A Public Defender vs. An Attorney that Practices 100% OWI Defense
Interviewer: Would you ever advise a client to face a DUI charge on their own, or possibly take their chances with a public defender?
Nathan: I would say that practicing DUI defense is an art. I’ve spent hundreds of hours looking at blood testing, breath testing. I’ve received my certification for forensic drug and alcohol lawyer from the American Chemical Society, in terms of the amount of time we’ve taken to look at that. It’s a very specific science, when it comes to blood and breath testing. You get what you pay for, as far as I’m concerned.
Regarding a first offense in the state of Wisconsin, you’re not entitled to a public defender because it is a traffic ticket or a civil forfeiture. It’s not a crime. You’re either going to have to retain private counsel or go it alone, because the state will not provide you with a public defender.
Quality is Always Important for Your Defense
Interviewer: Is the adage of “You get what you pay for” true in the defense of an OWI charge?
Nathan: I would absolutely agree with that. My fees are elevated, compared to typical criminal defense attorneys, but that’s because I focus 100 percent of my practice on OWI defense and any drug or prescription‑related driving charges.If you’re hiring an attorney, you have to look at their experience levels, what types of training and background information they have, whether or not they take OWI cases to trial, percentage and likelihood of success at trials. There’s a lot of things that you can consider.
That’s why one of the things that I do when I have a client come in and meet with me is I give them a list of questions to ask any attorney who represents OWI clients, along with a packet of general information about Wisconsin OWI law, the process they’re looking at, what they’re going to have to do in order to get past this.
What You Should Prepare for Your Attorney
The list of questions, I think, is really important, because if you decide you don’t want to go with myself, here at Vanden Heuvel and Dineen or anywhere else, there’s a list of questions that you can ask a different attorney, just to make sure that they are experienced in defending OWI cases to trial if it calls for it.
Some of those questions would be, “What percentage of your practice is devoted to OWI defense? What percentages of your cases actually go to trial? What, if any, advanced training do you have in blood/breath testing, and standardized field sobriety testing? It even goes down to some very generic questions, like, “What’s the name of the Wisconsin breath testing machine?”
If you’re an attorney, and you’re saying that you’re representing OWI clients, and you can’t even name the machine that you have to fight against, or the accuracy of it, that should be a big indicator to any potential clients that you may not be worth your weight in salt.