After being canceled in 2020 due to some global pandemic, the annual DUI seminar in Las Vegas resumed in October of 2021. This year’s theme was ‘Top Shelf DUI Defenses’. The National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) assembled a marvelous menu of superb speakers. The seminar really was top shelf.
Memory System for OVI Defense
One outstanding presentation, which may not seem directly related to OVI defense, was Paul Mellor’s Defending the Brain: The Art of Improving Your Memory. We have all walked into a room and forgotten why we went in there, and we have all lost our train of thought. A lawyer who can’t remember the next topic in the middle of a closing argument is in trouble. That’s why it is helpful to have a system for recall.
Mellor taught a mental system for recall based on the use of anchors. An anchor, in this context, is something which reminds us of something else. A vivid image makes a good anchor. We are naturally good at retaining vivid images; we see the image in our ‘mind’s eye’. The more vivid the image, the better it will be as an anchor.
Let’s suppose I want to remember three key topics in my closing argument: (1) my client’s weight made the field sobriety tests invalid; (2) the officer failed to engage in the mandatory 20-minute observation period before the breath test; and (3) the testimony of witness Frank Babbit was favorable. I may create the following anchors: (1) a gray weightlifting dumbbell bouncing on a tightrope; (2) a bronze old-fashioned alarm clock smashing into a Datamaster breath-testing machine; and (3) a hot dog (a frank) being chased by a white rabbit (Babbit). Those vivid images are anchors which remind me of the topics.
The anchors can be ‘placed’ sequentially in locations. The locations can be in the room where I am speaking, in rooms of a building I know well, or on parts of my body. As I go through the locations sequentially, I will ‘see’ the vivid images, and the images will remind me of the next topic. For example: on my shoulder, I see the dumbbell bouncing on the tightrope; on my knee, I see the clock smashing into the Datamaster; on my foot, I see the hot dog being chase by the rabbit.
Plethora of Preeminent Presentations
Mellor’s was not the only outstanding presentation. Steve Epstein demonstrated trial techniques for combating the breath test, and Joseph St. Louis pulled back the curtain on laboratory issues. Doug Murphy illustrated how to defeat Drug Recognition Evaluators with their own science, and Tony Palacios presented what defense lawyer need to know about field sobriety tests. I was interested to see Tony Palacios in action, as I will soon be taking his course in Atlanta for standardized field sobriety testing instructors.
It was great to be back at the seminar. Of course, I enjoyed that it was in Vegas, so I got to experience some extra-curricular activities like a desert ATV tour, the Caesar’s Palace pool, and the Criss Angel show. I also enjoyed catching-up with colleagues from across the country. I created a vivid image of the experience so I will always remember it.