Criminal Defense Is an Area of the Law That Has a Significant Impact on the Lives of the Clients
Interviewer: What made you go into criminal defense in the first place and stay with this area for so long?
James Abate: Criminal defense was what I went into when I went into law school. After we get out of law school, many drift off to what makes the corporate law world work. That’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to stay with criminal law because it has such an impact on people’s lives.
What I have found over my time practicing is that the one thing people look for in a criminal lawyer, and they’re not always able to say it this way, is they just want somebody to hear their side of the story. You’re a number that in this context is being prosecuted by a machine. It’s about the most robotic experience you can have in the world.
What we’ve tried to do is to put a human element back into it. We still go out to the scene to look at where your field sobriety test was given, and quite often it differs from what the police have written. This has helped get our clients exonerated in a number of cases.
Politics and Public Perception Play a Role in Prosecuting DUIs
Interviewer: Do you see people from all walks of life in your practice?
DUIs Can Occur among Drivers of Any Age and Background
James Abate: Yes, our clients come from all walks of life. Being accused of DUI is not anything more than the State is saying that you had a certain amount of alcohol in your blood. The media, and MADD, and politicians try to politicize it. Their stance is if you’ve been accused of DUI, you are just a bad person. It’s not the case.
It’s that you had one night where you had too much to drink, and that can be anyone. If you take a look at any of these reports about NFL players or professional athletes and they say, “This group is just a bad group of guys,” and it’s almost 90% of the arrests that they’re talking about are DUI cases.
If you live and you’re enjoying your life, you’re going to find yourself having a drink, and if you’ve calculated wrong and you get behind the wheel of the car, you may be charged with DUI. It can happen to anyone. We represent the rich, we represent the poor, we represent people who are young, people who are truck drivers and who stand to lose their CDL license for life.
“I Only Had 2 Beers…”
Interviewer: Is there any common back story you hear from people that come to you for a DWI, such as, “I only had two beers” or “I was doing this or that?”
James Abate: It’s mostly that they can’t believe it happened to them. One thing I’ve learned is that most of the time it’s that, “I didn’t think I was intoxicated,” “I didn’t think that I had had too much to drink.” What you learn is different people process alcohol in a different fashion.
Alcohol absorption could be affected by your size and it could be affected by whether you’re on the Atkins Diet. When you’re on a low carb diet, you are undergoing ketoacidosis which then can simulate alcohol in your body.
Another thing is it’s a very stressful situation, and people often say, “Listen, I couldn’t do those field sobriety tests if I was sober.” It’s a very frightening time for people. They say, “I can’t believe I’ve been arrested for DUI.” That’s what I often hear.
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