Doctors of DWI Defense?

Posted On November 15, 2021 Charles Ramsay

A few years ago my partner and I were interviewing a candidate for an associate attorney position at our firm. The young lawyer told us he had prepared for the interview by asking around to learn what it was like to work at our firm. He sheepishly told us that a former attorney from our firm said to him, “It’s a great place to work … if you want to get your PhD in DWI defense!”

By his facial expressions and body language he obviously took this as a negative.

But why?

A PhD in DWI defense implies that we’re at the top of our game – that we are the experts in DWI defense.  Why wouldn’t a young lawyer want an opportunity to be among the very best DWI attorneys in the state?

Maybe it’s something else. Perhaps the neophyte didn’t want to be seen as a one-trick-pony. But this ill-informed, unsophisticated view would be misguided as well. As you’ll read below, we’re phenomenal at all areas of criminal defense. But more, it really was a young lawyer’s lack of ability to know and appreciate the depth of knowledge and degree of transferability of the skills, training and experience one gains when properly and aggressively handling impaired driving cases.


While the vast majority of our cases are impaired driving cases (allegedly caused by either drugs or alcohol), we don’t exclusively represent people charged with DWI, criminal vehicle operation, and other impaired driving crimes. We successfully handle all types of criminal law cases, including murder, assault, burglary, theft, criminal sexual conduct, and others. In doing so, we’ve pioneered a number of defenses – for example, exposing the problems with eye-witness identification and other forensic issues.

DWI defense, if done properly, encompasses all the skills and nearly all the knowledge associated with other types of criminal defense cases, including such areas as DNA, accident reconstructions, and even fingerprints. (The rare exceptions, like gunshot residue evidence or burn pattern analysis really don’t come up in your typical DWI case, but we certainly see those types of evidentiary issues in our non DWI-cases).

As part of our DWI representations we also work in the civil arena where we regularly file law suits for drivers license revocations, and fight against police forfeiture. On top of all this, we’ve worked on nearly 200 appeals in Minnesota and in federal court … all the way to the United States Supreme Court. And less than half of those dealt with DWI-related issues.

We’ve had some really interesting federal cases as well. Several years ago we intervened in a federal law suit the Minnesota Attorney General had filed against the Intoxilyzer manufacturer. We derailed a settlement that would have kept us from reviewing the software that runs that machine. We then went on to act as lead counsel in the source code case on behalf of thousands of other cases.

While we spend a great deal of time challenging the substantive law, we also invest time and resources bettering our skills as trial advocates in the courtroom. This includes attending lectures and workshops on opening statements, direct examination, cross examination, closing arguments, and setting up victories with pre-trial motions and discovery.

Chuck attended several courses and ultimately earned “The ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist Designation,” in 2015. They have been certified in Certified in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFSTs), Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE), are certified to operate the Intoxilyzer 5000 and the DataMaster DMT, the breath test currently used in Minnesota. While Chuck attended the Borkenstein Institute in 2005 and is already Board Certified by the Minnesota State Bar Association as a Specialist in Criminal Law, he is now working toward taking the exam to be the state’s first board certified DWI specialist. 

We’ve done this very well throughout the years. Now we’re nationally recognized as leaders in DWI defense in Minnesota. Chuck was on the faculty of the National College for DWI Defense and taught metrology seminars. Chuck and Dan are both founding members of the DUI Defense Lawyers Association. They’re also members of the Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the invite-only Minnesota Society of Criminal Justice. Chuck has delved even more deeply into the science of criminal defense and is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and the American Chemistry Society.

As we alluded, our work has not gone unnoticed. The firm has twice been recognized my Minnesota Lawyer at “Attorneys of the Year,” first in 2011 and then again in 2016.

Finally, being the best-we-can-be lawyers in a sub-specialty like DWI/DUI defense does NOT exclude us from being superb criminal defense lawyers in the broader sense. Would you tell an Ironman triathlete he’s not a good at swimming, biking and running when an Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and concluding with a 26.2 mile marathon? We think our specialization and focus on DWI makes us not only the best DWI lawyers, but also makes us better criminal defense lawyers.

I’ve never followed up with that applicant, but my guess is he doesn’t feel as confident when he represents a person charged with a DWI. Sure, he may know some aspects of DWI defense, and may even realize what areas he doesn’t know; but I wonder if he knows what he doesn’t know….

. . . . because, in the end, who would you rather have defending you. They guy with the “PhD in DWI Defense,” or the guy who thinks that’s a bad thing?