Driving under the influence is a serious problem and it poses grave threat to lives and properties. Consequences of DUI can be very severe. Even a misdemeanour charge while driving under the influence can land you in serious trouble. Many states have enacted laws that impose mandatory jail term and license suspension for drunk driving offences. If convicted, penalty could be even more severe. Since conviction can mean jail term, license cancellation, paying a hefty fine, or a blot on your record, hiring an experienced drunk driving defence attorney is crucial. Most attorneys do not have the experience of DUI cases and, therefore, you should do your home work properly before hiring a DUI defence attorney.
Steps To Hire A DUI Attorney
The first step in hiring DUI lawyers is to make a list of potential lawyers you might want to hire. To start with, check yellow pages or online sources. Look for attorneys who have expertise and experience or have specialized training in DUI law or drunk driving cases. This certainly does not mean they are the best candidates and be the right choice for you, but it will definitely help you strike out attorneys that don’t practice DUI law. Also, ask for recommendations from friends and relatives, business contacts or co workers who have been in such situations before. You can also get referrals from other attorneys.
Major points to be looked into include:
- Knowledge and skill in handling DUI cases.
- People’s satisfaction level with their services.
- Whether their conduct and practice are ethical.
- Whether it is a large established firm with a battery of lawyers, or a small firm specialising only on DUI cases.
- Whether they have good working relationship with the prosecuting attorney’s office. This is important as you would not want an attorney who will pester a prosecutor into recommendation.
Researching DUI Attorneys
Once you have a list of attorneys, check their credentials with the state bar association. Their disciplinary history will tell you if they have anytime failed to represent their clients effectively. Never hire an unlicensed attorney as they will not be able to represent you in court. Go online to check their backgrounds from their websites, and see if any feedback is available on DUI attorney services. Many DUI attorneys are members of local Better Business Associations from where you can gather information about them. Now you should be able to significantly cut down your options and prioritize your list of DUI attorneys for appointments and consultations. You need the best drunk driving defence attorney who understands DUI law in depth.
Consultation with a Potential DUI Attorney
Never hire a DUI attorney over the phone. A personal consultation is a must to get to know the DUI attorney. Seek answers for whatever queries you may have. Most attorneys offer free consultations so you can discuss your case with them in brief, and the possible ways to handle it without financial restraints. Ask how they handle field sobriety tests or breath tests. Many DUI attorneys keep copies of Department of Public Safety handbooks for the administration of field sobriety testing. They use these manuals to cross-examine officers on the results of the DUI field sobriety and breath tests. Inquire about how many DUI trials they do on an average and what percentage of their practice is based on DUI or drunk driving cases. If they handle a large volume of criminal cases, that’s a good sign. Finally, before making up your mind, make sure that the attorney you interviewed will be the one involved in your matter, for you will want to develop a personal working relationship with him/her. Also, try to find out if the attorney has previously handled any DUI case involving the same officer who arrested you, as it can be of some help if the attorney has some specific knowledge about the officer. If you are not satisfied, move on to the next option. In a DUI case, the attorney needs to know you and understand you. If you do not feel comfortable telling them about yourself or your drunk driving case, you will cripple the DUI attorney’s ability to represent you effectively. Part of any DUI attorney’s argument is that the officer made assumptions because they did not know you. The DUI attorney’s job is to tell the jury about you and that you are not as bad as the officer made you out to be.
Before you wrap up your consultation, discuss the charges. A senior member of a law firm will surely be more expensive, but may have more experience and extensive behind the scene capabilities. Check the rates for a plea bargain and trial. Whatever fee is agreed upon, get it in writing.
Now that you have interviewed the potential attorneys, compare answers, qualifications, rates, and your comfort level with all of them. Although the recommendation of friends and family is important, don’t make your decision based solely on their advice. A lot is at stake for you, so analyze carefully before you decide who you will be the best drunk driving defence attorney for your case.