Why do DUI defense lawyers defend people accused of drinking and driving, after all, it’s a terrible crime, people get hurt and sometimes worse? How can we possibly do this? Do we condone the use of alcohol and driving? Do we lack a conscious or compassion for our fellow man? The answer is, it is our conscious and compassion for our fellow man that drives us. What I condone is the applicability of the United States Constitution, for which many generations of men have fought and lost their lives. Thomas Paine once said, “It is the responsibility of the patriot to protect his country from its government.” A review of the news around the globe reflects countless instances of government trampling on the rights of its citizens. The United States constitution is over 200 years old and has guided our laws, our citizens and our government effectively because we have always had a government and a Supreme Court willing to fight to uphold its tenets. However, increasingly there have been chinks in the armor of the Constitution in the name of expediency. Increasingly courts all over this country are eroding the Constitutional rights of citizens to be safe and secure in their “persons, papers and effects.” (Fourth Amendment U.S. Constitution). If we blindly continue to allow these transgressions of the Constitution, if we turn a blind eye to these matters because it is convenient to prosecute cases, then tomorrow it will be a different erosion of your personal rights to privacy that were guaranteed to you as a citizen. Each time there is a transgression or an erosion of civil liberties in the name of convenience of prosecution, we bring ourselves one step closer to a society which our forefathers fought and died to extricate us from.
Did you know that if you were convicted of the worst crime possible, murder, that you have more rights and Constitutional protections than if you are charged with the misdemeanor of drinking and driving? That is, as soon as the murderer is taken into custody the first thing that happens is that he is read his Miranda rights; he is essentially advised to shut up and get a lawyer (albeit many people never heed this warning). Every step of the way thereafter, due process mandates that a suspect have a lawyer present to protect his legal rights, despite the fact he may have killed another human being and deprived that person of their rights.
Your government has the right and the ability under law to deny a citizen of their property, their liberty and their life. If a government agent, the police, charges a citizen with a crime, another government agent, the prosecution picks up the ball and prosecutes the citizen. Then a judge, another government employee, or a jury hears the evidence which is offered by the government. The government has an endless amount of resources, financial and otherwise to obtain evidence and to support its version of a case. The ONLY THING standing between the police, the prosecution and government, the only thing an accused has to rely on to protect him from losing his liberty, his property, or his life, is his defense attorney. His attorney is his key to bring to bare the case law, the statutes, and the facts in order to contradict the awesome power of the government. His criminal defense attorney is all he has to protect him from the system.
In any individual case the system may be correct, the defendant may have done what he is accused of doing and may therefore need to be punished (unless he is a friend of the President like Scooter Libby, in which case the rule of law does not matter and he will be set free). If this “system” is correct, then so be it, let the system prove its case to the satisfaction of a jury and punish the defendant accordingly. However, there are also countless times when the system is not correct; where the wrong defendant has been accused, where the crime has not been committed as charged. It is in these cases where the defense attorney is needed the most and in order for the defense attorney to be effective on the part of an innocent person, the attorney must also defend the guilty defendant. That is, both defendants, those actually guilty of the crime and those innocent of the crime have the absolute right to and a need for a defense. Both defendants have the right to an even playing field under the Constitution because if a defendant is in fact guilty, the State should be able to prove its case beyond a reasonable right, right?
Regarding DUI cases, no such luck. When you are stopped by the police for suspicion of DUI and you are not free to leave, the courts have determined you are not arrested; and since you are not arrested, your rights do not apply. That means the cops can ask you all kinds of questions and encourage you to incriminate yourself without the benefit of any advice or warning. Then they ask you to do field sobriety tests. The Maryland appellate Court in the Blasi case determined that field sobriety tests do impact your fourth amendment rights, but despite that finding, you still do not need to be Mirandized, they do not need a warrant, and you do not get any advice of rights at all. If they did advise you, they would tell you that you are under no obligation to perform any such field sobriety tests and there is no punishment for your responsible decision not to perform same.
Then you get arrested. Now that you are arrested the Miranda rights apply because you are in custody. However, many times they are not read to you because that would increase your suspicion of the process and may cause you to invoke your right to a lawyer which is a right they will never tell you that you have. So you are taken to the police station, you are read certain administrative rights that you have and you are asked to blow in the machine. At no time will you be told that you have a right to speak with a lawyer before making the decision to blow, but you do have such a right or so said the Maryland Court in Brosin and Sites.
So what is the point of all of this? The point is as a citizen in this country you have rights; important rights that people have fought hard to protect. Everybody gets the benefit of those rights whether you are a simple murderer or a heinous DUI suspect. The Constitution says it does not matter what you’re charged with, you are protected. The government however, with the benefit of MADD applying significant pressure says it does matter. DUI suspects have fewer rights. DUI defense attorneys say it should not matter and we are here to protect your rights the best that we can on an increasingly unlevel playing field.