You’ve been arrested on a DUI charge. Now what do you do? Although most people will recommend that you hire a lawyer to represent your best interests many people do not do so, often because of shame and embarrassment. Whether or not you hire a lawyer can have a big impact on your case so you may want to think carefully before making a decision. If you do decide to hire a DUI lawyer there are several things to consider so that you find the best lawyer possible to represent you.
Because DUI laws vary among each state (http://www.duislawyer.com/stateduilaws), hire a lawyer that has expertise with the laws in the state where you were arrested. Also, hire a lawyer that specializes in DUI cases. Depending on where you live you may not be able to find a good lawyer that practices DUI law exclusively, but look for a lawyer who spends at least half of his or her time handling DUI cases. It may be tempting to hire your local lawyer who deals with a veritable buffet of issues such as DUI’s, divorce, wills, and bankruptcy, etc. but DUI law is extensive and continually changing so you will likely be much better hiring a specialist in DUI.
Before you hire a DUI lawyer, or any other type of lawyer, meet with him or her first. Most lawyers will not charge you to meet with them while you’re looking for someone to handle your case. Having a face to face meeting with your lawyer before hiring him or her is good for both the client and the attorney. You’ll want to hire someone you feel comfortable working with. A face to face meeting helps you determine whether or not you feel comfortable. It also helps the lawyer decide if he or she feels comfortable working with you and wants to take on your case.
Before going to any consultations with lawyers (and you should consult with at least two lawyers before making a decision) do some research. The yellow pages is a good place to look for a lawyer but remember that the DUI lawyer with the biggest ad is not necessarily the best lawyer for you to hire. He or she is just the person with the biggest ad. You want a lawyer with DUI expertise and experience.
The library is another good place to do research. Your local library should have a copy of the Martindale Hubbell law directory. The directory does its best to list every lawyer in the United States along with his or her area(s) of speciality. You can search the directory by either location or area of law each lawyer deals with. The directory is also available online. People you know can also be a good source of information regarding a good lawyer.
Create a list of questions you want to ask each lawyer during the consultation so you can compare each lawyer equally before deciding who you would like to hire to represent you.
A few questions you may want to have on the list you make are:
1) What percent of the cases you handle are DUI or impaired driver? (Remember that you want someone who is very familiar with the current laws in your state.)
2) What do you charge and what is your fee structure? (You’ll want to know the most you’ll have to pay as well as how much you have to pay upfront. Many DUI lawyers charge a flat fee, which is a set amount for your case whether or not it goes to trial. Some lawyers charge an hourly fee. Others have staggered fee structures that break things into phases. They may charge a flat fee up until trial. If the case goes to trial then there’s another fee to pay. If the entire fee is required upfront but you are financially unable to pay it all upfront ask if a payment arrangement can be worked out. It can’t hurt to ask. The worst answer you can get is “no.”)
3) What costs besides attorney fees will I be responsible for? (In addition to lawyer fees you may be responsible for things like court costs and filing fees).
4) Will you be the lawyer handling my case or will someone else in the firm be the primary lawyer on my case? (This question is especially important if you are consulting at a firm with several lawyers. Some people have been very frustrated when they found out the lawyer they consulted with wasn’t the lawyer who handled the majority of their case.)
These are just a few of the questions you’ll likely want to ask before deciding which DUI lawyer you want to hire.