Interviewer: What kind of mistakes do people make once they’ve been arrested and it’s time to do something about their case? What do you see people do wrong that unintentionally hurts their ability to defend their case?
It Is Always Advisable to Retain an Attorney to Defend an OWI/OWVI Charge
Attorney Tafelski: Well, in my opinion, the first decision someone makes is whether or not they’re going to hire an attorney. Obviously, being an attorney that handles drunk driving defense, I think that they should have an attorney. There are a number of reasons that I can go into about that, but that’s the first decision to make.
An Attorney Works to Build a Defense to the Charge, Such as Preserving Exculpatory Evidence
It’s a smart decision to do that right away because, number one, you’re going to get the benefit of that person’s advice and benefit from their experience in telling you how to proceed from this point forward. Number two, the attorney can take action to preserve the evidence that could be potentially exculpatory to you, such as videotapes from the police car or the videotapes from the taking of the breath test.
Your Attorney Will Accompany You to the First Court Appearance, Which Is the Arraignment
Also, shortly after the case starts, the first court appearance is called an arraignment. After your arraignment, the court does a couple of things. Number one, they make sure that you’re aware of what the charges are against you and ask, “How do you plead?” You almost never plead guilty at the arraignment.
Number two, they set a bond with all sorts of bond conditions. It’s very valuable generally to go in there with an attorney because it’s conveying to the court that you, number one, are going to show up and deal with this problem; and, number two, that you’re taking it very seriously.
The Court May Impose Conditions on Your Bond to Be Released from Jail
The court sets any kind of bond conditions they want when determining bond. The types of conditions they set are you cannot leave the state, you must submit to random drug or alcohol testing or you must attend Alcoholics Anonymous, things like that. It’s important to try and make sure that those terms don’t interfere with your ability to work, don’t interfere with your ability to travel for work, and that they’re not too onerous in the sense of causing bigger problems for you while the case is pending.
Retaining an Attorney at the Start of an OWI Case Is Beneficial and Doesn’t Add to the Cost of Representation
To make a long story short, having an attorney at the beginning of the case helps you with all of those things. Generally speaking, these cases are handled on flat fee terms and so you’re not really paying extra to have the benefit of the attorney right from the start. In summary, my first and most important decision would be what are you going to do about representation?
Interviewer: I’m sure you have encountered some people who said, “Oh, I’ll just represent myself. It’s no big deal.” To me, this charge sounds like a very big deal.