I have a high regard for Alaska Public Defenders. They have a high caseload and work hard for low pay. However, there is one distinct disadvantage to having a public defender in DUI cases: The Department of Motor Vehicles Administrative hearing. The DMV hearing is a civil matter, and the Public Defender Agency handles only the criminal side of things. It means you either forego the DMV hearing or do it on your own.

 

I consider the DMV administrative to be a huge part of the case. Here is why: First, I review the police reports and the audio/video recordings. The police reports are usually insignificant, because DUI cases rise and fall on technical errors. If the police officer made an error, he or she won’t lie about it, but they won’t know they made a mistake … and thus it won’t be contained in the report. Mistake will show up in the recordings, not the reports. And, the significance of that mistake is fleshed out at the DMV hearing. In every instance, I subpoena the police officer for the DMV administrative hearing, and I’m given the opportunity to cross-examine him or her. There have been a significant number of times when something on the audio/video recording was iffy (maybe a mistake, maybe not,) and testimony given at the DMV hearing made all the difference.

 

Not having the DMV administrative hearing — with a capable attorney handling it — cripples your case. I wouldn’t ever consider having a case without the DMV hearing. There have been too many times when it made all the difference.