So you’ve been arrested for drunk driving. Whether or not you’re innocent, you’ll fair better in court with an experienced DUI / DWI attorney. So how do you find a great attorney? An excellent way is a referral from someone who has worked directly with the attorney. If you don’t know anyone who’s worked with an attorney who handles DUI cases, you can also get a referral from your local Bar Association. When you meet with your potential attorney for your initial consultation, there are seven helpful questions that can help you find the best attorney to assist with your case.
- Do you specialize in DUI cases or do you handle a wide range of cases? How many DUI cases have you won?
While the number of years practicing or volume of DUI cases does not necessarily translate to the success of the attorney, the results are still important. DUI cases can be complex and may require the knowledge, expertise and experience of an attorney who focuses on DUIs. Many DUI attorneys are members of the National College of DUI Defense. If your attorney is a member, chances are they focus primarily on DUI law. Make sure you leave the attorney’s office confident you have spoken to someone who has real experience and expertise in DUI law.
- Will the attorney I hire be the attorney who actually handles my case?
You probably want to be represented by a respected and experienced attorney. However, since many attorneys are part of a large team, a senior attorney may provide you with a consultation and then assign your case to another attorney. If you want the attorney you speak with in your consultation to be there with you throughout the legal process, then be sure to ask up front who will be handling your case.
- Are you trained in the administration of field sobriety tests? What other certification or special training do you have that makes you qualified to handle DUI cases?
Most DUI prosecutions include the results of a field sobriety test. These tests have been subjected to scientific study and are approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This makes it is essential that your attorney know which tests have been approved by the NHTSA and how the tests are to be administered. Many attorneys are also trained and certified to operate the breathalyzers used by police departments. If you were given a breath test, you may want your attorney to be trained and/or certified.
- Do you regularly appear in the court in which I am charged?
Most jurisdictions have multiple judges with multiple policies and preferences in their courtrooms. It is important to make sure your attorney is familiar with these policies and preferences.
- What representation is included in your fee?
When meeting with an attorney for the first time, look for attorneys who will not charge you for an initial consultation. Ask the attorney what rate he/she charges. Does he charge a flat fee? Does he charge on an hourly basis? Ask whether the attorney charges additional pricing in the event that motions need to be filed on your behalf. Some attorneys charge a flat fee but don’t always tell you that it will cost more for additional motions or interviewing witnesses. Also remember to ask whether the attorney offers payment plans. You can then determine whether the attorney is willing to work with you and your budget.
- What are the best, worst and most likely outcomes I can expect for my case?
No attorney can promise a best-case scenario; however, your prospective attorney should be able to provide you with a likely outcome based on his/her experience with cases similar to yours in the same jurisdiction.In addition to providing you with courtroom scenarios, he/she should be able to help you get back on the road legally, as quickly and easily as possible. Regaining driving privileges may include having an Ignition Interlock device installed in your vehicle. Your attorney should be knowledgeable about Ignition Interlock devices and be able to advise you on where to get one and what you can expect while having the device installed.
- What is the attorney’s client communication policy?
Attorneys are often in court and unable to return messages right away, sometimes leading to client frustration. Ask the attorney’s policy on returning messages and also they best way to reach him/her. Many attorneys work late hours and can return an email quicker than a phone call.
Immediately after your meeting, make a note of extra points which will help you compare one attorney to another. Be sure to include your personal impressions of each attorney.
If you found that you were uncomfortable asking questions, encountered an unwillingness to answer, or generally felt ill-at-ease, cross the attorney off your list.
For more information on the DUI / DWI laws in your state as well as the latest in Ignition Interlocks, visit www.lifesafer.com.