biggest issues that I see in the case. I don't hold anything back, even during these free consultations, so if I see a strong issue for our defense we'll dive into it and explain what it means for your case.


Same with field sobriety—if there’s an issue that comes up with how your field test was done, then you and I will dig into what it is, why it matters, how that bears on the rest of your defense.

Your Case Should Not Seem Mysterious to You.


Keeping you informed and answering questions about your case is incredibly important to me.


I believe that trying cases to a judge or jury is an art form. (As is negotiation with a prosecutor!) I have no problem with you thinking that my cross-examination of an officer is just magically good at trial. (In fact, that’s what I strive for.) But actually identifying potential clues and issues is much more mechanical and “scientific.” It’s usually easy to explain if you know what you’re doing, and I want you to understand every aspect of our case. A good attorney should be able to explain your case in a way that eases your nerves and gives you confidence in their ability to lead your defense.


In my opinion, that’s what a professional service provider is supposed to do. That's what doctors do, right? They explain their procedures. Attorneys are not exempt from keeping clients informed of what's going on. I think that's ridiculous. Can you imagine going in for a surgery without knowing why?


Once we’ve answered all of your questions, and once we've got our game plan all laid out, we'll discuss our fee agreement and whether you'd like to get set up on a payment plan. By the time you and I finish, we'll have gone over our entire case. We'll also discuss your next court date and whether you’ll need to be there or not. You’ll know what your homework is, if you have any.

Your First Homework Assignment


Once you were released from the jail or cited out, the officer likely gave you two pink slips of paper. The top slip is your temporary license, which is likely good for thirty days following your arrest (if it was otherwise valid).[1] After that thirty days runs, your license will likely be suspended if you don’t win your drivers’ license hearing. You must request this hearing within seven days of your arrest. The second pink slip is the form on which you request that hearing. If you don’t have one, contact me right away for a replacement at no cost. If you don’t have a way to submit the request, swing by my office and I’ll fax it in for you.


You Don’t Have to Fight Alone


I want you to have a very clear picture of what you need to do next, and what you do and don’t need to worry about in our case. I don't want your defense to be this big, vague storm-cloud hanging over your head. By the end of our first meeting, my goal is that your case has gone from that big storm-cloud to a very understandable roadmap of things that the firm is going to do for you going forward.




[1] Since I don’t have your paperwork here in front of me, I can’t tell you the exact date or timeline of when your suspension begins, or how likely it is that we can avoid it completely. If you have any question about when your temporary license expires, come by the office and we can get it figured out.

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