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Survive A DUI

How to get through getting a DUI - both mentally, and legally.

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Guest Post: Preparing for Court -  Surviving your DUI Court date

Max Frizalone of the Frizwoods Group reached out to me and offered some insights on how to prepare for court. Personally one of the big advantages of hiring a lawyer was having to avoid all this (although in my case they messed it up), but since some people opt not to hire one, or are in a position to where they may have to appear, I thought this would be a valuable article. - Tom


Preparing for Court -  Surviving your DUI Court date

If you are required to appear in court, especially as a defendant in a DUI case, you must dress and behave appropriately. Although this seems simple for lawyers, attire can be a point of stress for many Defendants. I’ve written this article as a day-of-court guide for anyone who might be unfamiliar with what to wear for their case. The basic rule of thumb is dress to impress.

In other words, you must present yourself in a way that makes the best possible impression on the judge, the prosecution, and the jury (if applicable). All of these people will have an impact on the outcome of your case, and they will—rightly or wrongly—judge you based on your appearance and behavior in court. 

Therefore, understanding how to present yourself in court is a must if you want to increase your odds of a successful outcome in your criminal case. In this article, we discuss how to prepare for court for a DUI case. 

The Science of First Impressions
Studies have shown that a person forms a first impression of another person within seconds of meeting. According to research in the field of neuroscience, the human tendency to judge others based on first impressions is hard-wired into our brains. In other words, it is our natural instinct as human beings to make snap judgments about others.

 So, it’s easy to see how this can affect you as a criminal defendant in court. Judges, juries, and prosecutors are driven by the same human instincts as everyone else, and their first impressions of you can have a huge impact on the outcome of your case. Therefore, as a criminal defendant, it is imperative that you do everything you can to make an excellent first impression when appearing in court. As unfair as it may seem, your appearance and behavior in court can have a huge effect on the outcome of your case. 

What to Wear
The first thing that the judge, prosecutor, and jury will notice about you when you enter the courtroom is your appearance. Therefore, you must dress in a manner that makes a great impression on the people who will have an impact on your case. For men, best practices would be to wear:
  • A clean suit or a sport coat and dress pants
  • Conservative dress shoes 
  • Matching dress socks
  • A solid-colored shirt with a collar
  • A solid-colored tie.

And for women, appropriate dress in court means:

  • A dress blouse
  • A professional skirt or dress pants 
  • Conservative dress shoes, such as low-heel pumps or flats
These outfits are just recommendations. In the post modern world of 2022, I do not presume to tell someone they must wear a certain outfit, or need to dress according to their gender. Similarly, a Judge won’t necessarily admit to treating someone different based on their dress. And honestly, I truly believe that they wouldn’t do so consciously. Having said that, the subconscious isn’t well understood but is generally accepted to drive some of our decision making. I try not to leave things to chance, so dressing for business is a safe bet. 

 In my career as a Public servant (on both sides of a Court room) I have seen nearly every bad outfit that a person can wear to Court. Everything from F@!* the Police shirts, to shirts that are barely there. I can honestly say that those people were taken less seriously. In a room where your credibility might be the difference between jail and a probation, it’s important to play it safe. 

Additional Attire Tips

Don’t dress casually:
As noted above, you shouldn’t dress casually in court. Court is a business-like environment. If you dress casually, the people who will affect the outcome of your case may assume that you aren’t taking the matter seriously, and this isn’t a good thing. No matter what you think about the criminal charges against you, you must demonstrate that you are respectful of the legal process—and this starts with your appearance.

Avoid flashy or overly formal clothing:
Although you shouldn’t dress casually in court, you also should avoid wearing flashy or overly formal clothing, as this may also paint you in a bad light. For example, court isn’t the place to wear a tuxedo or evening gown. In addition, you should avoid clothes with bright colors or flashy patterns. 

Avoid anything controversial:
Finally, you should avoid wearing clothing that may be seen as controversial, such as clothes that display political or social statements. You have no way of knowing how the judge, prosecutor, or jury may react to such statements, so it is best to avoid them altogether. 

Grooming Tips
In addition to wearing the proper clothing to court, you should ensure that you are well-groomed and present a neat, clean, appearance. This includes:  
  • Styling your hair in a conservative, neat fashion
  • Avoiding wet, dirty, or messy hair. You don’t want to look like you’ve just woken up. 
  • Scheduling a haircut one or two weeks before your court date.
  • Keeping your nails neat, clean, and trimmed
  • For women, using neutral or conservative nail polish
  • For men, being clean-shaven or having a neatly trimmed beard.

Cover Tattoos and Non-Traditional Piercings 

Tattoos and piercings are widespread and common today. Unfortunately, despite their prevalence, negative connotations associated with tattoos and certain types of piercings still exist, especially in areas that tend to be more socially conservative. 

And although this certainly isn’t true across the board, many judges and jurors hold traditional views on tattoos and piercings. Therefore, you should err on the side of caution when it comes to displaying your tattoos and body piercings in court. In other words, if possible, you should cover your tattoos and remove all non-traditional piercings before appearing in the courtroom. 

Unfortunately there are certain tattoos that cannot be easily covered. I have personally been involved in cases with facial tattoos that were covered by makeup. While it was challenging, it was important to attempt to cover these tattoos based on the subconscious negative associations that jurors and judges might hold against a client or witness.

Although, as a criminal defendant, you probably won’t have the opportunity to speak often in court (your attorney will likely encourage you to exercise your constitutional right to remain silent), when you do have a chance to speak, you should do so respectfully. For example, when dealing directly with the judge in your case, you should use a respectful tone of voice and always address him or her as “your honor.” In addition, you should avoid using slang terminology and other language that may give the judge and jury the impression you aren’t taking the legal process seriously.  

There are certain points in every case where I discuss having my client give an impact statement before their sentence (if they are found guilty). I always ask my clients to prepare the statement in advance as it is necessary to make a few edits. Additionally, I always ask my clients not to criticize the State’s case, unless we’ve lost a contested trial. There’s nothing worse then entering a guilty plea and then arguing with the Judge that you weren’t guilty, or the police lied. If those things are in fact true, then it would be best to hash it out at a trial. 

Presenting yourself in an appropriate manner while in court is a necessary component of a solid defense. However, there is much more to successfully fighting DUI charges than simply looking nice and behaving respectfully. To give yourself the best chance of success in your criminal case, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Look to an attorney's reputation in the community and speak with them before paying any money. 

Best of luck with your Court date, you’re going to be A-O-K.

Guest Post: Having Hope - 4 DUIs and Moving Forward

I saw Branden post his story on Reddit's DUI board (there's also a SAD Reddit) and encouraged him to share his story in the hopes that it can help others out there. If you'd like to share your story, please contact me. There's a lot of people who are going through what you have, and a lot of people who have already gone through it and come out the other side. Together we can make this better for all of us - Tom

Having Hope



I received DUIs in November of 2014, January of 2016, September of 2017, and March of 2020 and this is my experience.

For the first, I went out with friends from my job, Uber-ed to my truck which was left at work, napped for a while in the truck, ate some food from a drive though at taco bell, and rolled through a stop sign while proceeding home. An officer was there in the dark, lights off. I spent the night in jail and lost that job opening a craft burger restaurant in a high traffic area in Orange County, California. Anyone with a first DUI knows it can be just a slap on the wrist. By one estimate, 1 in 5 California residents have a DUI and me being a young twenty-something year old kid didn’t think too much about it.

For the second, I went on a snowboarding trip to Big Bear with some friends, drank heavily the last night, and in the morning, I drove a friend’s car home. I was caught speeding down the mountain and because I had a prior, was breathalyzed. I did 30 days of SCRAM/house arrest.

The third happened at a DUI checkpoint. I had been at a friend’s birthday party with my girlfriend at the time. She had too much to drink and I wanted to leave early to get some rest for the following workday. I had been doing investment allocations for an aerospace company and I worked another restaurant job on weekends. I had a drink at this party, but when I took the turn and discovered the checkpoint, I knew it was over. I spend 30 days in Orange County jail.

For the fourth, COVID had struck. At this point, I was on the verge of becoming a heavy drinker. I relied on alcohol in social settings, going out and partying with friends, but this started spilling over to drinking sometimes in isolation. I was studying while drinking some wine before I decided to grab something to eat. I was lucky enough to get away with only the night in jail before checking myself into a treatment facility for 60 days and pleading into DUI court.

Before the fourth, I never thought I had an issue with alcohol. I simply thought I made some very idiotic decisions. My drinking typically involved only social situations, but I would party hard and often, slowly losing any control. The fourth was a wakeup call. My weekends of partying have now come to an end, and I haven't had a drink in nearly 500 days since.

Overall, people tell me I'm lucky. I can continue on to finish my business degree at a local university, I have a lot of freedoms, I'm not locked up, and most importantly I never hurt myself or anyone else. People would be right by saying all of this; however, it's so difficult to be optimistic or confident about anything sometimes.

Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with the label society has given me. I think about obtaining this degree and being un-hirable. I think about this rigorous DUI court program and formal probation and what all that entails: 10pm curfew, no traveling outside state lines, no traveling outside the county without the POs ok to do so, weekly therapy with a court appointed counselor, weekly group therapy, several 12-step meetings per week (I'm really not a fan of AA but that's what everyone pushes), bi-weekly 3-6 hour court appearances, several random urinalysis tests per week, random home searches, etc. and I don't know how I'll be able to begin a career with it all, have any meaningful relationships or have what I consider to be a normal life. It's depressing.

People have said I deserve it. People have said I deserve much worse. And sometimes I agree. I realize what I’ve done is absolute insanity, it’s unethical, it’s dangerous and careless, and I agree. And I’m learning… I’m changing, I’m growing, I’m remorseful not because I was caught, but because I understand that my actions could have killed someone. Someone who has a life just like mine.
Some days are easier than others, but more often than not, I struggle to find hope. I tend to get really down on myself and as a result, my confidence and self-worth are all but gone. I feel like a shell of the happy, energetic, fun-to-be-around person I once was.

I've lurked a lot of comments and posts on internet forums, and I've seen some similar sentiment. For those going through similar bouts of depression, maybe you'll find some comfort in knowing you're not alone. This is the most difficult and challenging thing I've ever experienced and it's so hard to carry on at times.

I think I felt the need to have my story heard as a therapeutic rant/journal to make that point known to others as well as myself: you are not alone. This is hard. I think it gets better, I hope it gets better, it has to.

I've been spending my days now studying mostly. I received a 4.0 at my university last semester, I try to hit the gym 5 days a week, I read, I surf, I have a separate therapist I confide more in (and man, after writing this I think I need a session), I'm started dating someone who's been a good friend the past couple years and is extremely supportive of my path of continued self-betterment. I'm trying and I'm trying really hard and sometimes it's still overwhelming. Sometimes I still break down. Sometimes I still feel completely hopeless. And sometimes it's not so bad, and it's those times that keep me going because if it's not so bad sometimes, then maybe there is a possibility life can get even better. I just have to hang on to some hope, live one day at a time, and note the good things I have in the present moment.


Guest Post: Psychological Impact of a DUI Charge

Got a reader submission from John who wanted to talk about the psychological impact of all this - Tom

Psychological Impact of a DUI Charge

A DUI charge can lead to dire legal consequences, but that is not the only concern at the time of arrest. The DUI testing, police questions, license confiscation, and the overall incriminating circumstances can be overwhelming. The situation is most troublesome for young drivers who are first time offenders. They experience a paradox of emotions because there is so much to lose. They crave for a support system, as they do not know how to deal with a criminal allegation. Some offenders make the mistake of misbehaving with the police officers, which further worsens the conditions. It is natural for a person to go through a range of emotional phases while dealing with a DUI charge:

Shock and Denial
Being pulled over by the traffic police is typically an unpleasant surprise. On the top of that, getting handcuffed by a stern officer and being dragged to the police station is nothing less than horrifying. The proceedings seem like a nightmare and you hope to wake up any second. You tell yourself that you did not do anything wrong and want to run free, but find yourself restrained. You are not ready to take responsibility of your actions and face the consequences. You believe that denial will enable you to get past this.

Fear and Fury
Anger gets the best of you when the police treats you like a criminal and disrupts your plans. You clearly never intended to land in jail, thereby you curse your luck. You may yell or hit something in the heat of your desperation and frustration. At the same time, you are also frightened of what is yet to come. You are scared of having to spend the night in jail and no one coming to your rescue. If a family member sees you like this, how will you explain? 

Remorse and Embarrassment
When you realize that you were wrong and cannot undo what has happened, the guilt begins to set in. You regret every action that led you to that moment. You wish you never had a drink or got behind the wheel, but it’s too late. You wonder what your family and peers will have to say once they find out about your criminal offense. You dread the fact that your mug shot shall become public and everyone you know will see it. You cannot stop thinking about the implications of a criminal record on your job or education. 

Despair and Anxiety
When everything is out in the open and you are left helpless, despair takes over. You are sad that you let others down and risked your own future. You become a patient of depression after receiving rejection from the society and losing several privileges you had earlier. You want to go back in time, but things will never be the same. You pledge to never drink or drive again because you cannot bear reliving the recent events. 

Accepting Reality
Time heals wounds, thus you gradually become calm and complacent. You are adhered to the altered lifestyle, so it doesn’t bother you anymore. As you make peace with reality, everything starts shifting back to normal. You can never forget the incident, but you learn to live with it.  

Moving On
You start putting your life back together and strive to make things right. You try to invoke optimism and step forward. You hope to earn back the trust of people who matter the most, and not repeat your mistakes. 

Author Bio
John Adams writes about physiological traumas and personal healing. He encourages readers to fight their fears and overcome the obstacles holding them back. He believes that any person can improve the quality of his or her life by incorporating positivity in every thought and action. He loves to share his insight on life experiences, and contributes on various online platform in the same niche. 

Guest Post: How To Emotionally Recover After Receiving A DUI

Brandon emailed me again wanting to give some perspective on how to emotionally recover from a DUI. Decided it was a good idea to give an additional viewpoint other than mine about how to get through this. - Tom

How To Emotionally Recover After Receiving A DUI

By: Brandon Leuangpaseuth

“Pull over, I need to throw up!”

I quickly jerked the steering wheel to the right lane and my car drifted towards the exit. I exited from the freeway, pulled into the nearby gas station as one of my female friends hunched over and vomited in the trashcan by the gas pump. She spilled her guts outside of the car as I let out a deep sigh of relief.

I searched for a water bottle around the car but as I looked up into the rearview mirror, blue and red lights filled my eyes. My body froze stiff like a board as I stared into the mirror with disbelief...

This did not look good…

The officers stepped outside of their car with their flashlights on and shined them at my female friend whose face was buried in the trash can. Both lights immediately pointed in my direction as my head started spinning and my stomach began churning…

The next thing I know, I was calling my brother to come to bail me out of the drunk tank the next day. I had blown over a .08 in the sobriety tests at the station. I dragged my feet with shame and disappointment in myself as I walked out of the station...

The Emotional Torture After A DUI

First of all, I know I should have never driven in the first place. I hated myself more than anyone knows. I take full responsibility for my actions and I would recommend that nobody else drives with alcohol in their system. I spent approximately 16 hours at the station and I was so distraught.

Those 16 hours felt like years. So many thoughts flooded my head…

“Well, there goes my life, my career, and my self-worth…”

After my brother picked me up from the police station, I couldn’t eat or sleep for a week. I couldn’t believe the DUI charge even happened to me.

I have to say, if I didn’t have classes to go to, I probably would have laid in bed for the next 3 or so months…

Every day was torture. I wasn’t suicidal but every day I returned home from school I wanted to have a breakdown and punch some pillows out of frustration…

I was so mad at myself. How could I be so reckless?

It felt like my life was over.

All of my insurance bills went up... and I had to pay for all of those DUI classes. I was a college student barely affording to eat already so this really made money tight.

Not to mention I had to deal with the embarrassment of telling all of my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and friends about why I could not drive myself around. This was the worst part. Not telling my family and friends... but not being able to drive. It really does make you so dependent on other people and public transportation. Your schedule revolves around people and bus schedules. Ride-sharing applications add up and I just didn’t have the money to spend.

I can’t tell you enough.

Everything about getting a DUI is stressful.

Take It One Day At A Time

I had to live every day with the regret of drinking and driving but after a lot of time, I got used to it. I eventually fully accepted my mistake as well as the consequences and my life felt a little less stressful.

I’d recommend to anyone who was recently convicted of a DUI to take it one day at a time. Don’t stress about getting jobs, or thinking too much about your future but instead, to make the most of the day and take the best steps moving forward. Looking back, this was a really stressful time in my life but honestly, I simply made a mistake.

And we all make mistakes. This is not to lessen my actions or try to rationalize that what I did was okay, however, it just puts me back in perspective to not be so hard on myself.

I am human, you know.

My good buddy who is a freelance copywriter recommended that I keep a journal for emotional therapy. Keeping a log about how I was feeling on some of those days where I was feeling especially down really helped a lot. Just writing about the stress and struggles I experienced would help me feel less distraught.

I’m honestly really grateful for the experience because it taught me not to drive with any alcohol in my system and to really think of driving as a privilege. After all that time, I relied on people to take me places, I am so grateful to be able to drive now.

Just know that the charge does eventually go away on your record and you will be okay. I couldn’t work some jobs while I was in college because I had a DUI on my record, but for the most part, it wasn’t too much of a factor in my job searches.

Please think twice if you are about to drive home with alcohol in your system. Trust me, it blows to not be able to drive. You will get through it. Again, it’s going to be tough, but you’ll make it through. What really helped me was to hang out with friends or family members who knew I wasn’t a bad person. They know I just made a mistake and treated me like normal which really lent a hand to rebuild my self-esteem.

The best piece of advice for anybody out there who just recently received a DUI is to learn your lesson and move on. Not to sound like your parent but that’s really all that we can do in that situation. The past is the past and all we can do is focus on being better in the future.

Bio:
Brandon Leuangpaseuth is a freelance writer from San Diego, CA. You can connect with him on LinkedIn @ bleuangpaseuth

Guest Post: Ways to Challenge Breathalyzer Test

I received an email via my contact page from John Adam, who wanted to wanted to give some perspective on how to challenge the Breathalyzer test. Interesting stuff - Tom

The use of breath to determine the blood alcohol level of a person is the most popular scientific method in DUI cases. There are many cases, when the wrong Breathalyzer tests cause the person, under suspicion of driving while drinking, face DUI charges. Breathalyzer results are inaccurate because of certain problems with calibrations or if there is an untrained police officer using the device.

The prosecuting party has to prove in the court that the defendant's BAC was at or above the legal limit. In a few states, it is .10% while in others it is .08%. When the person is wrongfully charged on the basis of defective Breathalyzer tests, the defendant needs a DUI attorney to challenge the Breathalyzer test in court.

The Burden of Proof in Challenging the Results:
Under the wrongful DUI charges, the defendant must prove that these charges are invalid for the conviction. This is possible when the attorney convinces the court that there is a lack of strength in evidence or it is insufficient to convict the accused. The defense team may focus on the witness statement and evidence without having the burden of proof. When the defense refutes the proof and demonstrates that the prosecution has not strengthened in the case, this may help in dismissing the
charges.

Use of Breathalyzer:
There are many cases when the Breathalyzer is not used properly. The police officer uses the device inaccurately given improper maintenance, training or calibration, which gives the inaccurate results. When the prosecuting party has Breathalyzer results as the only evidence, by only refuting this proof it becomes easy as well as effective to defend the person from the conviction. However, in this case, the defense team needs the help of an expert in these devices or understands well the proper calibration to give accurate results.

Training of the Police Officer:
In many cases, the police officer who pulls over the driver on suspicion of being under the influence of drug or alcohol, may not be properly trained to conduct a Breathalyzer test or use the device. The device cannot provide the results if the officer does not use it accurately. There are certain rules for this such as observing the driver for twenty minutes to determine whether the results are accurate or not. Moreover, the office is supposed to check the intestinal health of the accused or alcohol in the mouth.

Calibration:
Breathalyzers have settings as well as calibrations that need regular maintenance and understanding. In case the officer in charge is unaware of how to set the device and keeps it maintained, the device can produce the wrong results.

Few devices need to be repaired and parts replaced. In case of lack of knowledge about taking care of the device, there will be inaccurate results leading to wrong DUI charges. Not only one, but all or most of the arrest will be affected.

Challenging the Results Varies According to the Case:
In addition to the above-mentioned ways, there are other ways to challenge the Breathalyzer tests. For instance, the accused may have a special condition that could lead to the retention of the alcohol in his or her system that brings wrong results. This is another effective to challenge the results and refute the charges completely.

Other factors involved, the environmental temperature and pressure in the atmosphere, and the chemical composition of the person taking the test. This refers to the emotional stress and physical activity, hyperventilating, heavy breathing due to anxiousness.

Given these several factors, the results are inaccurately measured. This is the reason few of the DUI cases involve expert witness who gives the testimony about the inaccuracy of the device with incorrect results. The DUI attorney must present the valid argument based upon these facts and evidence.

Final Word:
The defendant needs the support of the lawyer to challenge the Breathalyzer tests, as the attorney is skilled in dealing with such cases and will guide according to the given circumstances.