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They drink and drive. He gets the call.
Stephen Jones wrote the book on defending clients charged with DUI
He literally did write the book, but it's not a memoir. It's a tome for other lawyers, volume 50 of the Massachusetts Practice Series, called ''Drunk Driving Defense." His website is for the legal neophyte -- specifically, for those charged with driving under the influence. Under the heading ''Why You Can Win," he writes: ''Many cases are thrown out because the police make mistakes." And, of course: ''Your chances increase dramatically if you hire a lawyer who concentrates in defending drunk driving cases."
On the back of Jones's business card are his rules of the road: ''Refuse the field sobriety tests." ''Keep silent." ''Insist upon your right to call an attorney." ''Don't take the Breathalyzer." ''Be polite to the officer."
There are people who do not approve of Jones, who handles more than 100 drunken-driving cases a year. ''Those in my profession are slightly more popular than those who defend murderers," he acknowledges. But he claims that both he and his clients are misunderstood -- that the majority of his cases are not repeat offenders who end up killing innocent victims. They are, he says, people like him, who like to have a drink or two. For many of his clients, it's their first offense and, he says, it's likely to be their last.
''I really like the people I represent," says Jones, who is 48 and lives on the South Shore with his wife and two daughters. ''They are regular people. They're your father, your sister, your neighbor, your teacher. This is somebody who has that extra glass of wine or that extra beer, the person with a buzz who gets pulled over. They are horrified and humiliated."
Barbara Harrington, executive director of the state chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, begs to differ.
''No matter what Mr. Jones tells you, he knows his clients are guilty of a crime, and they know they're guilty of a crime," she says. ''So what they're doing is trying to figure out how to minimize the consequences. He's trying to make a living off cleaning up the mess, and we're trying to deter the crime in the first place."
On his website, Jones posts a ''case of the week." Last month in Lowell, according to the website, Jones's law partner got a case dismissed in which the client was stopped after attempting to evade a police roadblock. Police said the man had slurred speech and a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. He admitted to having six drinks and could not recite the alphabet or walk heel to toe, police said. A Breathalyzer determined that his blood-alcohol content was .16, double the legal limit of .08. The case was dismissed after the attorney challenged the validity of the roadblock, making the charges inadmissible. In Wareham, another client of Jones's firm crossed the center line into oncoming traffic on three occasions and failed field sobriety tests: not guilty.
In Woburn, a man was found not guilty on a second offense after rolling his car into a telephone pole, cutting it in half. Jones says the prosecutor did not prove that the man was driving the car, or that his slurred speech and unsteadiness were the result of alcohol instead of injuries sustained in the accident.
Jones says all he's doing is making sure the police do their work accurately and that his clients' rights aren't violated. His three-lawyer firm operates in a small office park in Norwell. He calls himself a ''Weld Republican," and there are framed photographs of him with the former governor on the walls. He's also a sports fanatic, and he has Red Sox paraphernalia on bookcases, along with a football signed by Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw given to him by a grateful client.
On Jones's website is a testimonial from another grateful client, one who had three DUI charges in six months, along with intimidating a witness, disturbing the peace, and resisting arrest. ''Having two prior convictions for DUI, I believed I was heading to jail," writes the man, identified only as G.S. But Jones got him off thenew charges. ''I took your personal advice, and today I am a sober, contributing person, who sincerely appreciates this second chance in life," the man writes.
Others aren't so grateful for Jones's work.
''He was doing what he was paid to do, and he did a good job of it. I like to consider myself an intelligent person, and I could see right through it," says Jack Steele of Duxbury, whose son was killed by a driver in a drunken-driving case defended by Jones. ''It was obvious that alcohol affected the defendant's ability to drive that car. It's bad for society when kids see what this guy got away with."
The accidental attorney
Jones is in demand these days. In one recent week, he had four trials in four towns and won three of them. He travels throughout the country speaking to legal groups and is on the board of the National College for DUI Defense, which provides training for attorneys representing drunk drivers. One of Jones's higher-profile clients was Vineyard photographer Peter Simon, younger brother of singer Carly Simon, who pleaded guilty last summer to three drunken-driving charges and was sentenced to 150 days in the Edgartown jail and 90 days in rehab.
Jones did not set out to be a leading DUI attorney. He didn't dream of making a career walking accident scenes and hiring experts to impeach police officers' testimony. He came to Boston College from South Jersey, the only child of a single mother who raised him on a teacher's salary, and worked as a bartender throughout college. When he graduated, his mother gave him money for a trip to Europe. Instead he put the sum down on a house in West Roxbury that he bought for $40,000 and sold three years later for $80,000. With the profit, he bought two more houses, turned them over, and scored big again. At one point, he owned a sub shop in West Bridgewater.
He attended optometry school but hated it. Trying to figure out his next step, Jones recalled something his favorite professor had told him: ''No matter what you do in life, it will never hurt you to go to law school." So he enrolled in the New England School of Law, intending to go into a real estate practice. But in his last year he worked as a student prosecutor in the Suffolk County district attorney's office. He loved the theater of trial law, and upon graduation was hired by the Worcester County DA.
Today he is on the other side of the courtroom. One of his recent cases involved a Duxbury man charged with killing his best friend when his car swerved and struck a guard rail in November 2001. In June a Brockton Superior Court jury convicted Edward O'Donnell of operating negligently, causing death. He received a two-year suspended sentence, was ordered to serve 90 days in the Plymouth House of Correction, and lost his license for 10 years.
Even though O'Donnell was found not guilty of the more serious offense of drunken driving, Jones was not happy. In his opening statement to the jury, he had called the crash ''a tragic accident" and acknowledged that his client had a beer or two, but said he swerved to avoid a car that cut in front of him. He attacked the sobriety tests administered by police at the scene and impugned the state police's accident reconstruction team.
In his closing argument the prosecutor told jurors that the defendant lost control of the car because he had been drinking. ''The defense attorney gives you an excuse for everything," said Assistant District Attorney Michael O'Connor.
Jones says he doesn't ask clients if they were intoxicated, and he stresses that drinking and driving is not a crime. ''It becomes a crime when alcohol diminishes your capacity to operate your motor vehicle." He adds: ''I'm not advocating drinking and driving."
He sometimes employs novel medical defenses, including conditions that he says can taint a Breathalyzer result, such as high fevers and gastroesophageal reflux disease. If a client flunks sobriety tests such as walking a straight line, Jones may offer a medical explanation: arthritis or leg injury.
William Connolly, who was an assistant district attorney in Plymouth County for six years, tried several cases against Jones. Despite their adversarial position, Connolly praises Jones's expertise. ''I think he's earned his reputation as the preeminent drunken-driving defense lawyer in Massachusetts. It's frankly rare that he loses a case," says Connolly, who is now an assistant US attorney. ''He's meticulous in his preparation; he doesn't just wing it. He's ethical, honest, and fair." As for his opinion about the type of cases Jones represents, Connolly demurred, saying only, ''It's tricky."
Another Norwell attorney, Christian Haufler, is more outspoken. He says drunken-driving cases are not difficult to defend: ''It's not that hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt." Haufler, who no longer takes DUI cases, says he didn't want to ''spend a career trying to . . . trip up some poor cop on the stand who's just trying to do his job."
A representative practice
When Jones first went out on his own, he'd take any case that walked in the door: wills, divorces, real estate. But he soon discovered the lucrative niche of drunken driving. Besides his home on Boston's South Shore, he has a house on a golf course in Tucson and belongs to Marshfield Country Club. He says he has no compunction about advertising in the yellow pages, on the radio, and even, a couple of years ago, in men's rooms at bars.
One of his more notorious cases involves James M. Flanagan, a 19-year-old who crashed into a Norwell cemetery fence, killing two teenage girls in his car in August 2003. The youths had been at a party where alcohol was consumed while the parents were away. Jones has a daughter who is 21, the same age as Flanagan is now, and another who is 16. Does that give him pause? ''I absolutely talk to the girls about drinking and driving. I say what every parent should say: Don't do it."
As distasteful as some of the cases may be, rare is the one he won't take. An exception is the case involving the man who last week ran a red light in Quincy and hit a car driven by a woman who was nine months pregnant. The driver had already been convicted of drunken or drugged driving at least four times and was operating with a revoked license. The baby was delivered by emergency C-section and placed on a respirator; the mother was also hospitalized.
''Every lawyer has a case they just can't take, and I couldn't take that one," says Jones, who was never involved in the case. ''You have to have a passion for what you're doing."
His clients range in age from 16 into their 80s, and have included doctors, lawyers, and police officers. ''You name a profession, and we've represented them all." The prospect of losing a driver's license is a major motivator for those who hire him, he says.
''Let's say you're a 35-year-old woman with three kids you're carting all over the planet. Or you're a salesman with a company car and you'll be fired. What are your options? You're going to fight it."
Jones knows the general public is unsympathetic to such cases. And although he is at odds with MADD on many issues, he says he is a fan of the organization and has donated money to it. MADD, he says, helps create public awareness that may cause people ''to pause prior to ordering their next drink and think whether that drink may impair their ability to drive." As for those who drink and drive, he suggests keeping a portable Breathalyzer in the car.
Failing that, he says, they may want to get a good lawyer.
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