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5 Reasons Not to Represent Yourself in an OVI Case

columbus ovi attorney

“Honest” Abe Lincoln is given credit for the old proverb: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” There may be some debate about the origins of this saying. But few would disagree with the conclusion.

Abe was a great lawyer. He had a country style and charm about him, and his work ethic was unmatched. He grew up working to sustain his own existence, and that carried forward to his career.

Even though Abe never had to deal with a modern OVI/DUI case, his wisdom still holds true. The problem is that many think conviction for OVI is a foregone conclusion. They see the failed tests, the breath-test result, and they just assume it’s all over but the shouting.


Like everything we don’t completely understand, there’s always more to it. And even if the case is hopeless, an experienced drunk-driving lawyer, like those at Yavitch & Palmer in Columbus, Ohio, can be invaluable. As we’ve shown in previous blog posts, you can get a DUI even while sober, and, in the blink of an eye, a relatively simple DUI case can turn into an aggravated vehicular homicide case in the blink of an eye.

Here are five reasons the criminal attorneys at Yavitch & Palmer think should not represent yourself in an OVI case.

1.) Sometimes hopelessness turns into happiness.

We had a client not long ago with multiple previous OVI convictions. He came to the office with a hopeless attitude. He picked up yet another OVI. It looked and felt like a hopeless case. He didn’t recall much of the details. The facts were blurred by anxiety, booze, and depression. But it was a high test. And if convicted, there would be significant jail time.

He wanted to just plead guilty and be done with it. Get it over with. And that might have been the right move if the facts were a bit different.

We assessed the case like we would any other. Because we have to still check the boxes and make sure the evidence adds up, make sure the proper procedure was followed, and make sure the prosecution could make their case.

In this situation they couldn’t. We found a fatal flaw. And the hopelessness turned into happiness.

The point is simple. If this client had represented himself, he would have pled guilty despite the fact the police violated his Fourth Amendment Rights. No matter how bad the case, or how bad the situation, the system still works. The police still have to follow the correct procedure, and the prosecution still has to prove its case. It’s not feasible to make sure things are done correctly without an experienced attorney.

2.) You really don’t know what you’re doing.

The internet can be a dangerous thing. We have clients all the time who have done their internet research. They’re asking the right questions, they have a good understanding of the basic OVI penalties, and they might even know something about the court process. That’s all good. But it doesn’t mean they can go to court and represent themselves.

Even attorneys who practice in other areas aren’t really qualified to do meaningful OVI work. The law is in a constant state of flux. The issues change daily. What worked one week might be gone the next. If there is any chance of success, it requires experience, knowledge, and a solid reputation. It means getting a good attorney — nothing less.

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3.) You will need a translator.

OVI in Ohio requires a personal appearance. That means you can’t just send in a fine. You have to show up in court and appear before a judge or magistrate. And once you get there, it will seem like a foreign country. Everyone will be speaking in legalese, using words, terms, and abbreviations that make no sense. You might hear DUS, OVI, FRA, DIP, DRS, and all sorts of other terms that make no sense.

Worse yet, imagine a grumpy judge asking you questions that include some of these terms while standing in the spotlight in front of a crowded courtroom. Then you will wonder if you said or did the right things. You will be given certain choices, and you’ll feel like you are just guessing at the right answers.

Fair or not, attorneys speak a different language. Get a good one to help you through the system.

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4.) You could go to jail.

Maybe the best reason to get an attorney, preferably one who is experienced in OVI/DUI law, is that you can go to jail. It’s that simple. No one would volunteer to perform their own surgery. The risks are too high. OVI can land you in the pokey.

If things line up just right, it could be immediately out the back door in handcuffs. An experienced attorney can help head off the surprises and maybe even avoid jail altogether. This is the best advice anyone could get: If you could possibly end up in jail, get a good attorney.

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5.) You never know until you know.

Whether it’s a good case, bad case, or a total crapshoot, you can’t get a deal on your own. Those representing themselves aren’t getting the plea bargain for reckless operation or physical control or anything else. Deals go to folks who have attorneys. Prosecutors generally don’t like dealing with per se defendants (people representing themselves). They will limit their interaction with those folks. They don’t want even the appearance of any impropriety. They don’t want it to look like they are taking advantage of anyone. So they limit their contact, and by doing that, they rarely engage in any meaningful dialogue with the solo flyers about reducing their charge to avoid an OVI conviction.

At the end of the day, if there is any chance of beating the OVI altogether, or even getting a reduced charge to avoid an OVI conviction, there almost always has to be an attorney involved.

Good attorneys cost good money. No question. And not everyone can afford one. But don’t make the mistake of going it alone. It’s short money. You’ll pay for it in the long run, and you may never know the extent of the lost opportunity.

Get the right Columbus DUI lawyer

Like anything, prevention is the best medicine. But we get it. Mistakes happen. Just make sure there’s an experienced criminal litigator to help. These are complicated, life-changing messes. Get the right help from the right Columbus DUI lawyer.

Contact Yavitch & Palmer by using our online form to schedule an appointment at our downtown Columbus office, or call us at 614-224-6142.

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