DUI Lawyers as Highly Paid Enablers

by ptbarone on May 22, 2009

in Defending Drinking Drivers, Drunk Driving Attorney's Page, Support and Treatment

A group of about 600 lawyers from across the country share information on a list serve.   This forum is used to share ideas, information and support regarding the defense of drinking drivers.  I am a regular participant. 

An interesting thread was started about a week ago.  For obvious reasons I’m going to keep all of the posts that I reproduce here anonymous.

The thread started with this email from an Arizona lawyer:

A few years ago, I ran the table on all charges.  My client was a beautiful and brilliant young lady in her late 30s - a self-made millionaire in finance. Early on, she admitted to me that she had a problem with alcohol & Xanax (alprazolam), etc.   Because of her beauty and success she nevertheless perceived herself as 10 feet tall and bullet-proof in all respects and had no interest in therapy, support groups or sobriety. I recently heard she died last week of an alcohol and drug overdose. God be good to her. What a tragic and horrible waste …

I’m friends with this lawyer and have known him for years.  He’s a terrific guy, an extremely talented lawyer, and a recovering alcoholic.  I know that he really cares about people and about his clients, and always encourages his clients accused of drunk driving to begin treatment.  This news obviously hit him hard.  This was my response:

I am of the belief that by winning we can be inadvertent enablers. Yet, winning, or at least trying to, is our foremost ethical obligation. We are not nor should we be ethically obligated to get our clients into treatment.

Another drunk driving defense lawyer, this one from Alabama, had this to say:

My wife is a clinical social worker whose private corrections company provides drug/alcohol counseling to federal inmates. During the heat of a past memorable argument/discussion she called me a “highly paid enabler.” This work is not for everyone. Many of us have these stories where a former client injures or kills after we have done our job by providing a proper Sixth Amendment defense.

One client of mine received three back to back charges and was acquitted on all three in bench trials on the same day on legal defenses based on police error. I read in the newspaper the following week where she was involved in a head on collusion after entering an interstate ramp going the wrong way killing herself and a nineteen year old kid. While I often think of this it has not deterred me from continuing the work in balancing the scales.

It is an insidious disease that causes denial. So many people don’t have anyone who gives enough of a damn about them to confront and exhort them to tell themselves the truth about their drinking. I don’t think it is our job to social work our clients but we are presented opportunities to encourage and support treatment from a professional distance as long as it does not get in the way of our main duty to defend.

This thread really sums up many of my personal beliefs on the issue, and again, is the main reason why I started this web site. 

A Virginia drunk driving defense lawyer sums it up this way ”I have had more cases that have been true wins because my client got into treatment and turned his/her life around before we ever got to trial.” 

I couldn’t say it any better myself.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

kennedy May 23, 2009 at 9:32 am

Years ago, I ran a first-offender program for a court. A big problem was that the DWI lawyers were not emphasizing the disconnect between criminal culpability/likelihood of legal guilt and whether the client had a problem. This led to clients believing things like “I don’t have a problem, breath machines screw up.” or, “I don’t have a problem, I passed the field tests.” My favorite is “The cop didn’t show up, the case was dismissed, I was never drunk!” Attorneys doing DWI work have an obligation to address the whole client–if a client has a test north of a .16 and did OK on fields, that’s a good sign of tolerance and a drinking problem. Send ‘em off to treatment. Granted, the business doesn’t allow so much for hand-holding, but some obligation to get the client to see the bigger picture apart from whether the charge can be ‘beat’ does exist.
I’ve tried more than a thousand DWIs myself, and been a judge on about 6000 more. Just had to add a little something.

Leave a Comment

Previous post: Source Code Litigation May Halt Breath Testing in Arizona

Next post: Advantages of Substance Abuse Treatment to the Drunk Driving Accused