Interviewer: When somebody retains you, how much of the burden on the case can you take off of them? I have heard there may be five court appearances. Can you go for them on their behalf? How much can they return to their normal lives and how much can you take on the burden off them?
Attorney Tafelski: Well, that’s a good question. I think that is probably one of the main benefits of hiring an experienced DUI attorney. First of all, that first court appearance we talked about, called the arraignment, in most courts the attorney can waive the arraignment by filing their appearance and filing some documents. That route saves you one court appearance and the imposition of bond conditions such as alcohol testing or drug testing.
There can sometimes be some court appearances that are minimized, but probably more importantly, instead of you having to try to figure out the wildly complicated, strange system that varies from court to court and judge to judge, you have one person who you can communicate with, who can answer all your questions. This one individual can advise you on what to do and how to act and what to worry about and what not to worry about. I believe that takes away a lot of the anxiety and nervousness that people feel.
Through Advice and Counsel, an Attorney Helps to Relieve the Anxiety and Apprehension That People Experience Facing a Criminal Charge
It’s very normal that they stressed right after the case starts, and that lasts for a few days. After that, things become more of a practical issue and just making sure that you do not miss so much work that you lose your job or that you know what you can and cannot do before court or what to expect at the court, at each court appearance, or what your particular judge’s tendencies are. All of those things, I think, bring peace of mind to people who are in a very stressful situation.
Being Proactive Is the Best Action to Take If You Have Been Charged with OWI/OWVI
Interviewer: What have you seen your most successful clients do to get on with their lives and to get through this in the best shape possible?
Attorney Tafelski: It’s kind of a cliché but, first of all, it’s to just deal with this situation head on. Don’t sit around and dwell on the past and dwell on the mistakes that might have been made. Instead, you just have to deal with it. It does start with having a good lawyer who can handle most of these issues and give you sound and experienced advice. That’s a big part of it.
It Is a Good Idea to Receive Treatment for an Existing Alcohol Problem
Then, it’s also learning to look at the situation and deal with it. For example, if you actually do have some kind of issue with alcohol and in the back of your mind you know you do, well then take this as an opportunity to deal with it.
Take this as the golden opportunity to go and get help and to face it, because you’re going to be ordered not to drink alcohol by the court if you end up convicted of any alcohol related offense and go on probation. You’ll be ordered not to drink and you’ll be tested for drinking. If you drink while you’re on probation for drunk driving, you’ll go to jail.
It’s important that if you actually have a problem you get a grip on it. If you don’t, my advice to people is usually get on with your life, just keep living your life, but stay far away from trouble or anything that could lead to trouble.
Make sure that you keep yourself busy with positive, productive things. It’s always a good time to set a new goal, like get in shape or start running or take a class or enroll in school, whatever things you’ve been putting off. It’s always kind of a good time to make yourself busy with positive things, because not only does it help you but it looks good in the eyes of the court to be a person with a plan.
Is It Advisable to Have an Alcohol Screening Prior to Trial?
Interviewer: Do you recommend that people get a drug and alcohol screening assessments before they’re even in front of a judge to show good faith?
Attorney Tafelski: Generally, on a first offense, I ask clients if they think they have any issue that needs to be dealt with. If they say yes or if they’re not sure, then I tell them to go to a counselor or go get an alcohol assessment done, and if need be I can give them names of people to see.
However, if it’s a second offense or a third offense or a fourth offense, then I almost always will tell them to immediately get involved in counseling or Alcoholics Anonymous, some kind of treatment program, because there’s no way that the court is going to be convinced that they don’t need some level of help or counseling. It’s always a good idea to grab the bull by the horns and do it yourself.
The reason why I don’t do that with first offence clients is, for example, if some people ask me, “Well, should I start going to AA?” I say, “If you need it, go. If you don’t need treatment, then don’t.” This is because what’s going to happen is the judge is going to say, “Well, thank you very much. I’m glad you’re going to AA. Now, I’m going to order that you keep doing it for another year.”
Then, you’ll end up attending a year’s worth of AA that you didn’t even need.