Your Client Is Human Too—How to Communicate Tactfully with the Victim’s Family in a DUI Defense Case

Reaching out to the victim’s family can improve the way your client is perceived, but it can certainly backfire as you tread the volatile waters of grief and blame. Before extending condolences, consider defense attorney Patrick T. Barone’s DUI defense strategies for tactful communication from his book, Defending Drinking Drivers:

family“Sincere” Is the Operative Word

At the earliest stages of pretrial preparation and DUI defense strategies, it will be helpful to communicate to the victim’s family your client’s sincere remorse over what happened. “Sincere” is the operative word here, because faint or faked remorse will surely backfire. What is important, and perhaps even essential, is to communicate to the victim’s family the grief and sadness your client feels regarding the death.

Exercising Caution Is Imperative

Exercising caution is imperative for your DWI defense tactics, as such efforts must be non-manipulative and executed deftly. Otherwise, the damage to your client’s case, which has the potential to be measured in additional years in prison, can be significant.

Your Client as a Drunken Monster

In approaching this topic, be aware that it will likely be very difficult for the victim’s family to see your client as anything but a villain, and any efforts toward communication of the contrary will be scrutinized and rejected—if only to allow the victim’s family to hold on to their useful, though distorted, image of your client as a drunken monster.

A Human Being with the Same Types of Feelings

This image is sometimes necessary for them to make sense of what happened. This fact will make them blind to the possibility that your client is merely another human being with the same types of feelings that they have.

Lessening, If Not Eliminating, This Unfair and Unproductive Perception

Still, if your client’s message is consistent with the one conveyed through your words and DWI defense tactics throughout the case, then you should have some success with lessening, if not eliminating, this unfair and unproductive perception.

When weighing what to say and when, understand that emotional guilt and remorse is not the same thing as criminal guilt and responsibility. A carefully crafted message will take this fact into consideration as well.  Communicating with the victim’s family, especially at the early stages, can be very helpful and even therapeutic for the client and will assist you also in your efforts to obtain the best possible result.


DUI Defense Strategies from Attorney Author Patrick T. Barone

Patrick_BaronePatrick T. Barone
is the principal and founding member of The Barone Defense Firm, headquartered in Birmingham, Michigan. Mr. Barone has an “AV” (highest) rating from Martindale-Hubbell, has been listed as “Seriously Outstanding” by SuperLawyers, rated “Outstanding/10.0” by AVVO and since 2009 has been included in the highly selective US News & World Report’s America’s Best Lawyers while The Barone Defense Firm appears in their companion American’s Best Law Firms.

He is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School where he teaches Drunk Driving Law and Practice, is a graduate of the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyer’s College, and is on the faculty of the Michigan Trial Practice College. Learn more about Patrick T. Barone or his book, Defending Drinking Drivers.