About Your Lawyers

Kirby Riffel – DWI Defence

Mr. Riffel is a founding member of the National College for DUI Defense and the DUI Defense Lawyers Association; he has twice (only two polls) been voted one of the best DWI lawyers in Arkansas in the Arkansas Times Poll. He is particularly proud to be one of the few lawyers recognized who does not live in a metropolitan area. Mr. Riffel has been given the Champions Award by the Arkansas Criminal Defense Association and is licensed to practice in every court in Arkansas and the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Riffel has been a speaker at many continuing education seminars for other lawyers both in Arkansas and other states. He has spoken to judges, law students, and practicing lawyers in Ukraine as well as Arkansas and other states.

In about 1991 someone told him that “You can’t win a DWI case” and he set out to see if this was true and became fascinated with the fact that in these cases often involve faulty science, minimally trained officers, ambiguous testimony and ambiguous laws. Unfortunately they also involve unusual prejudice against DWI defendants as a result of high dollar ad campaigns by organizations like the State Police and MADD. Mr. Riffel’s experience is that large numbers of innocent people are mischaracterized as drunks merely because they are distracted drivers or fail “field sobriety tests” which almost no one, save the young and the athletic, can do even when not under pressure and traumatized by the alarming situation.  These tests which even their authors admit have nothing to do with driving are used to falsely incriminate divers as do breath machine tests, which is advertised to be perfect, but is constantly being replaced by new models which are “improvements” over the old and are estimates at best and often are measuring things other than deep lung air as advertised.

For instance the National Safety Council and other organizations have regularly said since at least the 1980s that duplicate tests (at least) should be made for quality control purposes to help insure minimum accuracy. Duplicate tests were mandated in Arkansas more than twenty years later—twenty plus years too late for many who pled guilty thinking that these machines were governed by minimum safeguards of accuracy. Now no breath results can be reported unless duplicate tests are done. What about the tens of thousands of Arkansans who have been convicted over the last 20 years and more without duplicate tests? Anybody care about these people? No. Standardized Field sobriety tests were “proven” to discriminate between people who would test over or under .10% on some variety of breath machine.

Then the law changed and they now magically discriminate between people who are over or under .08. This is not science, this is not proof, it is politics. You know, it wouldn’t be so important if the penalties were reasonable, but it is not what the court decrees that is so unreasonable. It is the simple fact that the DWI is on your record forever, and it can cost you your job; your right to travel to certain countries, like Canada, it may restrict job opportunities etc. The more responsible you are the worse the effect of the punishment is likely to be. If a worker loses his job and cannot find other employment, which is often the case, the whole family is devastated.

Many DWI defendants are innocent. Driving while drinking is not illegal, driving while intoxicated is.  Police often do not discriminate as it is very hard, if not impossible to do where the defendant is not noticeably drunk.  However, after the fact, it is not possible to prove innocence. Thankfully, we have a legal system that understands that one should not be required to prove anything, that he should be acquitted unless the proof against him is overwhelming and excludes all possibility of innocence. The job of a defense lawyer is much like that of a house inspector. The house may have a new paint job, new carpets and the well-spoken, nice looking salesman (read prosecutor and police officer) may make a good sales pitch, but the good home inspector will look at the insulation, the wiring, the plumbing. He will check for termites and disputed boundary lines. After you hear his report, you may not be so willing to buy this bright and shiny house that the real estate salesman wants to sell you. It is the same with the prosecutor (who is selling the case) and the defense lawyer who will show you the things about the case that the salesman will not tell you.

Mr. Riffel, in his career, has tried civil cases both for the plaintiff and the defendant, he has tried murder, rape and drug cases, but none are as difficult to achieve a fair result as a DWI case because all the political pressure groups are scaring the public (read influencing jurors) half to death with emotional appeals which have the effect of creating an atmosphere where it is difficult for a defendant to get a fair trial. No type of cases require trained and experienced defense counsel more than DWI cases do.

Chris Wardlow – Family Law & Criminal Law

Chris Wardlow graduated Little Rock School of Law in 2006 and was admitted into the Bar that same year. Mr. Wardlow practices in Divorce and Child Custody cases as well as Criminal Law.