Justin Hunt is a defence lawyer based in Kansas City, Missouri, and working at KC Defense Counsel. He has had a wide range of criminal law experience, having worked as a prosecutor in California before changing sides when he moved to Kansas City.
Justin specialises in defending people from criminal offences, particularly traffic charges such as driving while intoxicated. He is dedicated to ensuring that his client’s rights are upheld at all times, and getting the best possible outcomes for them.
Justin, what inspired you to pursue a career in law?
I used to work for a company that I felt was breaking the law in regard to how it treated its employees. I wanted to help workers in that position and felt law school was the best way to do that.
I now know that the company wasn’t breaking any laws; it turns out workers don’t have many rights in America. Fortunately, while in law school, I fell in love with criminal law. I was the best in my class in criminal law and won a CALI award for it. So it all worked out.
You spent the first few years of your career in prosecutions – does this give you an advantage as a defence lawyer?
Having a background in prosecution absolutely gives me an advantage. It makes it easier to see what prosecutors are looking for when they prosecute a case and what police officers are looking for in an investigation. I spent the first few years of my career working with officers on a daily basis, sometimes advising officers on how to improve their reports and testimony.
That experience gives me an edge in many cases. More than just procedural skills, it gives me an experience in negotiating with prosecutors; I can remember the mistakes defence attorneys made when talking to me and know not to make them myself.
What made you decide to change sides and become a defence attorney?
I fell into it, much like I fell into prosecution. After my first year of law school, I wanted to be a public defender. However, the first internship I found was at a prosecutor’s office. I loved every minute of it and learned a lot.
After that, public defender’s offices were not interested in me at all; I had one interview and spent a lot of it defending my decision to work in a prosecutor’s office. It worked out well, though, because I enjoyed prosecuting.
When the office I was working for let me go (they said I wasn’t a good fit), a friend threw me some busy work from his small firm. I loved that too, and he must have enjoyed working with me, because he asked me to join him.
What would you say is the most common type of case you see at KC Defense Council?
Traffic tickets, especially driving while suspended or driving without insurance. Which really surprised me when I first came back to KC, but makes perfect sense after 2 years of driving here every day! Our most common case outside of traffic is assault.
When it comes to DWI what options does a person have if they are charged?
Fight it with an attorney, fight it alone, or don’t fight it: “It” is misleading because every DWI case comes with 2 cases against you; the criminal charge of DWI and the civil case where the state tries to suspend your license.
If you are accused of testing above the limit, you have only 15 days to request a hearing to fight the suspension. If you are accused of refusing a chemical test, you have just 30 days to request a hearing.
For the criminal case, the options are going to vary by the case, but I recommend that everyone at least visit with a DWI attorney before they decide to just plead guilty. So many of our clients say, “I thought I was fine.” And actually, a lot of them may have been below the legal limit while they were driving.
An experienced DWI attorney can get a good idea of the case in just a few minutes; I can skim a police report and get a very good idea of what dashcam footage is going to show. Even if you ultimately decide to plead guilty, an attorney can make it easier and tell you how to get your license back faster.
You defend people against both felony and misdemeanour DWI – what is the difference?
The stakes are much higher in felony DWI. Being charged with a felony means you have either injured or killed someone, damaged property, or you’ve had at least two prior DWI’s. Either way, the state’s focus has shifted away from alcohol treatment towards imprisonment.
On a first time DWI, I can almost always keep you out of jail and keep a conviction off your record; on a felony, I tell people that 120 days and 5 years of probation is the most likely outcome.
If someone is charged with a felony DWI what would you say the best course of action is?
If you’ve been charged with a felony DWI, the only reasonable option is to hire the best DWI lawyer you can afford.