Many Years Ago You Decided To Represent DUI Clients Exclusively: Why?
Lawrence Taylor explains why he decided to specialize in DUI defense exclusively and why he enjoys practicing this area of the law. Mr. Taylor was formerly a general criminal law defense attorney for a number of years. After some time, he felt that he did not relate to and was not getting much satisfaction out of defending people who were accused of such crimes as rape, murder, drug dealing, etc. In other words, he felt as if he was not accomplishing much in his life as a general criminal defense attorney. After he decided to focus exclusively on DUI defense, he felt that he could relate to the clients who were coming to see him and he felt great satisfaction in defending them. Most of his DUI clients were just ordinary individuals who had gotten into some trouble, unlike his former clients who were involved in habitual criminal conduct. Mr. Taylor felt that in defending DUI defendants he was a defender of the constitution and the common everyday man. This brought him a real sense of accomplishment. Although Mr. Taylor has written two books on DUI law, including some seven editions, he says he still learns something every day he practices and that his job as a DUI defense attorney is very fulfilling.
Richard Jacobs (RJ): My last question for you is, you know, why have you decided to focus on DUI exclusively for so long, for so many years? Is it, do you feel like it’s too narrow a field? Or is it?
Lawrence Taylor (LT): Oh no, no it’s far, far from being narrow, it’s endlessly challenging. I’m still learning. I mean I’ve written two text books and seven editions and what, twelve hundred pages long and I am still learning. . .
LT: about the complexities of the DUI field and I will continue to do so. The reasons I switched, became a practitioner of DUI defense exclusively many years ago, there were a number of reasons. One, when I left the DA’s office, I practiced general criminal for quite a few years, and, frankly, I really got tired of my clients. I didn’t find that I was really accomplishing a whole lot, felt really good about myself defending people who were accused of rape or murder or drug dealing or whatever. I’m not even talking about innocence or guilt, it’s just the clients were not the kind of people that I really was comfortable or feeling. . .
RJ: Felt good about representing?
LT: feeling like I was accomplishing something in my life. And so I found that the DUI clients I represented were different. They were just like you and I, they were just ordinary guys, ordinary women, and they got in trouble. Innocent or guilty, they were in trouble and they’re usually frightened and unlike most criminal clients they needed help. They had done nothing that I found intrinsically wrong, in terms of habitual criminal conduct. I liked them, they were human beings, they were people in trouble and I could accomplish something and I could help them if they did have drinking problem. And at this firm we do offer alcohol rehabilitation and consultations with both a shrink and a psychologist that are available if the client looks like he is an alcoholic - he or she may have an alcoholic problem and wants to recognize and do something about it. That is separate from a criminal case; it’s just something we do because I think it’s the right thing to do.
LT: So, first of all I like the clients. Secondly I like the challenge and I mean it is extremely complex field . . . .
RJ: Endlessly complex.
LT: It’s endlessly complex, endlessly challenging, I like that. You know it, it wasn’t the same thing over and over and over again, each case was truly unique. And it was a continuing education, it still is. So I find that to be rewarding. I guess the third one is, I am going to try to explain this, I feel like I am wearing a white hat.
LT: Okay, when I was a defense, a general criminal defense attorney, my job was to create reasonable doubt, to blow smoke.
LT: Try to get the jury to say, well, I’m not real sure, because most of the time your client is guilty and your job is to create reasonable doubt. And that is perfectly ethical and expected. That is the job, the duty of the defense attorney. But it is not always, again, very rewarding. I found that in defending DUI cases, increasingly I realized that first of all I was defending a tax on the Constitution. Over and over again, there were, as we alluded to earlier, more and more cases, and Supreme Court decisions and statutes and laws and procedures, they were simply unconstitutional. They were wrong and even when they weren’t, the laws, judges, or prosecutors, or whatever, police would try to get away with things. And so I felt I was the one who was defending the Constitution not just for the client, but as a document, as a living document, of the Constitution. And secondly I was seeking truth, which is a novel concept for a criminal defense attorney.
LT: Usually you’re not, you’re trying to blow that smoke. But in my case, I was trying to show the jury that this machine was giving false information. That it was not truthful or reliable. I was trying to show the jury these field sobriety tests are not what they purport to be, they are not accurate. In other words and this police officer is not the cool, calm, collected, professional that he appears to be on the stand and that’s not what he was out in the field that night. In other words I am trying to get the truth to the jury, rather than blow smoke. And I found that to be kind of refreshing.
RJ: Yeah, so it sounds like being a DUI attorney is fulfilling in a lot of different ways - intellectually, emotionally, you’re helping people, you are defending the Constitution - there is a just a whole host of reasons.
RJ: Okay, very good.
LT: And it still feels that way.
RJ: Well that concludes the interview and I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me. It’s been really a great interview.
LT: Well, it’s my pleasure and I enjoyed it, actually.
LT: I always like getting on a soap box.
RJ: Thank you, Mr. Taylor!
LT: My pleasure!