Interviewer: If you are charged with DWI, what is your best option in terms of defending the charge? Should you choose a court-appointed public defender? Do you really need a private attorney to help you in this area?
A Court-Appointed Public Defender Cannot Represent You at the Civil Forfeiture Hearing
Stuart: With regards to hiring a private attorney or a public defender, you must consider the civil forfeiture side of the DWI charge as well as the criminal side. The main difference is that because the civil forfeiture is a civil matter and it’s not a punishment for the crime, it’s only seen as a civil penalty, which is not necessarily true, however that’s the way it’s perceived, Legal Aid or the public defender will not handle that case for you. They are not permitted to handle the civil side of the charge.
Depending on the Outcome of the Civil Hearing: There Is a Possibility You May Forfeit Your Vehicle
Interviewer: So unless you hire a private attorney, it is highly probable that your car can be taken, forfeited and sold at auction because they’ve made it into a civil proceeding and not a criminal one. Is that right?
Stuart: In essence, what it really means is that if that proceeding is started you will have to hire a private attorney or handle it yourself. A public defender or a legal aid attorney, are knowledge but they will not handle it because it’s not under their mandate. They can’t handle civil matters; they can only handle criminal cases.