Justice Through Knowledge: An introduction to the value of NCDD Seminars

Posted on August 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

The last time I looked, I had one hundred and seventy cases listing my name as the defense

attorney. That's one hundred and seventy instances in which I am responsible for helping someone in a

time of trouble. The cases vary; so do the clients. However, I never want the quality of my

representation to vary. I love my job. I love who and what I represent. I love my late hours and my small

victories. Nevertheless, the difficulty of finding the balance between staying afloat in my case load, and

growing as an attorney is not easily conquered.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases can be as tricky and as strenuous as any other case out

there, if not more so. Based on their onerous nature, I immediately became intrigued with them.

However, it's not just the difficulty level of a DUI case that was attractive to me, although I love the

challenge. The fact that seemingly underqualified officers can use, arguably, unreliable tests to

determine whether or not to arrest someone for a serious crime really made me want to contest these

cases. Because, to me, calling an officers' discretion "science" seemed far from justice. My interest in

DUI cases started with a colleague asking for my help with a Daubert motion, seeking to prevent the

Drug Recognition Evaluators from giving expert testimony. From there, I realized there was an entire

world I never knew existed.

I had previously heard of National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) conferences, and how

beneficial they were. When I saw that there was a winter session being hosted in Orlando, I immediately

approached my supervisor to ask permission to go. Unfortunately, it just wasn't in our budget. However,

a few hours later I heard from my supervisor again, telling me that NCDD was putting on a one day DUI

seminar exclusively for Public Defenders, at no charge to the attendees, and that she would love to send

me there. Elated, I made sure I had everything in order to be able to go to the seminar.

I am not sure I knew what to expect. I knew that there would be knowledgeable attorneys. I

knew that there would be new techniques and strategies to try at trials. And I knew that I would "get my

foot in the door" as far as learning at least where to start with some of the more difficult hurdles to

overcome in DUI cases. Even with these expectations, I was overwhelmed by what I learned. Top

attorneys from around the country came and spoke to a room filled with Public Defenders eager to

learn. As I looked around the room full of my peers, I realized that we were all fighting the same battles

and climbing the same mountains. The benefit of having not one, but several, cultivated attorneys

helping to direct all of us in the right direction was unmatched.

As the morning sped by, I found my legal pad almost completely filled with new tricks of the

trade. Then it was time for lunch. Our meal was interrupted by the unexpected, and inordinately

generous gesture of inviting all of the Public Defenders to stay for the winter session. My colleagues and

I didn't even have to speak before I knew we were all on the same page. We had already learned so

much, and were so excited to grab the opportunity that would let us learn more. One call back to the

office, and we had full support to stay.

By the end of day one, I had learned more than I ever expected to learn. From jury selection to

cross examination to the fundamentals of scientific evidence, everything we were taught, we could

immediately use. Days two and three were just as informative. I appreciated the variety of topics, from

suggestions on how to achieve a work/life balance to using and challenging expert witnesses. Every

speaker that took the stage was extremely knowledgeable in their area, and incredibly approachable

with any questions the audience may have had.

One of the biggest benefits of going to the NCDD conference, was meeting the members of the

NCDD who attended and put on the conference. Some of the best attorneys across the country, are also

some of the friendliest. Everyone I met was incredibly supportive and more than helpful. They went

above and beyond to help my colleagues and me when we had questions and specific issues with DUIs

(and they never made us feel like we were asking a dumb question). Everyone was so generous with

their knowledge and experiences. And even though my colleagues and I are just starting our careers, we

never felt anything but equal throughout the entire conference. What I learned, and the connections I

was able to make in just three days, were more than I ever expected, so when the opportunity

presented itself to actually become a member of the NCDD, I knew, beyond a reasonable doubt, I had to

I'd like to thank Kathy Smith, the Public Defender of the 20th circuit, and Don McFarlane, the

misdemeanor supervisor, for their help and support in sending my colleagues and me to the NCDD

conference. The opportunity was unparalleled. And I would like to thank all of the attorneys I met at the

conference. I was able to successfully use several techniques in a DUI trial in the week following the

conference. With the help of the NCDD, I will not have to compromise the quality of my representation

of my clients, and I will be able to continue to improve my skills and understanding of DUI cases.

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