What Qualities Should You Look for When Considering an Attorney and What Should You Look out for?

Interviewer: What would you do if you were arrested for DUI? What would you look for in an attorney and what would you avoid?

Jerald Novak: The first thing I would look for is someone who does a high volume of DUI cases. That’s number one. Number two, I would look for someone who was a former prosecutor. This is because the former prosecutors know the current ones and the former prosecutors have had vast experience with the judges in the courthouse. Oftentimes it is very important not only what you know, but who you know, to get the right outcome.

Does Your Attorney Continue His or Her Education about DUI Defense?

I would also look for someone who is a member of the National College of DUI Defense. These are attorneys who are dedicated to learning their craft. These are people who go above and beyond what the state bar association requires as far as continuing education.

These are people who get into the science of DUI, the background of DUI, and the physical aspects of DUI. They have learned how the breath machines work, and they get into how gas chromatography works, and how the field sobriety tests are administered, demonstrated and scored. These are people who are really dedicated to learning everything they can about DUI defense.

Experience Counts

I would also look for somebody who has years of experience. I would also look for someone who the other attorneys look up to in the community. Cost would be secondary for me because if I were accused of some crime, my goal would be to win.

How Detail-Oriented Is Your Attorney?

Interviewer: What makes your practice different than other attorneys? You talked about your vast testimonials. Are there any other factors that make your representation different?

The Attorney’s Relationships with the Prosecutors, Judges and Police Are Important

Jerald Novak: My representation is different because we are so thorough in our discovery process. Because we deal almost exclusively with DUI defense, we are up to date on the latest court rulings. We’re up on the latest practices that the police departments are involved in, we are constantly in contact with the prosecutors and constantly in contact with the police.

The police know that when I walk into the courtroom and I’m on a case, it’s not going to be a good day for them. In many instances, they will go over to the prosecutor and say, this is a case we’d really like to see negotiated or this is a case we’d really like to see go away or this is a case we just don’t want to get bogged down on. Maybe you could work with my client and to dispose of this case. That’s a very positive thing.

Interviewer: How do you feel your relationship with prosecutors and the police and the court personnel is an important attribute?

Jerald Novak: First of all, I have a very good working relationship with most of the prosecutors. I try not to burn any bridges. I like to say that we’re friendly adversaries. I do a high volume of DUI defense cases. I’m in constant contact with the prosecutors, so if someone walks into my office on a new case, I can often pick up the phone and make a call to the prosecutor’s office and have discovery sent over right away.  This is done just on my word that I’m representing the defendant or the driver.

Obtaining Discovery: Good Working Relationships with Prosecutors Facilitate Good Exchange of Information

That becomes very helpful. Instead of waiting days or weeks to get into court to get discovery, we can almost immediately obtain some discovery materials and start working on the case so that we can get prepared to take action sooner than most other attorneys.

Timing is very important in these cases. For example, once you’re arrested, your license only remains valid for 45 days and becomes suspended on the 46th day. If your court date is 30 or 40 days out, and we get there on the first court date, and that’s the first time we’ve gotten discovery.

Then we have little or no time to prepare for a hearing on your license suspension, and the chances of success are greatly reduced. By getting that information sooner, we have much more time to prepare. When we go to court on that first court date, oftentimes we can take substance of action, which will make a big difference in the outcome of the case.

What to Look for When Considering an Attorney: an Attorney with Decades of Specialized Experience That Has Encountered All Types of DUI Cases

Interviewer: Over all these years, 26 years, approximately how many DUI cases do you think you’ve defended?

Jerald Novak:  It never crossed my mind to keep a running tally, but I would have to guess that it would be over 10,000 cases.

Interviewer: Have you handled any DUI cases involving military members or commercial driver’s licenses?

Jerald Novak: By virtue of our location, we’re close to the Great Lakes Naval Station, and there are a lot of military personnel in the area, so we have represented people on DUIs both in civil court and in military court with regard to their DUIs. Additionally, we’ve represented average drivers. We’ve represented commercial driver’s license holders. We’ve represented people under almost every situation imaginable.

Our clients include people with Department of Defense clearances, airline pilots, people who drive hazmat vehicles, armored car drivers, and even police officers and their friends.

The greatest compliment I received was from an Illinois State Trooper. He had arrested my client for his fifth DUI, and it was a two day jury trial which resulted in a not guilty on all charges. A couple years later, his son got arrested for DUI and he came to my office with his hat in his hand and asked me if I would represent his son. Because I had given him such a bad time on the stand, he felt I was the best man to represent his son and we ultimately did get a not guilty for his son.

Case History: Defending a Client with Multiple DUI Offenses

Interviewer: You represented people for multiple DUIs. What’s the highest number of DUIs you have ever encountered?

Jerald Novak: I represented a gentleman a few years ago who was on his ninth DUI. It was a mandatory prison situation and while he was out on bond he was arrested for his tenth DUI. He was in a situation where he was facing a class 1 felony which carried 4 to 15 years in the penitentiary. The pretrial offer was 15 years. Since we had nothing to lose, we decided to go to trial.

It was a bad case where there was a lot of evidence against my client. In the end, he ultimately was found guilty of the offense. But at the sentencing stage, I was able to obstruct the prosecution from proving all of his prior offenses. In other words, the state has to prove up each one of his prior convictions to justify the higher sentence, and I was able to obstruct that.

Ultimately by obstructing the proof of his prior background, my client, instead of being sentenced to 15 years, was sentenced to 5 years.

Now, no one likes to brag about their client going to prison for 5 years, but if you examine that situation, the verdict was a huge victory. It was an unwinnable case, and instead of serving 15, he is serving 5. With credit for good behavior, he is going to be out in 2 years, so it was an enormous victory in my book.

DUI Case History: 0.40 Blood Alcohol Content

Interviewer: What is the highest BAC you have ever encountered in a DUI case?

Jerald Novak: The highest BAC I’ve had with a client was 0.40.

Interviewer: That’s near death, is that correct?

Jerald Novak: A 0.40 is on the verge of death. That is absolutely correct. You have so much alcohol in your body, the alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and it actually could stop your organs from functioning. You literally just die. In this client’s case, he did go into a coma for a while. He ultimately was revived.

This also was a case in which we were able to show that the blood draw that was done at the hospital was not taken properly and was not admissible because of a failure to meet evidentiary standards. We were able to ultimately suppress, or keep out, that blood sample. There were no other indicia other than the claimed odor of alcoholic beverage. We were ultimately able to get a great outcome on that case as well.

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