In 2001 when I applied for Board Certification, the designation was in its infancy. I have since been recertified twice. Preparation, then and now, really consists of being a solid DUI defense lawyer and brushing up on some statistics. You cannot, and should not, cram for this exam. There’s a lot of talk about how difficult the exam is, but if you know your stuff because you’re immersed in it every day, all you really need to do is refresh your memory on some of the finer points on subjects like SFSTs, breath and blood testing parameters. People assume that the test is loaded with trick questions on arcane information, but it is not. The test—in fact the whole process–is designed to test your substantive knowledge as a DUI defense lawyer.
It is true that the oral argument can be intimidating. You’ll be arguing your case to some of the best and brightest DUI defense attorneys around. My oral argument judges were JJ Paul, Vic Carmody and Ed Fiandach. They know their stuff. When these guys started practicing, BAC was reported in Roman Numerals. NHTSA had only one driving cue—it was failure to keep your chariot within its lane. I really thought that I was in for a rough time, but they were thoughtful, respectful and really interested in assessing my knowledge, rather than excoriating me. Plus, I had the added benefit of taking the test in Hawaii. Island Rules applied and I didn’t have to wear a suit—I actually did the oral exam wearing an Aloha Shirt and shorts!
The actual mechanics of the argument were no more difficult than any real oral argument. Like the written portion of the test, if you’re competent and careful about the oral argument preparation and about the argument itself, you will do well. If you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants lawyer and try winging it, you will fare poorly. Just like real life.
If someone were to ask me what one book I would recommend for study, it would have to be Garriott’s Medicolegal Aspects of Alcohol, 6th Edition. I studied from the 3rd edition (and have now written the Defense chapter for both the 5th and 6th editions). It was more than just studying from the 3rd edition, however, that led to my success. It was the fact that I knew the material because I regularly referred to the 3rd edition in my practice. In addition to Garriott’s, a thorough knowledge of federal case law dealing with the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments is necessary. You can bet that Search and Seizure issues as well as Confrontation will feature prominently on any test. Moreover, the ABA Model Rules on Ethics is worth reviewing. Board Certification and the core principals of the NCDD dictate that a knowledgeable lawyer is also an ethical lawyer.
Arizona did not recognize Board Certification back in 2001. My state only recognized Arizona Bar designations. I took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and prepared a package of information for my state bar. It contained all of the relevant information regarding the stringent standards of the testing and application process, documentation from the NCDD, and a copy of my certificate. I sent it all off to the Arizona Bar with a letter telling them that I was going to advertise that I was Board Certified—then I dug in for a fight that never came. Not long after that, Arizona allowed outside designations to be advertised.
Board Certification recognition has opened many doors for me. Board Certification played a part in being offered numerous speaking engagements, referrals from other attorneys, and a pathway to the deanship of the National College for DUI Defense. It’s ironic that now I author a chapter in the book that I studied from for the test. I probably wouldn’t have been asked to do that without the designation. Board Certification is well-worth the effort. As incoming Dean for the National College for DUI Defense, I encourage all of you to seek Board Certification.
James Nesci is Board Certified DUI Defense Attorney from Tuscon, Arizona and the Dean Emeritus for NCDD. Learn more about Jim right here. For more information about NCDD’s Board Certification program, click here.
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