I went to law school because I wanted to help people.
A lot of people say that. Then they graduate, work for some firm that exists to make rich people richer, push paperwork around, and live a life mostly free from worrying about being in the crosshairs of the criminal court system.
I volunteered at public defender offices throughout law school, then got a job at one the day after I graduated. Every day, I think about the people I had the privilege to meet doing that work – the single mother who walked into court thinking she was just going to pay a few tickets, then got thrown in jail for a year after a sham trial where she was denied a lawyer (I successfully appealed and got her out), or the innocent man who sat in pretrial detention for over a year facing a life sentence (whose girlfriend on the outside paid thousands of dollars to a disbarred attorney before I was appointed), the man whose artwork hangs on my office wall today who was homeless for years and probably had dozens of public defenders before me and after me.
I firmly believe the criminal court system isn’t fair. It’s not clear. It’s not coherent. It’s not efficient. It’s not friendly. It’s filled with people in suits who think they have better things to do and places they’d rather be. In every courthouse, you can find people who have spent years asking judges to put people in jail but who have never a minute in handcuffs themselves.
I spend my time thinking about the people who need help inside of a broken system and thinking about how I can help them.
DUI Defense isn’t the most glamorous subset of Criminal Defense. The stories aren’t usually as gut-wrenching (although they can be). There’s no Law & Order episode about the mechanics of a breathalyzer. Perry Mason never shocked the courtroom by revealing the flaws of the horizontal gaze nystagmus sobriety test.
But DUIs are still prosecuted in a criminal court. It’s still unfair. It’s still confusing. It’s still unbalanced.
When I started defending DUI cases, I learned how skewed and arbitrary the sobriety tests can be. I watched video after video where officers would make a gut-check decision about my client’s driving after just a couple of minutes, and then I’d see them go on to defend their methods on the witness stand like they were expert witnesses testifying before Congress.
But more importantly, I got to meet people who had their world grind to a halt. Unable to drive to work with a suspended license. Unsure about what their criminal record would show. Unable to find all the money to pay to bail out of jail, get their car out of the lot, pay for DUI school, court costs, and reinstatement fees. People who might never had been inside of a courthouse before, and who had no idea what to expect.
I do this work because I help people. It’s all I do.
If you came here to read my resume, I’ve got a LinkedIn profile for that. But the one thing I want to make sure you know about me is that there’s one question that stays on my mind from the beginning to the end of each day: