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DRUNK DRIVING ARRESTS CAN INVOLVE MANY POTENTIAL HEARINGS
When you are charged with a traffic offense or a DUI/DWI, Driving While Intoxicated, Driving While Impaired, Driving Under The Influence or License Suspension,you must be represented by an attorney experienced in traffic matters. Drunk Driving/ DUI/DWI attorney Marc Atas represents clients with remarkable skill and dedication. Marc Atas has built a reputation for excellence.
After an arrest for Drunk Driving, there are numerous court appearances:
- Bail review
- motor vehicle hearing for a refusal to take the breathalyzer
- jury trial or court trial
- Motor Vehicle hearing for points
THERE ARE MANY LEGAL DEFENSES TO A DRUNK DRIVING CASE.
As an experienced DUI/DWI attorney Marc Atas knows the criminal, DUI and traffic system. No matter what type of Drunk Driving violation you are charged with,or the facts of your case or evidence against you,you can count on Marc Atas to vigorously fight for you at every stage.Typical Drunk Driving defenses include:
- illegal stop
- lack of probable cause to arrest
- attack on field sobriety tests
- attack on validity of breathalyzer
- exclusion of any statements given at scene
- medical defenses
- defective vehicle
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU ARE FOUND GUILTY OF DRUNK DRIVING?
If you are found guilty of Drunk Driving or just want to plead guilty, an experienced Drunk Driving/DUI/DWI attorney can be extremely effective in representing you at a sentencing hearing.Issues to be addressed include:
- educational background
- military status
- any awards received
- family status(married, single, children, dependents)
- child support obligations
- need to maintain driving privileges for school , work or family
- character evidence, treatment counselor, sponsor
- proof of any alcohol classes completed and Alcohol Anonymous meetings
- collateral consequences from the offense including job loss, security clearances,ignition interlock, adverse effect on professional licenses, and the financial effect
WHAT HAPPENS AT A DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES HEARING
If you need to save your driver’s license or privileges, from suspension or revocation by The Department Of Motor Vehicles because of a Drunk Driving conviction, you should discuss with your Attorney immediately whether you should request a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles or accept a ignition interlock. Failure to timely answer this question can result in suspension of your license. Contact Marc Atas immediately in order to protect your driving privileges.Defenses at an MVA hearing include:
- Reasonable Grounds
- Whether you ever drove after you drank
- officers jurisdiction
- no refusal to submit to breathalyzer
- breath test error
- insufficient breath
In conclusion,contact MARC ATAS AND ASSOCIATES for DUI, DWI , drunk driving , driving while suspended, serious traffic offenses, and motor vehicle administration hearings.
I Will Fight For You!
Top 10 Questions For Your Attorney
Let’s be honest: no one likes hiring a lawyer. It is considered by many to be a distasteful necessity of life. Contrary to popular belief, not all lawyers are the same. Asking these questions will help you select the right lawyer and, in the long run, save you a lot of aggravation and grief.
The questions below are from an October 1997 article in the Sacramento Business Journal and were designed to help you select the right lawyer and make your job easier.
Although it’s nice to tell your friends and neighbors that your lawyer graduated No. 1 in his or her class from Harvard Law School, it will not be comforting when you are in court for the first time and you find out it’s the lawyer’s first time too!
Obviously, it is important that the lawyer has passed the state bar exam and is properly licensed. However, there is no substitute for experience. Ask the lawyer how many similar cases he or she has handled. How long ago? What was the outcome? Get the specific details. If the lawyer doesn’t have experience, what will he or she do to get it? Is the lawyer willing to work with another experienced lawyer and learn? see attached article on how to choose an attorney
Some lawyers limit their practice to a certain area, which is becoming more common because of all the rapid changes in laws. Determine if the lawyer specializes in the type of case you have. Furthermore, the state bar certifies lawyers in certain limited areas (i.e. family law, tax, and workers’ compensation). Determine from the lawyer whether a certification for your particular area of interest exists and whether the lawyer is certified.
One of the most common disputes between lawyers and clients involves fees. The main reason: poor communication. Ask, up front, what it will cost to handle your case.
Get into the specific details. Ask if your first visit is free. Determine whether you will be billed for telephone conversations with the lawyer. Although it may be difficult for an attorney to predict exactly what the fee will be, an experienced lawyer should be able to give you an estimate or range.
Ask about the billing policies. Will you pay an hourly fee, a fixed fee or a contingency fee? Ask about costs (i.e. filing fees, experts, court reporters, etc.), who will pay them and when. Also ask about whether the lawyer charges for copies, faxes, postage and long-distance telephone calls. If so, how much? If your matter will exceed $1,000, the lawyer’s fee agreement must be in writing. Make sure you carefully read the fee agreement before signing.
Fees in a personal injury case.
These include references from other lawyers, judges and especially clients. Past or present clients have valuable insight and knowledge about the lawyer and his services. Ask for client references and call them.
Lawyers not returning calls on a timely basis is another complaint of disgruntled clients. Ask how quickly you can expect a return telephone call.
Ask about the process and how long each stage will take.
Another complaint from unhappy clients is that after retaining the lawyer, they never hear from him or her again except when they receive a bill. Ask whether you will receive copies of documents generated or received by the lawyer. Ask whether you will be advised of contacts made by your lawyer.
If the lawyer works in a firm, determine who will be primarily responsible for your case. It is not unusual or unethical for a senior lawyer to oversee and supervise a junior lawyer handling a case. In fact, if your legal issue involves lengthy research, it may be more economical to have the work done by a junior attorney at a lower billable rate. However, ask so there are no surprises later.
If a potential conflict exists, you may have to continue looking for another lawyer. If the conflict is not significant, it may be possible to waive the conflict with your full written consent.
Under rules governing lawyers, the lawyer must advise you in writing whether she or he maintains malpractice insurance.
DUI and Traffic A to Z
Do you know what happens if you do not appear for traffic court? How about what will happen if you are caught driving on a suspended license? These questions and more may be running through your mind when the sirens go off, but after you’ve received the ticket, you have to deal with the matter at hand. Browse these simple, direct answers to your questions about traffic court and seek the counsel of an attorney for further assistance.
The best resolution in a criminal or traffic case is a not guilty finding. A not guilty simply reflects the fact that the prosecution has failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no such finding as innocent.
There are two types of traffic violations in Maryland: payable and must appear
Payable traffic violations include speeding tickets or failure to stop at a stop sign. For those types of tickets there are several choices. First, you can plead guilty and pay the fine prior to the court date, thus avoiding an appearance in court. This is generally not a wise decision because payment of any ticket automatically results in a guilty finding and points added to your driving record. As discussed below any guilty finding in the State of Maryland can transfer to your automobile license in other states. Even if you are in fact guilty of what you have been charged, it is still always a good idea to go to court. The State has the burden to prove your guilt. There have been many occasions where the police officer has failed to appear on the court date, resulting in case dismissals despite the Defendant’s clear guilt. In addition, when appearing in court the Judge frequently reduces fines or offers probation before judgment (PBJ). A PBJ leads the Motor Vehicle Administration to pardon fines and ends the possibility for a record to transfer over to other states because it is not a guilty finding.
When you receive a traffic ticket, the ticket typically gives you three options, including paying the ticket, appearing for trial and having a full trial or pleading guilty with an explanation. If you do not choose to pay the fine, the court will automatically set the case in for trial within a period of time. At that time you will be required to appear in person in court. It is not necessary to write a request for a hearing when a traffic ticket is involved, as the court will know you want a trial when you do not pay the fine in the period set by the ticket.
While the court also offers the option of pleading guilty in advance and simply appearing in court to give an explanation, this is not generally a wise decision. The court likes this option because it doesn’t have to prove your guilt, as you have already indicated your own guilt, and the only subsequent discussion in court is whether the Judge will give you a reduced fine, points, or PBJ. By pleading guilty in advance, however, you are giving up your valuable right to require the State prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. When you plead guilty in advance, legitimate legal defenses that could have been used in your favor are waived, including failure of the police officer and State’s witnesses to appear, as there is no need to prove or disprove your guilt.
You have no obligation to admit guilt in a traffic case, as you have the right to make the State prove its case against you and the right against self-incrimination. Therefore, a Judge cannot hold it against you if you do not enter a guilty plea. The only time that a guilty plea in advance with an in-court explanation should ever be considered is if you are guilty, gave the police office a hard time and believe that the police officer might show up to your trial to tell the court about your insolence. In this case, you should consider the guilty plea in advance option so that the officer will not appear in court. The officer’s appearance in court and testimony would likely lead the court to increase the fine above the payable amount listed on your ticket. Any other time you should opt to go to court, even if guilty, to try and minimize possible sanctions. Courts can be very generous in giving substantially reduced fines, lower points or even PBJ where you would receive no points, especially if you have a relatively clean driving record. Even without good driving records, individuals tried in traffic cases are commonly given lower fines and lower points, although the points are not erased all together.
Upon a finding of guilt, the Motor Vehicle Administration– not the court– assesses the points allocated to you. At times the court will tell you that it has no control over what the MVA does; however, it is the court’s finding that determines how many points you will get. Having points on your license is significant for two reasons. The first reason why getting points on your license is important is that it may result in an increase in insurance premiums; the second reason, is that a substantial amount of points on your license may result in a suspension or revocation of your driving privilege. For those reasons, it is extremely important to keep your driving record clean at all times. Courts are more likely to give PBJs and to not give points in cases where people have clean driving records. If you pay your ticket the first time and receive points it will be more difficult in subsequent cases for you to receive a PBJ until the points have dropped off your driving record.
A nolle prosequi occurs when the State decides to dismiss all charges. Once a case is nolle prosequi it is normally over, but in rare cases the State may want to recharge you in the future. Other than a not guilty finding, the next best thing is a nolle prosequi because it results in dismissal of the charges.
When the defendant is clearly guilty of some offense, and the evidence is legally sufficient for a jury to convict the defendant of of either the greater or lesser crime, courts will not allow the state to nolle Prosequi the lesser charge in a case, with the state hoping to convict the defendant for the greater offense.
In Maryland the defendant in a circuit court case has a right to be tried within a one hundred and eighty days. If the case is Nolle Prosequi and then the case is refiled, the one hundred and eighty days begins again when the new charges are filed. If the defendant can show that the state only nolle prosequi the case the first time in order to get around the one hundred and eighty day requirement, then the court will count the initial charge period and will likely find that the one hundred and eighty day rule was violated.
the decision to nol prosequi a case is solely within the discretion of the prosecutor. The defendant cannot refuse a stet and obviously since the case is dismissed should be thrilled with a nol pros even though again it is not the equivalent of a not guilty. It only means the state does not want to go forward either because the state does not feel it can prove the case or more likely crucial witnesses have not appeared or finally perhaps the interests of justice suggest the case can better be resolved outside the criminal justice system.
The next best case resolution is a stet. A stet means a suspension of the prosecution. If the State offers a stet, the case is indefinitely postponed and placed on an inactive docket where it will, with any luck, never to be called to trial. A stet may be reopened by any party for any reason including the State, the witnesses, the victim or the Defendant within the first year. After a period of one to three years and showing good cause to the court. After three years, a stet may not be reopened and, in fact, the criminal charges can be expunged. Stets are not normally reopened unless the Defendant has subsequent charges, a similar arrest, or fails to live up to the conditions set when the stet was originally granted.A stet is not a conviction but it is not an acquittal either. If you apply for a job which requires driving and they ask you if you have ever been convicted of a traffic offense and the only involvement in the traffic court system resulted in a stet, you can respond that you have no prior conviction and you will be telling your prospective employer the truth.While a stet is better than a conviction, the public can still look on Maryland judicial case search and see that you were in fact charged with a crime and therefore may still hold it against you even though there was no conviction.Therefore it is extremely important that when the three year period passes after your probation has ended that you apply for your expungement so that the records are wiped off the computer and no-one will be able to see this information.An expungement is automatic as long as you have no other convictions or pending cases after you received your stet.Stets do not result in points.Getting a stet enables you to keep your driving record clean. If you were found guilty instead of accepting a stet, you will receive points which can result in higher insurance rates, cancellation of insurance and possibly suspension or revocation of your license.
The next best resolution is known as probation before judgment (PBJ). In a probation before judgment case the Defendant is typically found guilty, however, because of a good driving record or a relatively clean criminal record, he/she is offered probation before judgment. Probation before judgment is considered a break given by the court to provide the Defendant an incentive to keep his/her record clean. The court usually strikes the guilty finding and places the Defendant on probation.
Barring unsuccessful completion of the probation period, the probation before judgment stands and the Defendant’s guilty verdict is never entered. Probation before judgments can eventually be expunged three years after the probation period runs out. If the Defendant receives a probation before judgment he/she can go on job interviews and honestly answer that he/she has not been convicted of the traffic offense. Further, if the Defendant receives a probation before judgment in a traffic case, points will not be added against his/her driving record in the State of Maryland, because the traffic violation is not considered a conviction.
However when you receive a probation before judgment, you can be placed on probation. During probation, you may have to report to a probation officer, complete a drug or alcohol program, pay a fine or restituition, pay court costs or monitoring fees,complete school or obtain a general educational development certificate (ged) and you may have to do community service.
As part of your probation you must complete every condition the judge imposes on you including obey all laws, not get arrested, not be convicted of another crime, stay away from the victim , report to a probation officer, complete a drug or alcohol program, pay a fine or restitution, pay court costs or monitoring fees,complete school or obtain a general educational development certificate (ged) and you may have to do community service.
If you violate your probation, the probation before judgment can be stricken, the guilty finding re-instituted and you can receive additional punishment including additional jail time.
When you receive a ticket, you must either ask for a trial date immediately by mailing in your request or you must pay the ticket.No longer does the court automatically schedule trial. Once you request a trial date, simply wait for your trial notice if you would like to appear in court. It may take several months for a trial date to be scheduled, although the court usually tells you it will be within several weeks.
If your address changes after you receive a ticket but before you receive notice of a trial date, you should notify the court of your change of address or you will not receive a trial notice. Keep in mind also that the post office will not forward your court mail and that updating your address with the Motor Vehicle Administration does not automatically update your address with the court. To ensure that you receive a trial notice, you also need to notify the court of your correct mailing address if the address you gave the police officer is not the same as your mailing address.
It is imperative to appear on your trial date, as failure to do so for a traffic charge can result in the court notifying the Motor vehicle administration and your license being suspended. If you continue to drive after your license has been suspended for failure to appear, then you can be arrested for driving on a suspended license if you are stopped for a new traffic offense.Driving on a suspended license then leads to the possibility of additional criminal charges and jail time. Failure to appear in traffic court for a case that involves possible jail time, however, can lead to a bench warrant for your immediate arrest.Then it may be necessary to turn yourself in and spend time in jail just for failing to appear and then hoping the judge will release you from jail pending trial.
Reason 1 – The police officer may fail to show up. Generally, if the police officer fails to appear the court will dismiss your case (even if you are guilty) as long as you do not admit your guilt to the court. Most of the time the court may not even give you a chance to say anything and will dismiss your case when you appear at the trial table. Don’t underestimate the possibility of this happening as numerous circumstances can lead officers to not appear for your trial. Circumstances include a vacation, scheduling conflict, emergency, transfer, retirement, poor notification of the trial date or personal irresponsibility.
Reason 2 – Some of the State’s necessary witnesses fail to appear in court. Often when you are charged with traffic offenses, the case involves witnesses in addition to the police officer. The other witnesses may decide not to appear for various reasons, because these witnesses do not normally have a personal stake in the outcome and may not want to lose time from work or from their families to appear for your case. While the State’s Attorney has the option of issuing a bench warrant for their arrests for their failure to appear, the State very rarely does that, as it does not want to make victims of witnesses. If the State cannot produce enough witnesses to prove your case, then it cannot prove that you were guilty. Aside from the testimony from witnesses, some traffic case charges require the State to produce documentation proving that the Defendant was suspended, driving on an out of State license, or uninsured. It can be difficult for the State’s Attorney to get a hold of an out of State driving record. Further, it can be difficult to prove a negative, like someone is not insured. If the State fails to produce the documents necessary to prove one of the elements in the State’s case against a traffic or criminal offender, the Defendant may be found not guilty.
Reason 3 – The State may not be able to prove all of the elements of the underlying traffic charge or crime. While you may think you have done what the State has charged you with, each particular offense has its own set of elements. For something as simple as speeding, for example, the State has to prove: a) the speed limit, b) your speed, c) that you were driving, d) that the radar ticket shows that the officer was a certified radar operator and, e) that the radar equipment was properly calibrated and tested. This is the same for each traffic offense, as each one carries its own elements and the State has the burden of proving every element. Should any one element of the case against you be faulty or incomplete, you could be found not guilty. These instances include the officer forgetting to bring his certification on your trial date, the officer having an expired certification, or the officer failing to identify you as the driver on that particular day. As you can see, the State has a burden in each traffic or criminal case to prove all the elements of any traffic offense or criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If it cannot prove any one of the elements required for each crime or traffic charge, the Defendant must be found not guilty.
Reason 4 – There may be other viable legal defenses to protect you that you are not aware of.
Reason 5 – You may be not guilty! The only way you can prove your innocence is through a full-fledged trial where you appear in court, testify and call your witnesses.
If you are unhappy with the District Court Judge’s decision in either your traffic case or your criminal case, you have the right to appeal to the Circuit Court in the county where your District Court case was heard. Because the District Court is Maryland’s lowest court, you have an automatic right to appeal any traffic or criminal case for an entirely new trial, called a denovo trial. At that trial the State will have the burden once again to prove the case against you, requiring it to recall all of its witnesses and re-convince the Judge beyond a reasonable doubt that you were guilty.
If there were multiple charges in the District Court and you were found not guilty on some of those charges, you can file an appeal and keep the not guilty verdict on those select charges. The only charges that will go forward on appeal, then, are any charges that you were found guilty of. Remember also that if you intend to file an appeal in the District Court, you must not accept any probation before judgment offers from the court. As part of the condition for probation before judgment involves striking a guilty finding and putting you on probation, the Defendant must agree not to file an appeal. That being said, if it is important to you to have an appeal and prove your innocence, then you must not accept any probation before judgment offers.
To appeal a District Court finding, a written appeal must be filed within thirty days of the initial trial with the District Court clerk. That thirty day time period cannot be extended; therefore, once the thirty day period has expired, your right to appeal is extinguished.
As part of your request for appeal, you must pay the Circuit Court court costs. When you are found guilty at the District Court level and intend to file an appeal, you should ask the Judge at that time to delay enforcement of any sentence. In a typical criminal or traffic case it is possible to receive fines, court costs, probation and sometimes jail time. Unless you ask the Judge to stay enforcement of the sentence pending appeal and the Judge agrees to do so, it may be necessary for you to pay the court fines, continue your probation and serve any jail time in the meantime before your appeal is heard. If the Judge agrees to stay any sentence pending appeal, it may not be necessary to pay the fine, serve probation or start serving your sentence in jail; however, the decision rests in the hands of your District Court Judge.
A lawyer can be extremely helpful in getting the Judge to stay some, if not all, of the sentences pending appeal. Sometimes a Judge will stay a sentence but will require the Defendant to post a bond to insure his attendance at the Circuit Court level trial.
When the case is on appeal, you must fulfill the terms and conditions of your probation unless the Judge has stayed your probation. If you are found guilty in the District Court and the Judge doesn’t agree to stay your sentence pending appeal, you must serve your sentence while waiting for your new trial. Appeals can take as long as six months in the Circuit Court.
DUI/DWI & Traffic Frequently Asked Questions
DUI Attorney Marc J. Atas has compiled a list of the most frequently asked DUI, DWI and Traffic related questions. If your question is not answered here, please feel free to contact us the question and we will be happy to answer it.
In a typical situation a police officer pulls a vehicle over for erratic driving behavior or for violating a traffic law such as running a red light, speeding or failure to attach a front tag.
At this point you have to make a decision. If you have had two drinks or less you may want to cooperate. If you have had more than two drinks you will probably be arrested for DUI whether you cooperate or not, so why help the State convict you.
Once the police officer approaches the car, the police officer may smell an odor of alcohol. As the police officer approaches your vehicle he begins to make observations as to your sobriety and starts asking some questions to aid in determining if you qualify as a DUI or not.
You are under no obligation to answer any of the questions the police officer asks regarding any drinking that you had done that evening. The only information you have to provide to the police officer is your license and registration and you owe the police officer no other obligation to answer any of the other questions.
Once the police officer smells an odor of alcohol on your breath, the police officer will typically ask you to exit the car and ask you to do field sobriety tests. In Maryland there are three standard field sobriety tests, including horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn test and finally the one leg stand test. There is no requirement that you do any of the field sobriety tests, however, I cannot remember the last time someone has refused unless they were too intoxicated to even perform the test. If you refuse to do the field sobriety tests, you will probably be arrested anyway, but it will make the State’s Attorneys job more difficult to prove that you were in fact driving while intoxicated when you go to court.
If you take the field sobriety test and fail them, then the police officer will place you under arrest for driving under the influence and then taken back to police station where you will be asked to take a breathalyzer test. Under Maryland Law if you do not take the breathalyzer test then your drivers license may be suspended, however, the fact that you did not take the breathalyzer test is not admissible in the traffic court proceeding at the District Court level. If you take the breathalyzer test and fail it, meaning you getting a .07 or higher then there is a presumption that you were driving under the influence (DUI), when the case goes to a court hearing. If you have had one or two drinks you probably will pass the breathalyzer test and you should go ahead and take the breathalyzer test. If you have had more than two drinks, then you will need to weigh what is more important to you. If you do not take the breathalyzer test, then your license will probably be suspended by the Motor Vehicle Administration.
However, if you take the breathalyzer test and fail the State’s case against you for DWI will be much easier to prove. If you are on a federal highway, like the Baltimore-Washington Parkway or federal property you do not have the right to refuse the breathalyzer test. After you take the breathalyzer test and blow a .07 or higher, then you will be taken before a court Commissioner who will then set a bail and release you on your own recognizance. If you cannot pay the bail, then you have a right to a bail review on the next available court date, at which time a District Court Judge will review your bail status and set a new bail. You have the right to have an attorney at the bail review and you also have the right to ask for an attorney before you decide to take the breathalyzer test. Once you are released from jail, your case will be scheduled for trial sometime in the next three to six months. Your trial will start out at the District Court level, unless you want a jury trial, then your case will be removed to the Circuit Court.
If it is your first offense, the best disposition in your particular case, other than a not guilty would be a probation before judgment. If you are found guilty in a driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired case you will automatically receive either 8 or 12 points from the Motor Vehicle Administration which could result in suspension or revocation of your drivers license.
If you receive a probation before judgment and the court strikes the finding of guilty and places you on probation, then you do not receive any points from the Motor Vehicle Administration because it is not a guilty finding.
Often, in a first offense, unless there are aggravating circumstances like an accident, the defendant can receive a probation before judgment and will receive a fine and will have to attend alcohol classes and may have to attend AA meetings. A typical probation can last anywhere from six months to two years.
If the breathalyzer shows an extremely high reading like .15 or higher some judges are less likely to give you probation before judgement on your first offense and in some counties in Maryland might even consider jail time.
If the DWI case involves an accident without injuries,judges are less likely to give you probation before judgement on your first offense and in some counties in Maryland might even consider jail time.
If the DWI case involves an accident with injuries,judges are highly unlikely to give you probation before judgement on your first offense and in most counties in Maryland you will receive jail time.
If there are passengers in your car at the time of the DWI and if any of the passengers are children,judges are less likely to give you probation before judgement on your first offense and in some counties in Maryland might even consider jail time.
If drugs are found in your car as well as alcohol, judges are less likely to give you probation before judgement on your first offense and in some counties in Maryland might even consider jail time.
For a second DWI or more, then the State’s Attorney usually asks for a period of incarceration, as well as larger fines and longer periods of alcohol programs. It is extremely important to have an attorney. An attorney will be able to explore any possible defense in order to avoid conviction in the first place and then if convicted the attorney can aid you in avoiding the harshest penalties.