This article will provide some guidelines for hiring an attorney to represent you in a DUI case. The most important thing that you can do when speaking to a DUI defense lawyer is to ask questions. Do not let your embarrassment, or the attorneys attitude, stop you from doing so. Asking questions is important for two reasons. One, you can’t make an informed decision about who will represent you without fully understanding what you are facing and how that person might handle your case. Second, whether an attorney is willing to patiently answer all of your questions can tell you a lot about that person. If he (or she) will not answer your questions before you hire him, he likely will not do so when he already has your money and you are standing in court. The risks of jail time, license suspension and a potential criminal record are too high to make decisions without understanding why you are doing so.
You should beware of any attorney who makes guarantees to get you to hire him. For example, if he tells you that if you hire him he will beat the case or can guarantee a particular plea agreement. The criminal justice system is made up of people – Police Officers, Prosecutors and Judges etc. Therefore, it can, and usually will, be very unpredictable and no outcome can be guaranteed in advance. An experienced DUI defense lawyer will tell you what the most likely outcomes will be if you make certain choices like entering into a plea agreement or going to trial.
You should be concerned if an attorney just tells you what you have to do with your case. For example, he tells you must plead guilty or take a particular program. A DUI attorney should use his experience and training to give you their best advice under the circumstances of your case (those circumstances might not just include the facts of your case but other factors like which Judge you are assigned to). However, he should also tell you what all of your options are not just the option that he advises. At the end of the day, the attorney is going to go home no matter what. You are the one whose freedom is at stake, and therefore, you should be the one to make the final decision based upon all of your choices. To clarify, I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t listen closely to an experienced DUI Lawyer’s opinion, but that you should be made aware of all of your options before deciding which course to take.
You should closely question any attorney regarding their experience. Does he defend DUI cases full time? If not, what percentage of his cases are DUI’s and how many has he handled? Just as importantly, what geographic areas does he have experience in? For example, every County in Pennsylvania has its own rules and regulations. Further, every Judge has their own way of doing things. If a lawyer is not very familiar with the Judges and rules in the area where you were charged you will be the one to suffer the consequences of that inexperience.
A DUI Lawyer should be willing to tell you up front what his fees will be under every circumstance. For instance, how much will the fee be if you plead guilty? If you need to have motions filed and/or proceed to trial? He should also be willing to give you a written fee agreement at the time you hire him. This will protect you as the case progresses through the system. Nothing will undermine the attorney-client relationship faster than you feeling that your attorney is stealing from you. I should note that while most DUI defense lawyers work on a fee per case basis (this means they can tell you in advance what a plea or trial will cost) a few bill by the hour. If you choose to hire an attorney who does so make sure that he will keep you regularly updated as to the cost. This way you won’t be taken by surprise by a huge legal bill when the case is over.
Finally, beware of high pressure sales tactics (yes, just like when buying a car). If a DUI attorney tells you that you must pay now or lose the chance to hire him you should be concerned. Who will represent your legal rights is a very important decision. You should have the opportunity to talk to several lawyers if necessary until you are comfortable with your choice. You should have complete confidence in the person that you hire to fight for your rights.
In conclusion, the five things that your should keep in mind when hiring a DUI lawyer are; 1) Beware of guarantees; 2) The Lawyer should advise you not order you; 3) The attorney should be experienced in DUI defense and in the geographic area where you were charged; 4) The attorney should be willing to give you a written fee agreement; 5) Do not fall for high pressure sales tactics. Hopefully, this information will help you to hire the right DUI lawyer for you.