DUI prosecutions are motivated by issues that are not based upon constitutional fairness or equity. Like all attorneys, they are bound by ethical duties and a high standard of “fair dealing” with all litigants in our adversarial legal process. Often, the heat of battle causes these officials to become both political and competitive. When this occurs, justice does routinely suffer at the hands of a prosecutor’s vanity or ego, or outright criminal misconduct.
Lawyers must periodically stand for election. Many are first appointed to their posts by the governor of their respective state to act as the county or state attorney given the responsibility for accusing and prosecuting crimes within their jurisdiction. When it is time for re-election rolls around, an opponent seeking to replace the prosecutor may investigate the actions of the incumbent in dismissing cases, reducing cases or noteworthy cases at trial. A high profile trial can end the tenure of a successful and diligent state or county attorney. Los Angeles County, California is probably the best known place for this to occur in the United States. Hence, the pressure to “win” will always loom over the lawyer’s office. Case dispositions are public records, for mostly all criminal cases. Combing the prior files for unusual or inexplicable outcomes favoring persons charged with DWI can be a large part of an opponent’s political attack on the current office-holder. This political tension, coupled with attorneys’ inbred desire to “win”, creates a rocky slope for defense attorneys to negotiate as the case goes to trial. In the late 20th century and in the current century, numerous states have passed legislation that intends to create a crime for prosecutors within the state to reduce or dismiss a DUI-DWI charge. Kentucky and Oregon have such statutes, and many cases are needlessly tried due to the legislative edict that threatens any prosecutor who negotiates a marginal case with becoming a criminal defendant from doing so. Such legislative overreaching is an improper misuse of the legislative process, and a constitutionally a questionable practice. To say that every DUI-DWI case made by the officers of these states is a good, solid case is ludicrous and yet such laws are politically expedient.
Like other jobs, relationships are built and experienced DUI lawyers can approach an ethical and principled district attorney or state’s attorney with a proposal for a reduced charges or dismissal of charges in a pending DUI case. Knowledgeable attorneys in the drunken driving defense field will know which prosecutors to trust and which ones not to trust. Being able to find a “winning” defense or a flaw in the prosecution’s case, and then to be able to use that as a negotiating tool to avoid the risk of trial is generally limited to DWI lawyers who work in this field on a daily basis. Some prosecutors would listen to the presentation once and immediately “fix” the problem by amending the accusation or information or possibly by locating an essential witness whose name was not known prior to the conversation with defense counsel. They know no loyalty and will not have moral compass. They want to win more than they care about fairness, much less their tarnished reputations in the future. Criminal defense lawyers who handle criminal law matters every day quickly learn who these people are, and never trust them with any pre-trial “disclosures”. Other prosecutors are highly honorable people who will “do the right thing” when confronted with a loser of a case, based on some latent flaw or defect in the case.