A few months back local Austin appeals lawyer Todd Smith asked me to speak, albeit briefly, at the Austin Bar Association’s monthly meeting. My assigned topic was a natural one: DWI. Lawyers who attended would be given credit toward their yearly CLE requirements. I was honored and of course agreed.
I assumed that meant I should speak on how to defend a DWI, and so I talked about the initial interview process, the different types of court settings, the ALR process, various defenses to DWI charges and tried to throw in a few other nuggets before my time ran out.
Afterwards I stuck around and talked with people at the bar. I mean the serving-alcoholic -beverages type of bar, not “The State Bar of Texas” by the way. Yes the CLE was held in a bar, and yes, I was just about the only one without a drink in my hand.
At any rate, I discovered quickly that while my short presentation was roundly complimented by those I visited with in fact most attendees had another reason for coming. Of course a divorce lawyer doesn’t really need to know how to defend a DWI; a good one will refer the case out to someone who knows how to handle that kind of case. (See: jack of all trades, master of none.)
I think every single lawyer there asked me some variation of the regular set of questions a DWI lawyer hears:
- Should I take a breath test?
- Should I do the field sobriety tests?
- What do I tell an officer who stops me after I've been drinking?
I told everyone who would listen a few of my standard lines: (1) In Austin, a traffic violation and the odor of an alcoholic beverage on your breath earns you a trip to Travis County Jail. It’s an arrest everybody and charge them with DWI now, and sort it out later kind of world. And (2) It’s cheaper to rent a helicopter to fly you home than it is to get arrested for DWI in Texas, and that can be true even if your lawyer gets the charge dismissed before trial.
Not that it did any good. It was after 5 p.m. when the presentation started, so presumable no one had to return to work but then again I didn’t see anyone calling for a cab when they left. I’m certain I wasn’t the only one to drive home.