Part of good lawyering is knowing when to advise a client not to go to trial. There are just some cases where the facts are terrible and the client has no hope of winning – and both the lawyer and the client know that after trial the client will get a stiff punishment. LS, a 60 year old accountant, had gone to a restaurant/bar for an evening out with friends. Prior to going to the restaurant LS had had several drinks and she brought a plastic bottle in her car with her filled with Vodka. At the restaurant LS had several more drinks. At closing time LS and four of her friends all got in LS’s car and she headed back to drop off the friends. She was driving on a road in Westford, failed to negotiate a turn in the road, struck a utility pole – cutting the pole in half – and then smashed head on into a stone wall. Two of the women in the car were injured and had to be taken to a hospital. The other two women had only minor injuries. LS was not injured. The police, ambulances, and fire trucks all responded to the scene. The police spoke with LS and immediately saw signs of intoxication. Field sobriety tests were administered and she did not do well. The police arrested LS and at the station she blew a .16, which is twice the legal limit. This was her first offense.
LS consulted with and hired Attorney Robert Lewin from Andover. Attorney Lewin fully investigated and fully prepared the case and reviewed all the police reports and witness statements with LS. Attorney Lewin explained to LS all her options in detail. She could fight the case and have a trial or she could work out a plea. The bare minimum penalty for a first offense OUI is a continuance without a finding for 1 year with a 45 day loss of license and completion of the first offender DUI program. That is the typical first offense disposition in a case with no accident and no injuries. When you add in an accident and injuries to two passengers the penalties typically go up. Instead of a continuance without a finding, the DA (and some Judges) sometimes want a guilty finding. Instead of a 45 day loss of license, the DA (and some Judges) want a longer loss of license. And in a case with bad injuries the DA and the Judges may want a suspended jail sentence or sometimes a committed jail sentence. Attorney Lewin explained all this to LS. Without hesitation, LS told Attorney Lewin that she wanted to work out a plea in the case. LS made it very clear to Attorney Lewin that she did not want to go to trial.
Attorney Lewin contacted LS’s insurance company to make certain that all the injuries to people (the two injured passengers) and damage to property (the utility pole and the stone wall) would be paid for by the insurance company. This helps in negotiations with the DA. Attorney Lewin then met with the Assistant DA and gave the DA background information about LS.
On November 28, 2022 LS and Attorney Lewin appeared in Ayer District Court and the case proceeded on the basis of an “admission to sufficient facts”. The DA was recommending that Guilty Findings be entered and that LS suffer a 90 day loss of license. Attorney Lewin recommended the typical first offense disposition. The Judge adopted Attorney Lewin’s recommendation and continued the criminal charges (OUI Liquor and Negligent Operation) for 1 year without a finding and he suspended her license for the statutory minimum period of 45 days.
LS was thrilled with the result and extremely relieved.
Not every case should be tried. The ultimate decision always belongs to the client. The lawyers job – in part – is to make the client fully aware of all the client’s options so that the client can make an informed decision. In this case LS made an informed decision and got an excellent result given the facts. As the song goes: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em; Know when to fold’em …”