Why I Am Committed to Teaching Lawyers
Serious Science for Serious Lawyers: A Different Kind of DUI Seminar
Here is a bad scenario that has been experienced by almost all experienced DUI Defense lawyers:
A client says that he only had a little to drink. The police reports tell a different story. The video recording of the stop and arrest does not match the police report, but matches the client’s story. The driving was not horrible, but within the normal range; there was one minor lane deviation. The client did not look bad on the field sobriety exercises. In fact, the police officer administrated the tests incorrectly, as they often do.
The blood alcohol test, however, says .17. That number does not match the rest of the facts; but it is a very powerful piece of evidence. Many lawyers would just accept it and advise the client to plead guilty. After all, they think the science is foolproof.
Expert DUI defense lawyers know better. They know that a lot can go wrong with a blood test.
The investigation revealed a major flaw in the blood test protocol. There was obviously a malfunction in the test equipment on the day the client’s blood was tested. The state does not agree. They claim that the blood test was accurate, even if there was a malfunction. The lawyer fights the case at a jury trial, but loses. Afterward, a juror says to the lawyer, "Well, maybe there were problems with the blood test, but you didn't prove it was wrong."
This is infuriating, because the defense is not supposed to have to prove anything! The burden of proof is on the state to prove that their equipment was working correctly.
Even experienced DUI lawyers have experienced something like this. The test result number that the machine spits out has a mystical, talismanic quality with the jury. Even when we are right on the science, it’s hard to win.
Why? Because we may know the science, but we need to improve our communication skills. I've been at this for 35 years. I've tried over 300 jury cases; and, I've won far more than my share. But even at age 62, I still feel like a student of my craft, with a lot to learn. It keeps me feeling young.
I've attended many DUI seminars over the decades, including in-depth trial advocacy courses (such as the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College), and the hands-on forensic science courses; and they are excellent.
About two years ago, I developed two new courses for lawyers: Serious Science, Blood Analysis and Trial Advocacy. Sponsored by the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD), these courses have become the nation’s most advanced training in forensic science and trial advocacy. Until Serious Science, however, there was no in-depth science course that focused on how to communicate scientific concepts and theories of defenses to the jury.
Every spring, we meet in Fort Collins Colorado, for an intensive five-day experience on blood alcohol cases. We spend two days learning the science, including hands-on sessions at the Rocky Mountain Clinical Laboratory, an operating commercial forensic lab. We then spend three days working in small groups honing our skills in communicating the science to juries. We have now done two sessions in Fort Collins. They were incredibly successful; and we are doing our third session in May, 2017. Because the blood-alcohol course was so successful, we expanded the series to include a course on blood-drug analysis. We do this in December at the Shimadzu Laboratory of the University of Texas at Arlington. The blood-drug course at Arlington received the highest possible rating from every student who attended!
I’m grateful to the NCDD for allowing me to develop and teach these courses to some of the best, most dedicated lawyers from all over America. I know that as a law instructor, I learn more than the students. I always come back from Serious Science energized, and ready for my next case!
If you need a lawyer, you should always choose one who is committed to getting the best possible continuing legal education (and not just the minimum 15 credit hours per year). If you’re a lawyer, and you’re ready for an intensive five-day experience that will change the way that you try cases, then I hope to see you in Fort Collins this May. If you are interested in taking the course, you may register at www.NCDD.com.