Questions To Ask When Hiring a Defense Lawyer
No matter what type of charge you are faced with in America’s criminal
justice system, you will need the expertise of a knowledgeable and dedicated
attorney. Properly defending a criminal case, whether a DUI or a vehicular
assault case, requires a special knowledge of the scientific evidence
(the chemical evidence obtained from you such as blood, breath or urine
tests, the results of your physical roadsides tests, or a police medical
drug evaluation which are all based in science).
Keep in mind, just because someone calls themselves a "criminal defense
attorney," hardly means they have the extensive formalized training
necessary to fight the scientific evidence which the government will base
their case on, and use against you in court. Many lawyers describe themselves
as experienced attorneys. However, more often than not, it simply means
they have spent years pleading their DUI clients out to drinking and driving
convictions and have shied away from trying or litigating complex trials
involving scientific evidence because they had no idea where to begin.
At this critical time, you need an experienced trial attorney who has been
formally trained in the intricacies of this scientific evidence and who
has the trial experience and formal knowledge to refute this evidence
which the government holds against you. For these reasons, it is necessary
that you ask these questions of any attorney who you will consider hiring:
What are your fees and why do you set your fees where they are?
This is probably one of the most justified and probing questions you can
ask any attorney you are interviewing. Obviously an NCDD attorney who
can show you a long list of completed scientific training and certificates
earned over a number of years, coupled with an active jury trial calendar
is going to command attorney fees which are higher than some "generalist"
attorney with no extensive scientific training who takes a criminal case
to simply pay his or her office utility bills.
As in other areas of life, the truly "best" in any field are
few and make up the tip of the pyramid, whereas the more common and less
accomplished attorneys make up the broader base of the pyramid below.
If you find a "generalist" attorney who is charging high fees,
or comparable fees to an accomplished NCDD DUI Attorney, this should raise
red flags, and you should push him or her to justify why their fees are
so high. On the other hand, the old saying really holds true - "You
get what you pay for." And this saying is true in regards to attorney
Many clients feel they cannot afford a top-notch attorney in tough economic
times. But where competition for jobs is toughest, and your future may
depend on your ability to beat out your job competition in order to get
that great job, is this really the time to hire some generalist attorney
with no real training or experience in handling criminal charges? In fact,
now more than ever, you need a top flight defense attorney. Yes, you will
pay more, but isn't your future worth it?
What is your philosophy when handling a client’s case?
How a lawyer handles your case is testimony to his or her level of dedication
to obtaining a positive outcome. At the Law Office of Christopher H. Cessna,
the attorney handles clients' case in a personalized manner and gives
the attentive service that the client deserves. Every person who comes
to the firm will receive one-on-one counsel and quality assistance.
How long have you been practicing criminal law?
Experience is crucial when choosing an attorney to represent you for your
criminal case. Attorney Chris Cessna has more than 20 years of experience
defending the freedom of those charged with various crimes. His background
includes being certified with various memberships and achieving positive
results on behalf of his clients.
DUI Defense Questions
Are you a member of the
National College of DUI Defense (NCDD)?
The answer to this question should be yes. Unfortunately many “generalist”
lawyers will accept DUI cases, but they make no great effort to learn
about the fine art and science of defending these very complex cases.
And the specialized scientific training required to properly defend against
the government's blood, breath and SFST evidence in a DUI case is
obviously not taught in law school. In other words, they are a “Jack
of all trades, but a master of none” when it comes to defending your DUI.
And frankly, there are a number of attorneys from every state who are accepted
into the NCDD, but who never pursue the rigorous scientific training that
the NCDD encourages and even requires. In other words, many attorneys
join the NCDD to simply market their practice and claim they are a member
for marketing purposes only. The key is training, training, training.
That's what separates a great DUI attorney from the mediocre generalists
who take DUI cases to pay their office utility bills. The only real service
such a generalist can provide is to take your money and plead you out
in court. Members of the NCDD who train regularly are dedicated to pushing
the scientific horizons of
DUI defense. Hiring any other lawyer is usually a recipe for failure.
Have you been honored with a special invitation to join the National College
of DUI Defense's ELITE team of nationally known "FORENSIC DUI
The answer to this question should be yes - if it's important to you
to have a "cream of the crop" NCDD attorney by your side in
court. Only a select few of the NCDD attorneys nationwide are invited
to join the FORENSIC DUI ATTORNEYS GROUP. This invitation is strictly
earned, not offered easily, nor can it be bought with a bigger contribution
to the NCDD. This invitation is offered to the few NCDD attorneys who
have sacrificed and climbed the ladder of completing the most rigorous
and in depth multi-day seminars offered by the NCDD over a number of years,
and only then to those who pass a very demanding exam concerning forensic/scientific
blood, breath and urine testing in DUI cases. You should always ask for
and compare the lawyer’s training resume with any other lawyer you
consider hiring, even if they are an NCDD “member” in name only.
Do you have any formal training in the administration of Standardized Field
Sobriety Tests (SFST)? These are the physical roadside and eye test that
the officer most probably ordered you to perform.
The answer should be yes. Chris Cessna is not only a former DUI Police
Officer who was trained and certified to administer these tests to hundreds
of motorists, but he is also a trained and certified NHTSA SFST Instructor
who has taught and instructed other police officers and lawyers around
the country. Mr. Cessna has also been qualified as an expert witness in
the Colorado Courts as an expert in the administration of the SFSTs.
Even if they knew what to look for or how to properly cross examine a police
officer, very few lawyers even know that if the officer administered the
roadside tests improperly the tests are to be considered invalid and unreliable
by the court or the jury. This in-depth, expert knowledge allows Mr. Cessna
to provide his clients with the best DUI defense when the government has
obtained standardized field sobriety test evidence against you. Ask the
lawyer what certificates and training he or she has received in this specialized
area. These certificates will usually be hanging on the wall of his office.
Has the lawyer ever been trained and certified to use and operate the
breath testing machine used in Colorado (known as the Intoxilyzer 5000)?
The answer to this question should be an emphatic "YES." Mistakes
frequently occur during breath testing. These mistakes occur due to operator
error or machine error. Be sure to ask the lawyer for his or her certificate
that proves that he is trained and certified to operate and maintain the
breath testing machine (Intoxilyzer 5000) which was used to test you.
This certificate will most likely be hanging on the lawyer's wall.
Don't let the police and the prosecutor be the only one at your trial
who knows how this machine works!
Mr. Cessna has been a trained and certified intoxilyzer 5000 operator not
only as a police officer, but as a lawyer. In fact, Mr. Cessna is one
of only two lawyers in Colorado who owns his own intoxilyzer 5000, and
who is actually certified by the state and federal government to operate
and maintain it.
The police officer who arrested me for driving under the influence suspected
that I was under the influence of drugs (not alcohol). The officer actually
seemed more like a doctor - putting me through an extensive medical examination
using a stethoscope, a blood-pressure cuff, a pupilometer and other strange
medical tests and tools. How will you fight my case against such sophisticated,
You were examined by a police officer known as a “Drug Recognition
Expert” or DRE. This officer is undoubtedly the most well-trained,
and experienced officer in their police department for investigating impaired
driving cases. In fact, due to training costs, and time away from street
patrol, many police departments cannot afford to send their best officers
to this extensive, sophisticated and expensive training. However, if the
government holds this type of medical evidence against you, then you need
an attorney who is a trained and certified DRE. Chris Cessna is the only
attorney in Colorado who is a formally trained DRE-EMT (drug recognition
expert – emergency medical technician).
Furthermore, in a DUID case, you will be ordered to submit to a blood or
urine test. Once a sample is obtained, it will be forensically analyzed
on a scientific instrument known as a "gas chromatograph" (or
GC.). Mr. Cessna is the only attorney in Colorado who has been formally
trained and certified as a GC operator. In fact, Mr. Cessna has over 40
hours of formal lecture and laboratory experience with the gas chromatograph
and knows how to spot the mistakes that this machine and its operators
can make in analyzing your chemical test.
Make sure and ask the lawyer for his or her certificate that proves that
he or she has been formally trained as a Drug Recognition Expert –
Emergency Medical Technician (DRE-EMT), and as a Gas Chromatographer.
Again, don’t let the police and the prosecutor be the only ones
at your trial who knows the science behind the DRE evidence that is being
aimed in your direction!
When and how did you win your last DUI or DWAI case, and when is your next
DUI trial scheduled for?
The victory should be a recent one. The answers to this question will
naturally vary, but he or she should be able to rattle off a recent “Not
Guilty” verdict or dismissal in the pre-trial phase, motions hearing
phase, or jury trial phase.
Many generalist lawyers will set their client's case for trial knowing
they will plead their clients out well in advance because they have no
idea how to impeach the scientific evidence in front of a jury. In other
words, they bluff, and try to buy time, either to try and impress the
client, or stand up to the district attorney - but in the end they cave
in and plead out their client. So the true test of a real DUI lawyer is
not how often they have cases set for trial, but how often they actually
take their cases all the way and get them across "the finish line"
and in front of a jury.
And again, the lawyer’s next trial should be within a week or two
of your consultation. Most dedicated DUI lawyers will have at least one
DUI trial scheduled within a week or so of your consultation. Ask the
lawyer what court it will be held in and go watch. The courtrooms are
open to the public. The best measure of a potential lawyer’s performance
is how he or she actually performs in court.
Have you had any other extensive experience in handling DUI cases? For
example, do you have any prior experience as a DUI Police Officer, a Deputy
District Attorney, or a Public Defender?
Unfortunately, many “generalist” attorneys who will take a
DUI case are under the mistaken impression that any lawyer can adequately
handle one of these complex cases simply because they are (typically)
not a felony matter. This is a recipe for disaster. If the lawyer you
are interviewing has never had any actual experience as a public defender,
deputy district attorney, or even as a former police officer, this should
raise a red flag.
Prior experience as a DUI police officer, deputy district attorney, or
even as a public defender should be a minimal foundational requirement
for any attorneys that are thinking of hiring. If the attorney you are
interviewing has no experience in any of the above-mentioned roles, this
should cause great concern. Always ask the attorney about his past DUI
work experience. Mr. Cessna has had extensive experience handling thousands
of DUI cases as a police officer, deputy district attorney, and as a dedicated
DUI lawyer for the last 20 years.
What and how much formal training in blood testing have you received?
If you have been required to submit to a blood test it will be forensically
analyzed on a scientific instrument known as a "gas chromatograph"
(or GC.). Mr. Cessna is the only attorney in Colorado who has been formally
trained and certified as a Gas Chromatographer. In fact, Mr. Cessna has
over 40 hours of formal lecture and laboratory experience with the gas
chromatograph and who knows how to spot the mistakes that this machine
and its operators can make in analyzing your blood test. If you submitted
to a blood test, and if you have decided to interview attorneys to represent
you - if you do nothing else, ask the attorney if they have ever been
formally trained in both laboratory and lecture on the gas chromatograph.
Even if the lawyer you are interviewing has not been formally trained on
the gas chromatograph, at a minimum they should be able to rattle off
numerous multi-day, week-long, or out-of-state seminars devoted specifically
to impeaching the blood test administered to you. Such training and certificates
will almost always be hanging on his or her wall if he or she has received
specialized and extensive training in this very important area. Do not
settle for a lawyer who attends an occasional one-hour “luncheon”
seminar in downtown Denver every now and then.
Have you ever been asked to teach or instruct other lawyers, police officers,
or law students in the area of DUI law or defense techniques?
Being invited to teach other professionals is a sign of being accomplished
in your area of specialization. Ask your lawyer how often they are invited
to teach other professionals in the areas associated with criminal defense.
Mr. Cessna is frequently asked to teach, lecture and testify as an expert
in the very specific areas of DUI defense. If the lawyer you are interviewing
cannot list off numerous lectures, articles written, or teaching invitations,
then he or she is most probably inexperienced or simply not seasoned enough
to be in much demand.