The ABA recognizes that defending clients charged with drunken driving has evolved into a more complex and specialized field.
The changes in the DWI practice track the ever-more sophisticated technology used to detect impaired drivers and a cultural shift that has raised the severtity of punishment and imposed a stigma on those arrested.
As the stakes increase, defense attorneys need detailed knowledge of how Breathalyzers work, about the physiology of the human body, and about the intricacies of field sobriety tests.
“The DUI bar today is much more specialized. Now, itâ€™s all about physics, chemistry, biophysicsâ€”scientific evidence that most lawyers arenâ€™t very good at naturally until theyâ€™re well-trained in it,” says Lawrence Taylor, principal of a Southern California DUI defense firm that bears his name.
But Taylor believes the publicâ€™s rush to fix the countryâ€™s drunken driving problem has created what he calls a “DUI exception to the Constitution.” He argues that in as many as a third of all DUI arrests, the driver is innocent of the charge.
He notes the stigma of merely being arrested for DUI can be severe. The defendant may face loss of a job, loss of status in the community and even loss of child custody if in the midst of a divorce or custody fight.
Whether attacking the evidence or supporting it, attorneys must have an understanding of it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an arm of the Transportation Department, has adopted three standard field sobriety tests. Some states now use the NHTSA tests, while others allow police officers to use whatever tests they see fit to measure whether someone stopped for suspicion of DUI is intoxicated
Now, more than ever, it is important to ask if your lawyer has had any specialized training in the proper administration of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. If he has, he can better evaluate your performance and the performance of the officer administering the tests.
I have had such training.