Why hire a private attorney?
The institutional public defenders (such as Legal Aid Society, Queens Law Associates, Brooklyn, Bronx and New York County Defenders) are salaried employees. They get paid the same amount whether they handle one or ten thousand cases, whether they provide quality representation or lousy lawyering. As a private attorney, I know that the referrals I receive from satisfied clients are my primary source of business. Therefore, doing the best job possible is not only in the best interest of the client, it's in my best interest.
Can bail status be changed after being set by the court?
While most Judges are reluctant to even entertain a new bail application (undermining the ruling of a colleague), I have persuaded countless jurists that there has been a "change of circumstances," warranting reduction in bail or even release. In the alternative, I have had client's bail reduced via a Writ of Habeas Corpus. This may require going to a court of higher jurisdiction, seeking a de novo (new) bail application or arguing "abuse of discretion" by the Judge who previously set bail.
Do you handle DWI and DUIs and what’s the difference?
I have handled hundreds of these cases. Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is often referred to as Driving Under the Influence (DUI). NYS's Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) defines these crimes under section 1192.
The most common subsections charged are:
- Driving While Ability is Impaired (DWAI). This is a traffic infraction and not a crime, but can still have significant consequences.
- a) Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). The "statutory" DWI, which is based on allegations that a person operated a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher. This has to be based on a chemical test analysis, typically based on a breath or blood sample.
b) Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated. Operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .18 or higher.
- Driving While intoxicated (DWI). The "common law" DWI, where the prosecution relies on "indicia of intoxication" (i.e. bloodshot watery eyes, slurred speech, unsteady on his/her feet, the smell of an alcoholic beverage on his/her breath, etc) and not a chemical test of the client's blood alcohol level.
- Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol. Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of certain drugs or alcohol and drugs.
Despite the fact that these crimes (or in the case of DWAI, infraction) are not defined under the Penal Law (PL), doesn't meant that there are not significant penalties. Under the VTL, a person convicted under these laws faces serious sanctions, including: license suspension, substantial fines, alcohol and/or substance abuse programs, community service, victim impact panel (VIP), Dept of Motor Vehicle's (DMV) drunk driving program (DDP), ignition interlock device (IID), probation or even jail.
- In addition to the routine DWI/DUI cases, I have extensive experience handling related matters, including: leaving the scene of accident, felony DWI/DUI, vehicular manslaughter and other cases involving vehicles and fatalities.
What "rights" do you seek to protect?
It’s my job to insure that ALL of my client's rights are protected. Both Statutory and Constitutional rights. Rights granted under the United States Constitution as well as those granted under New York State's Constitution. They include: the Right to Counsel, Right to Cross Examine and Confront Witnesses, Right to Testify on One's Own Behalf, Right to Remain Silent, Right to Speedy Trial, Right to Use Court's Subpoena Power to Compel Witnesses to Testify or Produce Documents, Right to be Free from Unreasonable Search and Seizures, Right to a Jury Trial (in Most Cases), the Presumption of Innocence, Right to Present a Defense and much, much more. Insuring that all your rights are protected, prevents abuse by the police, prosecutors and the Courts.
What if I am a "suspect" or "person of interest," but have not been arrested?
That is a critical stage of the case. I frequently get retained by clients during pre-arrest investigations. I have the telephone number for all NYPD Precincts on speed dial. I routinely call and interrupt police interrogations and immediately fax over a "formal letter of legal representation," something I can do from my smartphone from anywhere, at any time. Sometimes it involves a sit down meeting with the police or prosecution, where I present "our version" of the facts. I have also appeared at police precincts to insure that a line-up is conducted fairly, and is not "unduly suggestive." My early retention and intervention has prevented the police and/or prosecution from securing evidence they might otherwise have. In numerous instances, this has been the difference between a viable prosecution and the client not even being arrested.
Do I need a lawyer if I only got a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) or summons?
Absolutely. A DAT is an arrest. Based on the nature of the charge, the client having sufficient identification and no or minimal criminal history, the police release him/her from the precinct instead of holding them until a Judge makes a bail determination. Just because you are released from the precinct, doesn't mean that the case is over or that it is not serious. Most DATs charge misdemeanors, where you face up to one year in jail. Moreover, you still have to appear in court for an arraignment, where the Judge can still set bail. Many summonses are returnable in the Criminal Court where a Judicial Hearing Officer (JHO) acts as both prosecutor and Judge. These are heard in a courtroom where you are unwittingly asked to waive your right to appear before a sitting Criminal Court Judge. Knowing the intricacies of how to handle these matters can be the difference between a positive or negative outcome.
Should avoiding jail be my only goal?
Of course not. There are many "collateral consequences" of a criminal conviction. The impact on a client's immigration status can be life-altering. Even if you have a "green card" (are a permanent resident), doesn't mean that you aren't subject to drastic sanctions, such as deportation, denial of naturalization or the inability to re-enter the U.S. if you have travelled abroad. Professional licensing, drivers licenses, employment, property or monetary forfeiture, ability to secure student grants or student loans, housing, and public benefits are just a few of the other issues I see and address regularly.
How should one conduct oneself when arrested or having an encounter with the police?
Be calm and respectful. Getting indignant, even when warranted rarely helps and may escalate an already difficult situation. If the police ask for permission to search, you, your home, automobile, or containers (such as a handbag, knapsack etc), do not give permission, do not consent. Do not explain yourself or answer any questions. Instead, tell them that you refuse to speak to the police, but instead want to consult with your attorney. Even if the police tell you that they will get a search warrant or threaten you (telling you they will have to elevate the charges), do not consent to a search and do not make or sign any statements. Request the opportunity to make a call and contact a reliable family member or friend who will secure counsel for you. The police may overhear your conversation, so instead of describing what happened, tell them what the police are accusing you of doing. If arraigned and bail is set, be very careful what you say over the telephone as all D.O.C. calls (other than to the telephone number of a registered attorney, such as myself) are recorded and are often secured and reviewed by prosecutors at a later date.
What kind of fees should I expect to pay?
Every case is unique, so there is no single answer. Instead, fees depend on the severity of the charges, complexity of the case, and stage of the proceedings. While some of my clients are wealthy, where money is no object, I also represent countless middle class individuals who struggle to save. It’s important to get a fair and reasonable fee, even when facing jail and the stakes are high. So I set a clear fee structure, without surprises and, when appropriate, will consider a payment plan.