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New York DWI Defense Lawyer Steve Brill Says Courts Abuse Celebrity's Rights

Posted By Steven Brill || 16-Sep-2010

He Also Has Advice for Joba Chamberlain's Attorney

New York Defense Lawyer says courts abuse celebrities' rights NEW YORK, NY (Nov. 19) – If Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain is convicted of driving while under the influence, a Nebraska court, in addition to enforcing the mandatory jail sentence of anywhere from 7-to-60 days, could revoke his license, making it impossible for the star right hander to drive himself to the opening game against the Cleveland Indians on April 16, 2009, in the new Yankee Stadium, according to Steve Brill, a New York City defense attorney who has handled all types of DWIcases.

"The courts could also mandate an alcohol treatment program for Chamberlain," Brill said, "requiring him to attend classes. While unlikely, the classes could potentially interfere with his place in the Yankee lineup for part, or all, of the season."

The 23-year-old starter, with a wholesome reputation, was arrested near his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska on October 18 for driving under the influence of alcohol, the Nebraska state patrol said.

"If I was defending him," Brill explained, "I would make sure that Joba is not treated worse than anyone else in similar circumstances, which can happen, if some aggressive prosecutor decides to use him as an example."

Brill said he knows that as a public figure there is a tremendous amount of pressure on Chamberlain to speak.

"I would make sure he understands," Brill warned, "that anything he says will most likely end up hurting his case."

Brill explained that most of the time DWI cases are resolved with negotiations between defense attorneys and District Attorneys.

"But celebrity is always a sensitive situation," he said. "The goal of the defense is to convince the DA and the Court that a famous defendant must be treated as fairly as anyone else. In DWI cases especially, the DA has the tendency to throw the book at celebrities in order to use their celebrity to send a message to society."

Brill said that should the evidence confirm that Joba was legally intoxicated, he would advise Chamberlain's lawyer to focus heavily on minimizing any sanctions, or penalties, and to advise Chamberlain to remain silent and not make any statements to the press.

He said the fact that an open bottle of booze was found on the front seat of his car will make his lawyer's job that much harder and the DA's job that much easier.

"The open bottle," Brill said, "is independent evidence that the person was actually drinking while driving, which makes it hard to argue that the person was not driving in an impaired or intoxicated condition."

Brill said that when Chamberlain goes before the Nebraska court in December his lawyer's top priority should be to keep the first time offender out of jail.

"At the same time," he said, "his lawyer should fight to keep Chamberlain's criminal and driving records clean, help him maintain a valid drivers license, pay only minimum fines and help keep him out of alcohol treatment, unless the facts of the case make it clear that an intervention program would be in his client's best interest."

Brill advises anyone who is arrested on a DWI charge – celebrity or otherwise -- to seek legal advice.

"There is a significant need," Brill urged, "to have a good lawyer who knows the law and procedures as it pertains to DWI crimes."

He said that while some sentences are mandatory, there is a wide range of guidelines within those mandatory sentences.

"A license suspension is mandatory," he explained, "but there is flexibility in the length of time of the suspension. The same can be said for the fine."

Brill said that a good lawyer can make the difference between a client sustaining a criminal record and no criminal record; between an alcohol program and no alcohol program; between community service and no community service; between a seized vehicle and the release of that vehicle; between having driving privileges and no privileges.

" DWI laws are strict and getting stricter in every state," Brill said. "Even in his home state, where he is something of a hero, Chamberlain could conceivably have license problems and run the risk of sustaining a criminal record for life. A lot will depend on how his attorney handles the case."

Brill pointed to an example of one client of his New York defense law firm, Sullivan & Brill, who was stopped for driving erratically.

"In police paperwork," Brill explained, "the driver was alleged to have all of the characteristics of being drunk – slurred speech, watery eyes, alcohol on his breath. The driver was taken to the precinct and asked to submit to a breathalyzer test. In New York the NYPD videotapes breath and sobriety tests. After pressuring the DA, we got a hold of the videotape and saw that our client looked and acted sober. He was steady and in control. His speech sounded normal and he appeared to understand what was going on. Despite what the arresting officer allegedly observed, the videotape saved the day for the client. No jury could be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that our client was intoxicated. The DA was forced to reduce the charges and we negotiated a deal that involved very minimal sanctions."