Does It Make Sense to Pay Thousands of Dollars to Defend an Arizona DUI Case?

Why a Person Accused of DUI in Arizona Should Hire a Former Maricopa County Prosecutor to Review the Facts to Determine if a Costly Legal Defense Would be a Waste of Money

by Norm Keyt, Arizona DUI Attorney
Direct phone: 480-664-7349

Arizona DUI defense attorneys charge thousands of dollars for a DUI case.  Five thousand dollars is a common fee for an experienced DUI defense attorney with some firms charging up to ten thousand dollars.  Even though we all know there is no “free lunch,” “free consultations” are frequently part of the marketing program for these law firms.

But is it worth it? Can all DUI cases be successfully defended in court? The truth is that very few can be successfully defended.  It may not make sense to pay thousands of dollars to defend a case you just can’t win.  We recommend a different, more reasonable approach to a DUI case.  We call it a “Personalized Defense Evaluation” or “PDE.”

Why is it so Hard to Defend a DUI Case?

The Arizona legislature and Arizona’s DUI defense lawyers are engaged in a never ending tug of war.  Every year DUI defense lawyers make new cracks and fissures in the DUI laws.  In the next legislative session, the legislature seals them up.

The legislature continues to make the punishment for DUI more and more severe.  The legislature has virtually eliminated a judge’s ability to suspend the harsh DUI punishments.  At the same time, a driver’s chances of successfully defending a DUI charge have gone down dramatically.

In the past, defense attorneys working with facts favorable to the driver, could successfully negotiate sentencing concessions with prosecutors.  The prosecution would offer plea bargains favorable to drivers.  Today, prosecutor’s offices have rigid plea guidelines based on the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the driver.  They have done this because alcohol testing methods have become more reliable and difficult to challenge.  Prosecutors will only vary from plea guidelines on cases with serious legal or factual weaknesses.

The truth is that very few DUI cases can be successfully defended in court.  In most cases, the driver will get the same pre-trial plea offer from the prosecutor whether or not the driver hires a lawyer.  The prosecutor simply looks at the BAC number and makes a plea offer based on the BAC.

Federal and State Governments have invested literally hundreds of millions of dollars to attack drunk driving since the 1960s.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has worked closely with the states to develop uniform methods of enforcement, DUI enforcement procedures and local police training.  The NHTSA has been the moving force behind the development of scientific procedures and scientific devices, such as breathalyzer machines, to fight drunk driving.

For example, the standard set of field sobriety tests, like the finger-to-nose test, given by police officers on the street after a DUI traffic stop were developed by the NHTSA.  Each test is based on scientific studies and the “clues” the police officer records as he grades the driver’s performance relate directly to the scientific studies.  The standard field sobriety tests give very reliable indications of the degree of a driver’s impairment.  The NHTSA provides grants to state and local governments to make sure police officers are properly trained to administer the tests and detect the clues.

After a police officer makes a DUI stop he will ask the driver a series of questions that may seem pretty insignificant to the driver at the time.  For example, the officer asks “Where were you coming from?” and then “Where were you going?” Why does the officer ask such seemingly inconsequential questions?

Because NHTSA studies show that drunk drivers are frequently way off course.  These questions frequently identify a driver who is going in the wrong direction or in some fashion “lost.” That’s a very good indication that the driver is impaired.

This battery of questions that police officers routinely ask stopped drivers is called the “Alcohol Influence Report.” Every question on the Alcohol Influence Report is there because the NHTSA studies show that they can provide good evidence of impairment.

Another reason it is so difficult to defend DUI cases is the increasingly sophisticated scientific equipment used to determine blood alcohol content.  Intoxilyzer machines, which determine BAC from a breath sample, have become more and more reliable.  They used to be mechanical devices that were difficult to maintain and keep calibrated.  In the past, a police department’s failure to maintain or keep the machine accurately calibrated resulted in many dismissed DUI cases.

Modern Intoxilyzers, like the Intoxilyzer 8000 in widespread use in Arizona, are less mechanical devices than they are computers.  They are easier to maintain and easier to calibrate.  There are fewer successful DUI defenses based on bad readings of breath samples than there were in prior years.  In addition, more and more police departments are taking blood samples.  Blood samples yield a very accurate, difficult to contest, BAC reading.

The deck is stacked against the driver.  Most DUI cases can’t be successfully defended in court.  Prosecutors give standard plea offers in DUI cases based on BAC readings and BAC readings are difficult to contest.

Are There DUI Cases that can be Won?  The Personalized Defense Evaluation

Since most DUI cases can’t be successfully defended, spending a lot of money on your defense may not be a good idea.  But, some cases can be defended.  An analysis of the facts and circumstances as they relate to several key topics by a qualified DUI defense attorney can determine whether or not the case can be successfully defended.

I call this evaluation of the government’s case against the driver a “Personalized Defense Evaluation” (PDE).  This is very different than the “Free Consultation” you get from the law firms that advertise on television.  It’s impossible to evaluate a case without collecting all the evidence the government has against you.  The PDE is performed only after we have all the government’s evidence in our possession and a detailed chronology of events from the driver and any witnesses.

How Does the PDE Work?

Let’s start with how the traditional process works and compare it to the PDE process.  Traditionally, the process works like this.  You hire a defense attorney and pay your fee.  The attorney makes an “appearance” in the case and goes to your first or second court date with you.

After the court appearance called the “arraignment” the government is required to “disclose” all the evidence they have against you whether or not you have hired an attorney.  If you’ve hired an attorney, the government gives the “disclosure” to your attorney.  Your attorney then reviews and evaluates the government’s evidence against you.  In his evaluation of the case, the attorney also considers your recollection of events leading to the DUI arrest.

Traditionally, it is at this stage of the process, after evaluating the strength of the government’s case, that your attorney would attempt to negotiate a favorable plea agreement with the prosecutor.  But with modern reliable scientific evidence and rigid prosecutor plea policies, this is where the process has changed.  Today, in the vast majority of cases you will get the same plea offer without a lawyer that you get with a lawyer.

But sometimes the government makes a mistake.  These mistakes can form the basis of a successful DUI defense.  If the government violates a driver’s constitutional rights you have a defense.  If the government makes mistake collecting scientific evidence you can have a defense.  If the government makes a mistake testing or preserving the evidence you can have a defense.

Here’s how the PDE process works.  Our limited objective is to evaluate the government’s case against you and give you an opinion on whether or not the case can be defended.  If the case can be defended we refer you to qualified DUI defense attorneys to defend the case in court.  These defense attorneys will give you a credit on their fees for the cost of the PDE.

The PDE process requires that you go to the arraignment without an attorney and plead “not guilty.” Many city prosecution offices now take “disclosure” packets to arraignment and give the packet of evidence to the attorney or if the defendant (driver) is not represented by an attorney, the packet is given to the defendant.  If the arresting city or county does not provide “disclosure” at arraignment you must make arrangements with the prosecution representative at the arraignment to obtain the “disclosure” packet.  In some cases it is available to be picked up at a certain location, or in other cases the prosecution will mail it to the address you designate.

At the arraignment, you will be given a court date four to six weeks after arraignment.  This is typically called a “Pre-trial Conference.” As soon as possible after arraignment, you get the government’s “disclosure” packet to the Keyt Law Offices to begin the PDE analysis.

The Personalized Defense Evaluation

The facts and circumstances in each of the following areas are analyzed in relation to the law to determine if the driver has a possible defense:

  • Was there a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity justifying a traffic stop by the police officer?
  • Is there an “Actual Physical Control” issue in the case?
  • Did the officer’s conduct during the traffic stop violate the driver’s Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights?
  • Was the officer qualified to administer the field sobriety tests and were they correctly administered?
  • Was there probable cause to arrest the driver?
  • Was there a violation of the driver’s Fifth Amendment right to remain silent? (Miranda issues)
  • Was there a violation of the driver’s Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel?
  • Are there implied consent/admin per se issues in the case?
  • In breath testing cases:

Are there issues relating to the reliability or accuracy of the testing device?

Are there issues relating to the sufficiency of the breath sample?

Are there issues relating to the driver’s ability to obtain an independent test of the breath sample?

  • In blood testing cases:

Are there issues relating to the qualifications of the phlebotomist who drew the blood and the handling and preservation of the blood after the draw?

Are there chain of custody issues for the blood sample?

Are there issues relating to the driver’s ability to obtain an independent blood test on the sample?

  • Do the facts of the case raise a valid “Relation Back” defense?

Police officers may not stop drivers unless they have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.  “Pretext stops” are not legal.  The officer must have some facts which would lead a reasonable person to believe that criminal activity is afoot.  It may be possible to challenge the entire DUI case if there was no reasonable basis for the stop.

The question of whether or not the police officer made a legal stop depends on the facts and circumstances of each case.  There are, quite literally, an unlimited number of factual situations; each case is different.  Lawyers look to prior cases that have been appealed to a higher court, from a trial court, to provide guidance on questions about the application of the law to different fact situations.

Appeals courts review the facts and circumstances of lower court cases and write published opinions about whether or not a particular fact situation was or wasn’t a legal stop.  Lawyers can compare the facts in these written opinions to their client’s cases and come to a conclusion about whether or not the stop in their client’s case was legal or illegal.

Sometimes people are cited for DUI when they are found sleeping in their car while the car is parked on the street, a driveway or parking lot.  Is that legal? Again it depends on the facts and circumstances of the particular case.  For lawyers, this is called a question of “Actual Physical Control.” Just as there are host of appeals court cases addressing the factual situations of police traffic stops, there are a number of appeals court cases addressing the factual situations concerning “Actual Physical Control.”

Can a police officer search your car after a traffic stop? Sometimes they can legally search your car and in other fact situations it would be illegal.  Here again the facts and circumstances make all the difference.  If an officer makes an illegal search, any evidence the officer discovers can be thrown out by the court.  Any “fruit” or evidence obtained from the search can also be thrown out.

All DUI defendants get arrested.  But how and when a driver gets arrested can make a difference.  Under the United States Constitution, a police officer can’t make an arrest unless he has reasonable, trustworthy, information that leads him to believe that an offense has been committed and the person who is being arrested is the one who committed the offense.

Once a suspect is arrested, the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel become critically important.  These rights “kick in” when a suspect is arrested.  Sometimes a driver can be “arrested” before the officer actually says, “I’m placing you under arrest.” It depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.

If you are handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car before the officer says, “I’m placing you under arrest,” are you in fact under arrest when you’re put in the car? Would it make a difference if you asked for a lawyer at the time the officer was putting you in the back of the car and the officer ignored your request? It might.

What about the Fifth Amendment? Don’t people have a right to remain silent? How is it legal for police officers to ask a driver all the questions on the Alcohol Influence Report? Don’t the police have to read a driver Miranda warnings before they can ask any questions? If so, when must the police read you the Miranda warnings?

This is just a glimpse of some of facts and circumstances that must be considered in evaluating a DUI case.  A careful review of the facts, the sequence of events leading to the arrest and the timing of any Miranda warnings or requests for counsel must be made in the course of evaluating a DUI case.  If the government violated the driver’s constitutional rights, it can lead to the dismissal of a DUI case.

On the other hand, if the government did everything by the book, chances are the driver will have no defense to DUI charges.  The Keyt Law Offices Personalized Defense Evaluation can potentially save people charged with DUI thousands of dollars.  It makes sense to have your case analyzed for possible defenses before paying an attorney thousands of dollars to represent you in court.

Save Thousands of Dollars and Learn If Your DUI Case has a Reasonable Defense or If Your Should Plead Guilty and Save the Defense Costs

Since most DUI cases can’t be successfully defended in court, in most cases it makes no sense to spend thousands of dollars to retain a defense attorney to handle the case.  It does make sense to hire an experienced DUI defense attorney to evaluate the facts and evidence in your case and determine whether or not you have a defense.

If you don’t have a defense, save money and plead guilty (the “Plea Track”). If you do have a defense, hire an attorney to take the case to trial (“Trial Track”).  If you hire us for a PDE, we will not take your case to trial.  Our only job is to evaluate the facts and evidence then give you advice on how to proceed.   If your case should go to trial, we refer you to other qualified DUI defense attorneys.

If your case is on the Plea Track we will evaluate the prosecutor’s plea bargain offer and advise you on the quality of the plea offer.  We will also provide you with information about common sentencing options.

If your case is on the Trial Track we will refer you to qualified DUI defense attorneys. Those attorneys will give you a credit off their normal fees equal to the amount you paid us for the PDE.

How to Hire Norman Keyt to Perform a DUI Personalized Defense Evaluation

If you’ve been charged with DUI and want to save yourself thousands of dollars, hire former Maricopa County prosecutor Norman Keyt for $750 to perform a DUI Personalized Defense Evaluation.  Use one of the following methods to hire Norm for your PDE.

  • Contact Norm Keyt by phone at 480-664-7349. A short ten minute phone call can be your first step, or if you prefer, send an email to nck@keytlaw.com.  Norm Keyt will then email or mail you an engagement agreement.

Our policy requires that new clients first sign an engagement agreement and pay the PDE fee in advance before the firm will provide any legal services.

Don’t Waste Money on Legal Fees Defending a Loser DUI Case.  Let an Experienced Former Prosecutor Evaluate Your DUI Case & Tell You to Plead Guilty or If You Have a Case that Merits High Legal Fees

How the PDE Works

> You collect evidence from the prosecutor.

> Give Norm detailed information about your case.

> Norm evaluates the facts and evidence in light of the relevant law.

> Norm will not appear court on your behalf.  He only provides a DUI case evaluation service.

> If Norm concludes you have a reasonable defense, he refers you to experienced DUI defense attorneys.

You May Not Hire Norman Keyt for Your DUI

The PDE is not a marketing tool to find DUI cases for Norm Keyt.  If you have a defense, Norm will not handle your DUI case in court.

If you do not have a defense, Norm will give you an opinion on the quality of the prosecutor’s plea bargain offer.

PDE Cost

It is $750 for Norm to review the facts and evidence and advise you on whether or not you have a defense worth pursuing.

An evaluation of your DUI case can save you from wasting thousands of dollars on a lawyer when you don’t have a defense.

How To Hire AZ DUI Attorney Norm Keyt To Perform A DUI Personalized Defense Evaluation

If you’ve been charged with DUI and want to save yourself thousands of dollars, hire former Maricopa County Prosecutor Norm Keyt for $750 to perform a DUI Personalized Defense Evaluation.  Use one of the following methods to retain hire Norm.

  • Contact Norm Keyt by phone at 480-664-7349.  A short ten minute phone call can be your first step, or if you prefer, send an email to nck@keytlaw.com. Norm Keyt will then email or mail you an engagement agreement.

 

About Norman Keyt

Norm Keyt has been an Arizona lawyer since 1975.  He practices commercial civil litigation, including landlord-tenant disputes and evictions. In his thirty plus years of law practice, Norm has been lead counsel in over 100 jury trials.  Few Arizona criminal defense attorneys have the experience of Norman Keyt.  Norm has been a prosecutor, including service as the Chief Deputy Maricopa County Attorney and Chief of the County Attorney’s Trial Division.  He started his legal career in 1975 as a public defender, defending DUI cases in Justice and Municipal courts, and now works as a privately retained criminal defense attorney.

While serving as a Deputy County Attorney for Maricopa County, Arizona, Norm prosecuted several thousand DUI cases in justice courts and in Superior Court.  He has defended DUI cases since he entered private practice in 1999.

As Chief Deputy of the Maricopa County Attorney’s office, Norm was responsible for managing all the Maricopa County Attorney’s prosecution functions.  Norm has drafted prosecutor plea policies for DUI cases and lobbied for changes in DUI laws before the Arizona legislature.  He has served on the board of Directors for the National District Attorney’s Association and served as a member of the Arizona Juvenile Justice  Advisory Council.

Norm Keyt has the background and experience as a DUI expert to evaluate the facts and evidence in all Arizona DUI cases.  If you have a good defense to DUI charges, you can rely on Norm to find it.

Norm can be reached by telephone at 480-664-7349 and email at  nck@keytlaw.com.  Communicating with Norman Keyt via email or otherwise does not cause you to become a client or cause your communications to be confidential or subject to the attorney client privilege.

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