Investigating the facts is a phase of DUI-DWI cases too often ignored or belittled by defense attorneys. Many attorneys assume, for whatever reason, that the facts of drunk or impaired driving cases are either so simple so as to be unimportant or will not be in significant dispute during the trial of the case. Such assumptions are seldom justified. Defense attorneys often hire investigators or paralegals to investigate the facts of their drunk driving cases and assume that their investigative functions are thereby fulfilled. These attorneys, too, are mistaken. Few cases are so factually certain that no investigation is needed, and secondhand data is never as useful to the attorney trying the case as information obtained firsthand. An initial case evaluation is typically followed by more in-depth investigation that could include witness interviews or obtaining photo and/or video evidence.
The first rule in the investigation of a DUI-DWI case is that the investigation should be conducted early in the case. The reasons for an early investigation are twofold: First, it is important to inspect and photograph the conditions at the scene of the arrest or incident as the conditions existed at the time of the offense and to obtain the accounts of witnesses early in the case. The investigation should be conducted before physical evidence disappears or is altered, before witnesses disappear, while the events are still fresh in the witnesses’ minds, and before police or insurance investigators get to the witnesses. The second reason for an early investigation is to enable defense counsel to comply with the time limitations applicable to discovery proceedings in the local jurisdiction. Because investigation normally precedes discovery, the attorney who fails to promptly investigate the facts of a case may later be precluded by time restrictions from conducting meaningful discovery proceedings.
Whether to hire an investigator is a matter that often arises early in a DUI-DWI case. The resolution of this matter typically depends on two factors: the facts of the case, and the financial resources of the client. If the facts of the case are simple and not in substantial dispute and if there are no important witnesses to be interviewed, little will be gained by hiring an investigator. On the other hand, if essential facts are in substantial dispute, if several witnesses must be located and interviewed, and if considerable time will be required to carry out the investigative functions, the hiring of an investigator can be beneficial to both the attorney and the client. The expenses of hiring a particular investigator should be ascertained and explained to the client, and arrangements should be made for the payment thereof. If it is apparent that the services of an investigator are needed and if the client is indigent and cannot afford the expense, it may be possible in some jurisdictions to petition the court for payment of the investigative expenses out of local indigent defendant funds.
Most clients are unsure if their case will need investigative work. Don’t wait to speak to a highly-qualified attorney today and find out what steps should be taken to help protect your legal rights. Call 1-844-TEAM-DUI (1-844-832-6384) for a no-cost case evaluation with a specialized DUI lawyer.
Copyright 2015. William C. Head. All Rights Reserved.