Denial of a Lawyer at Trial Means the Case Cannot Count! By Andrew Mishlove on May 26, 2020

Here is an example of another case where we achieved a great result for the client. Scott was charged with a third offense drunk driving. So he was facing some very harsh penalties, including up to a year in jail.  One of the things that we always do is review a client's prior record to see if there is any way to challenge a prior conviction.  In Scott's case we saw something unusual.  He had a conviction for a 2007 arrest.  In that case he hired a lawyer, but after almost two years of representation, the lawyer withdrew at the last minute.  The judge did not give Scott time to hire another lawyer.  In fact, Scott was compelled to represent himself at a jury trial.  A jury trial is a very difficult proceeding for even the best lawyers (ask any experienced jury trial lawyer), so Scott really had no chance. He did not know how to question witnesses or how to make arguments. He was inevitably convicted.  To Andrew Mishlove, this just didn't seem fair.  So Mishlove filed a motion, known as a collateral attack motion, challenging the use of the 2007 case as a valid prior conviction. When this occurs in Wisconsin when the client was forced to go to a trial it is called a "Suriano" motion, after the applicable legal precedent.   After two hearings, the court agreed, and the 2007 case was stricken from the client's record. In Wisconsin, the look-back period for a third offense is lifetime, but the look-back period for a second offense is only ten years.  So, even though Scott now had one prior valid offense, it could not be used either, because it was more than ten years old.  Scott was facing a criminal record and a year in jail.  Now he is facing a traffic ticket, no criminal charge, and no jail.   

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