Many states require lawyers to take continuing legal education after graduating from law school and passing the bar, Maryland is not one of them. In Maryland, once you pass the bar you are authorized to say goodbye to school and books forever. As a Maryland lawyer, I feel differently. I have been admitted to practice law in this state since 1992. I have been a DUI lawyer in Maryland since my early years with an ever increasing focus on that area of the law.
What’s interesting is that when the average person hears the words DUI or DWI they might think this area of the law is not as complicated as others or that this is an easy field, they might not understand that this area is a sub-specialty unto itself. The truth of the matter is, the more one gets involved with seriously defending persons charged with DUI and DWI, the more one appreciates that this truly is a specialty of criminal law. That is, there is so much information to stay abreast of regarding the constitutionality of vehicle stops, the reasonableness of pre-arrest investigations, including field sobriety tests, and the legality of post arrest testing, including breath testing and blood testing. Interestingly, both breath testing and blood testing in DUI and alcohol related cases are very expansive in that they spill over into a variety of other sciences.
The breath test machine, as has been discussed in earlier entries, is effected by such things as the suspect’s partition ratio, which the machine takes for granted at 2100:1 and many times is simply wrong, the suspect’s hematocrit level, which the machine does not even take into consideration, the suspect’s breathing pattern which the police are all to happy to help you with, the machine’s built in error rate and on and on. You will recall that the machine essentially operates by taking a breath sample and shining a light through the sample and evaluating how much light comes out the other end of the magic box.
Conversely, with blood draws there are a number of issues including hematocrit, pre-absorption versus post-absorption, venous draws versus arterial draws, hospital draws versus police draws, vials used, preservatives in the vial, storing conditions, custody, etc. They involve many issues involving an understanding of science.
If a DUI lawyer is to provide the best defense possible to a DUI/DWI suspect, that lawyer needs to have a firm grasp not only on the constitutional issues which he learned in law school, but on the scientific issues which are learned outside of law school at continuing legal education seminars and various text books on the subject like Larry Taylor’s Drunk Driving Defense, presently in its 6th edition. For me personally, I believe it’s important to continually stay fresh on the latest scientific articles and research in the fields that effect DUI suspects. I have just now returned from the National College for Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer’s annual continuing legal education seminar at Harvard Law School where I am reminded that the police and the court system are very happy to accept evidence as presented by the government and draw the expected conclusion; however, if that is not consistent with what a client needs, then the lawyer must be prepared to and capable of pulling back the black curtain in order to expose the scientific truth. Knowledge of the science is the truth, the truth leads to fair and equitable results in the defense of DUI cases.