Interviewer: What’s the cost of accepting a deal versus pursuing a trial?
Eric Sachs: ln general, a person will pay a legal fee to be represented in the case. Now, there are several different ways that attorneys do this. Some attorneys will charge the fee up front and some attorneys will charge you hourly. Some attorneys will charge a flat fee for the case. Some attorneys will charge a flat fee for the case, but not including pre-trial hearings or a trial. It depends on whom the client hires. “You try a case only if you have to, not because you want to.” Before the person undertakes the additional expense of paying a daily trial fee, and perhaps they want to have an expert come and testify for them, they need to evaluate the deal that is presented to them now and how the deal may affect them negatively if they take it. For instance, if you plead guilty to a charge, whether it’s a DWI or the lesser DWAI, if ¡t doesn’t cost you your job and if it doesn’t cost you your life to continue the same way, then that’s something you need to consider before you go to trial to spend a lot of money. What is the advantage and what is the risk versus the gain? If you turn around and say, “Well, they offered me a lesser charge of a Driving While Ability Impaired and that would not affect me at all, but if I go to trial and if I lose, I would lose my job,” then the client would have to consider, “ls it worth spending the money? Is it worth taking that risk? If I lose, I could lose my job, but if I win, I will not have a criminal record. I will not have this on my record and I still have my job.” So there’s more at risk than just financial cost. There are a lot of costs that somebody has to take a look at when considering taking a deal or going to trial. Of course, when you go to trial you never know what the outcome is going to be.
Cost of Expert Witness Testimony
Interviewer: So going into the idea of expert witnesses, that’s definitely a factor. Is that more so with the jury trial or with the DMV hearings?
Eric Sachs: ln New York, you have the right to have a jury decide the facts of the case and find guilty or not guilty. Or you can have a Judge do it. The Judge would be both what they call the “trier of the facts” as well as the law. So there are times you may want if it’s going to be helpful to the Judge or the jury, whoever is deciding the outcome of the facts, to explain certain things that would be helpful to your case. Some people have medical conditions that can explain why, when they blew into the machine, the number registered as it did, but why that’s not the true level of alcohol. For instance, somebody may have diabetes. That person can have an expert come in and explain to the jury why a person with diabetes is not a good candidate to blow into the machine and why the reading is not a reliable reading. If it’s not a jury, you still may want to do that for a Judge because you still need to present the facts. We have many cases where the people did not blow into the machine. Either they refused or the machine was not working properly or, after the pre-trial, the results of the breath machine were suppressed or excluded from the trial. So now you have a police officer’s testimony about their observations and certain field tests that they administered to the driver, to our client. We find that most of the police officers were not well trained in that area and it’s always good to have an expert come in to explain the way the test are supposed to be administered and the reliability and the unreliability of those tests and the results, and the conclusions that people cannot draw from those tests.
Interviewer: What are the costs for expert witnesses like?
Eric Sachs: An expert witness will generally charge a fee to review the case file first. Then they will charge you a fee to testify. We have experts come from around the country and Canada. Pleasantly and wonderfully, the experts that we utilize are truly experts in the field. These include instructors and former police officers. They include people who used to work for the manufacturer of these breath machines. They are not very, expensive. So you can get an outstanding expert on a DWI trial for somewhere in the area of $3,000 to $4,000. This is very reasonable for what you want.
Interviewer: Could an attorney guide me if I were in that situation where I cannot really decide what is the most cost-efficient way but at the same time wanting to get a better bang for my buck when it comes to experts?
Eric Sachs: Absolutely. I am in the National College for DUI Defense. Our resources and the experts that we have access to are great. Depending on who the attorney is, they have access to the experts and they know who should be able to talk to the client and explain to them why an expert is usually helpful, what the costs are, what the outcome is that we hope to get, and how the experts are going to help us get to that outcome.
By Eric Sachs