Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that carries severe penalties. And there can be long-lasting consequences of having a DUI conviction on your record such as increased insurance rates and employment limitations. So, if you've been arrested for a DUI, there's a lot on the line.
To make sure your rights are protected and you don't end up making matter worse than they already are, it's always a good idea to have a qualified DUI attorney looking out for your interests. This article covers some basic information about hiring a private DUI lawyer and helpful hints for your DUI attorney search.
Generally, when you're charged with a DUI, you'll have three options for legal representation:
Here's a quick rundown of each option.
It's basically never a good idea to represent yourself in a DUI case. When you're facing criminal charges and serious consequences, it's best to have an attorney who knows what they're doing representing you. Although you could potentially save a few dollars representing yourself, the results of doing so can be disastrous.
Anyone who's charged with a criminal offense and can't afford an attorney is eligible for court-appointed counsel. In most areas, the public defender's office is in charge of representing indigent criminal defendants.
Public defenders generally have lots of experience handling DUI cases. So, although having court-appointed counsel has its drawbacks, the public defender is typically a good option and certainly better than representing yourself.
Hiring a private DUI attorney comes with a number of benefits. Some of the main benefits of hiring your own DUI lawyer include:
These are probably the most noteworthy advantages of hiring a private DUI lawyer. However, every situation is different. To some extent, the benefits and drawbacks of hiring a lawyer will depend on your specific circumstances, including financial resources and the laws of the state.
Because private attorneys set their own fees and every situation is different, it's impossible to say how much it will cost to hire a DUI lawyer. However, here are some of the basics about private attorney fees.
DUI lawyers generally use one of two types of billing: flat fees or hourly rates. It's also possible that an attorney might use a combination of these two billing systems.
Whatever kind of billing an attorney uses, you should understand clearly what you'll be paying and how the billing works. Most attorneys provide this information to clients with written fee agreements.
With a flat fee, the client just pays a lump sum amount. Generally, attorneys who charge flat fees will specify in a written fee agreement exactly what the flat fee covers.
In many cases, attorneys will charge clients a flat fee amount for pretrial representation and an additional flat fee amount if the case goes to trial. For example, an attorney might charge $2,500 for pretrial representation and a trial fee of $5,000.
Because most cases settle before trial, the client will generally just pay for pretrial representation with these types of incremental fee arrangements.
Attorneys who charge hourly rates bill the client for each hour of work they do on the case. Hourly rates vary quite a bit but generally run from around $100 to $400.
The primary factor that affects hourly rates is years of experience. More experienced attorneys tend to charge higher hourly rates than attorneys who are newer to the practice of law.
Generally, attorneys who charge hourly require clients to pay an initial retainer fee. The attorney then bills against the retainer for hours of work completed on the case. For example, an attorney might ask for an initial $10,000 retainer to start work on a case.
There's no formula for finding a "good" DUI attorney, especially since personal preference plays a big part. But here are some tips that can help with your search.
When you start your search, try to narrow it down to attorneys who handle lots of DUI cases in your area.
Any experienced criminal defense attorney should be able to handle a DUI case. However, many attorneys focus primarily on DUI cases. Attorneys who regularly represent DUI defendants should be up-to-speed on DUI law and will likely be able to give a good assessment of the available options and likely results. Familiarity with the law and the tendencies of local judges and prosecutors goes a long way.
Most attorneys offer prospective clients a free initial consultation, either over the phone or in person. Once you find an attorney you think might be a good match, set up a consultation. By taking advantage of free consultations, you can get a better idea of which attorney is right for you.
In preparation for consultations, it's a good idea to put together a list of questions you want to get answered. You'll also want to have all documentation related to your case handy.
In most areas, there are lots of DUI attorneys. So it doesn't hurt to talk to a few attorneys before hiring someone. If you're unsure about the first attorney you talk to, talk to a few more attorneys.
Although you don't want to be hasty in hiring a DUI attorney, you also don't want to delay too much.
When you're arrested for a DUI, prompt action is often necessary to protect your rights. For example, to preserve your right to fight the suspension of your license, you'll typically need to request a DMV hearing within a week or so of your arrest.
So, following a DUI arrest, you should start searching for an attorney as soon as possible.