Why Are These Types of Cases So Prevalent? Attorney O’Donnell Presents a Common Scenario
A DWI offender will show up for his or her trial and the prosecutor asks, “Have you ever had a DWI?” If the answer is no, they say, “All right, you’re eligible for the alcohol education program or if this is your first offense, you’d be looking at six months in jail, suspended, and 18 months of probation.”
The defendant might ask, “Do I need a lawyer?” Only to be informed by the prosecutor that, “It won’t get any better with a lawyer.” So they say, “Okay, then I won’t call.” However, they are always informed of the need for an attorney with a violation of this nature.
The 30 Day Jail Sentence Is Only Enforced for Alcohol-Related License Suspensions
Interviewer: Is the 30 days in jail penalty just for alcohol-related suspensions or is it for any kind of driving infraction where you might have lost your license?
Jack O’Donnell: No, only alcohol. Operating under a regular suspension because you didn’t pay a ticket, or you forgot to go to court, or because you plead guilty last time to reckless driving and you lost your license, will not entail going to jail automatically.
When you are initially charged with driving under a suspension, they pull up your history and they see it’s under suspension for a year because of a DWI, then they call it 215-C as opposed to A or B.
What Type of Probation Will You Have to Serve after a DWI Conviction?
Interviewer: What type of probation will individuals receive after a DWI conviction? Is it really intensive?
Connecticut Judges Typically Sentence Individuals Convicted of a DWI to Non-Reporting Probation
Jack O’Donnell: No, frequently it’s what is known as a non-reporting probation. You just have to not pick up any new DWI’s or violate any condition that the judge imposes. The judge could add the condition of alcohol evaluation treatment if necessary, in which case the probation department would have to monitor your attendance of those classes.
He or she could decree that if you cause an accident, you have to make restitution for the amount of whatever the property damage was. Probation would monitor that, but if it just says standard probation, you may not ever have to report to a probation officer. They’re awfully busy with people who do need monitoring.
Real-Life DWI Defense Cases: How Your Attorney Uncovers Evidence to Help your Case
Interviewer: Can you any stories of crazy or strange DWI cases that you won or you got a good result on and the outcome surprised you?
Jack O’Donnell: Well, I handled a case for a high-ranking politician that took a urine test and the police never put in the police report the time the urine test was taken. The case lingered for over a year, and then they were about to dispose of the urine and I obtained it; and once I unwrapped the packaging, I saw written on the urine container what time the urine was taken and it wasn’t within the statutory time so they had to throw it out; which they were not happy about, given, again, this was a high-profile politician.
In this case, a woman was driving drunk with seven children in the car, all of them not wearing a seatbelt. She had an accident and almost all of them were hurt and in one way or another including open cuts. Before an appearance before a judge, she showed up in court wearing a Spuds McKenzie, This Bud’s For You t-shirt. That ranked up there with the stupid decisions.
Also, I tried to get a lot of people like that into rehabilitation because with multiple offenses or extremely high alcohol limits, many people sit in my office looking they’re about to kill themselves because they think their lives are ruined.
I always try to get them into counseling, either psychiatric or alcohol counseling because addiction is a terrible thing; and they probably need it, but the charge isn’t the end of the world. Life still goes on and you’ve just got to learn from it.
When Considering Retaining an Attorney to Defend Your DWI Case, Look for Experience: In This Case, It Does Count
Interviewer: You have been practicing for many years and are an experienced attorney. Do you feel that because you know the courts, the judges, the system and all the personnel, that long-term acquaintance make it easier for you to defend your clients?
Jack O’Donnell: The reality is it doesn’t help much because prosecutors use such little discretion nowadays. Judges have such little discretion with DWI’s because, again, they’re scrutinized by groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I’ve just handled so many, so many thousands of these cases that my experience allows me to identify issues that may allow me to win or just get a more favorable disposition on it.
Just this year in number, I believe I have seen every issue under the sun.
Interviewer: How many cases, in ballpark, have you defended over what time period?
Jack O’Donnell: I have been practicing for 40 years. In that time, I’ve probably handled an average of 75 to 100 cases per year, so I’ve probably handled approximately 3,000 cases.