Year One Course Syllabus

Year One Course

Course Information

  • Over 100 hours of lectures will be conducted over the course of 9 months taught by Steven Epstein and a Faculty of distinguished experts.

  • Topics will cover the pathway of a DWI case from arrest through trial.

  • Scholars will learn the substance of what is needed to be learned to defend a DWI case as well as how to apply that knowledge to prepare for and conduct a trial.

  • During the course Scholars will attend a 24-hour National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Student Course, taught by nationally renowned expert Anthony Palacios.

  • The course will culminate in a mock trial of a DWI case.

  • Lectures will be offered live and via Zoom.

Note: Note: Courses for defense attorneys only. Completion of course will qualify Scholars for year two.

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Course Syllabus

Session 1 & 2 - September

The first session will cover the basics of DWI defense in New York. Topics will include the relevant New York charging statutes, driver’s license suspensions and revocations, penalties of a DWI offense and the fundamental science involved in a DWI case. The second day’s topics will cover ethical considerations in preventive lawyering, pre-trial motion practice, the client interview, theory of case, storytelling, and opening statements.

Session 3 - October

The DWI arrest process. Discussion will include the three phases of a DWI arrest; an introduction into standardized field sobriety testing, and probable cause determinations. Each Scholar shall prepare and present an opening statement from a given fact pattern and present it to the group in break out sections. The focus will be on the implementation of skills learned from lectures on theory of case and storytelling.

Session 4 - November

The investigation of a DWI case, handling issues presented by CPL Article 245 and Certificates of Compliance, common legal issues in a DWI case and pre-trial hearings. The art of cross examination. This will lead into a discussion of the cross examination of the arresting officer at trial. Discussion will include how to tell your story by setting up a structure using the chapter method, establishing and maintaining control of the witness, and how to prepare for and cross examine the arresting officer.

Session 5 & 6 - December

The next two days will be devoted to learning the principals and application of breath testing in a DWI case. These sessions will be co-taught with Jan Semenoff. The first day will begin with a session on the pharmacology of alcohol. This will be followed by a discussion of the fundamentals of breath testing for alcohol. An examination of the most common areas of attacking breath test results in New York and the “Ten Things you Need to Know Before you Try a Breath Test Case.” An overview of the law related to breath testing in New York followed by a presentation by an expert witness from the view of the expert. This will include a discussion of common areas of defense theories that require expert witness testimony.

The cross examination of the breath test operator. A sample cross examination will be conducted.

Session 7 – January

Scholars will attend a workshop on improvisation skills and acting techniques for lawyers. Scholars will learn how to use their voice, body, and space to improve persuasion skills in the courtroom. This will be taught by Neill Hartley, a professional actor, director and voice coach who teaches at the Philadelphia School for the Arts.

Sessions 8-10 – February

Scholars will complete a three-day National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Student Courses. This hands-on course will teach the Scholars using the same curriculum law enforcement officers are trained under. This course will be instructed by nationally renowned SFST expert Anthony Palacios with Trial Practice lecture by Steven Epstein.

Session 11 – March

The day will focus on driving under the influence of drugs. Topics will include the DRE, prescription drugs, marijuana and issues related to field testing and probable cause when drugs are alleged. This session will be co-taught with Anthony Palacios.

Session 12 & 13 – April

Lectures on the proper techniques for collecting a sample of blood and common issues that may arise in that process. The basics of gas chromatography will be explained and there will be a lecture on best laboratory practices and the principals of measurement. There will be a review of what discovery you should be getting in a DWI blood test case. There will a discussion of common areas of cross examination of both the collector of blood and the analyst and a presentation on retrograde extrapolation. This day will be co-taught with Dr. Jimmie and Carrie Valentine.

On the second day Scholars will deliver a summation in break-out sessions. After a presentation on summations each Scholar will deliver a second summation in break-out sessions which will be reviewed.

Session 14 – May

The final day of lecture in year one of the Institute will include DMV refusal hearings and handling the trial of a refusal case. We will also discuss how to address implicit bias in jury selection as well as some of the strategies of trying a case with a Judge instead of a jury. Finally, we will discuss the ethical dilemmas we face dealing with the addicted client and some of the collateral consequences our clients face. The final trial fact pattern will be distributed, and the year will end with a discussion on building a DWI practice.

Mock Trials - June

DWI Defense and Trial Skills

•All Scholars will try a mock trial in teams of two. Each Scholar will do either an opening or a summation. Each Scholar will do a direct examination and cross examine a witness. We will record each trial and each Scholar will have their performance critiqued by an instructor from the Institute.