At the Orr Law Firm, we value the importance of justice, and the accused receiving a fair trial. We’ve been successfully defending DUI clients for 15 years. DUI defense is one of the most complex and scientifically based crimes in America. Almost all the evidence gathered against the defendant is based on science, pseudo-science and scientific principles (however the “accuser” is often a machine). Having an accomplished lawyer fighting for the defendant’s rights and freedoms is critical to his or her future.
Dozens of students submitted essays answering the prompt "As a Defense Attorney, would you defend a drunk driver?" Essays were judged based on the following criteria: content, style, and creativity. It was a difficult decision for our judges to make.
Congratulations to Dre'Kevius Huff of Savannah Law School in Georgia who won The Orr Law Firm 2017 Scholarship and $1000 towards his next semester of law school!
For those who missed out this year, please submit an essay in the coming year as we’ll be giving away another scholarship in 2018!
The winning essay is printed in full below:
DUI Defense Scholarship Essay
When people think of DUIs, they often think of the harm that can result from driving while under the influence, such as injuries resulting in disfigurement or death. As a result, the idea of representing someone charged with a DUI serves as a moral affront to one’s conscience. However, this does not mean that an individual charged with a DUI does not have a right to representation. Just as those charged with rape, murder, or other felonies (or misdemeanors), individuals charged with DUIs have the right to an attorney. This essay will explain why those charged with DUIs deserve the right to representation by an attorney.
As a former intern at a district attorney’s office, I witnessed many DUI trials. There are two main types of DUI trials in Georgia, DUI: Less Safe, and DUI: Per Se. DUI trials that were charged as DUI: Less Safe relied heavily on standard field sobriety tests performed by the officers on the allegedly intoxicated driver. These tests, in Georgia, at least, usually consisted of three tests: (1) Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, (2) Walk and Turn, (3) One Leg Stand, and occasionally (4) the Modified Romberg. These tests, particularly the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, are alleged to be able determine a driver’s level of intoxication if the driver indicates a certain number of signals on each test. Based on these tests, and other circumstantial evidence, police can use this evidence to arrest a driver for driving under the influence.
For DUI trials that are charged as DUI: Per Se, defendants will have submitted a sample of their blood, breath, urine, or other bodily fluids, for testing the level of alcohol in the body. In Georgia, an individual can only consent to this after having been read the Georgia Implied Consent Notice. This notice informs individuals of their right to refuse providing a sample for testing, at the cost of having their license suspended for a minimum of a year. This, and the presence of an officer, may subtly force consent upon a driver to provide a sample of their bodily fluids. After testing, usually using an Intoxilyzer machine or Georgia Bureau of Investigation blood test, the state can use the results of this test to prove the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or another substance while driving. At this point, an individual is formally accused by the state of DUI and (usually) retains the services of an attorney. A competent defense attorney will have the knowledge to question certain aspects of the arrest, such as the reason for the initial stop and if it was merely a pretense, any search of the vehicle for alcohol or drugs, the standard field sobriety testing performed by the officer, the chain of custody of any bodily fluids, and more.
The 6th Amendment states:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Defendants have the right to an attorney in any criminal case, regardless of the offenses of which they are charged. This includes DUIs. Gideon v. Wainright extended this right to include indigent defense for those who cannot afford an attorney on their own. Notwithstanding the heinousness of any crime a defendant is alleged to have committed, he is entitled to a competent, zealous defense by his attorney. It is worth noting that, until a defendant has been adjudicated guilty by a jury of his peers or a judge, he is also entitled to a presumption of innocence.
Presumption of Innocence
One of the most fundamental tenets of our criminal justice system is that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Simply because a person is accused of a DUI does not make the defendant guilty. Unfortunately, this is the stance that many citizens take, as well as attorneys. In instances such as this, a defendant is effectively disadvantaged before a trial even begins. Overcoming this presumption of guilt is a herculean task. It is likely that many jurors think that, even if the defendant is not guilty of a DUI, then surely, he is guilty of something else. Otherwise, why would he have been arrested? This prejudicial thinking is repugnant to a legal system where every defendant is entitled to a presumption of innocence until the state can prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest, and most demanding, standard of proof in our legal system. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt requires the prosecution to convince a trier of fact of all of the essential elements of a crime. This standard of proof requires more than reasonable suspicion, probable cause, preponderance of the evidence, or even clear and convincing evidence. Until a defendant is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, there can be no inference the defendant has actually committed the offense.
Defendants in any criminal case, not just DUIs, have certain rights and entitlements. These rights and entitlements include the presumption of innocence and the right to an attorney. This right to an attorney means the defendant has a right to representation. He should not be denied representation merely because he is charged with a DUI. An accusation of driving under the influence does not equal a conviction. A presumption of innocence should mean that there would be no moral issue with defending an individual accused of a DUI—they have not been found guilty of anything yet. Assuming that an individual is guilty simply because they are charged with an offense is prejudicial to the defendant and contrary to one of the pillars of our legal system. Individuals charged with DUIs, just like individuals charged with any other offense, deserve the right to representation and zealous advocacy. With these things in mind, I would have no issue defending an individual charged with a DUI.