Let’s get the first question out of the way. Is a lawyer the same as an attorney? The answer is yes. Whatever they call themselves, a lawyer or an attorney, remember it’s not about the title of the person. It’s about the work they do and the results that comes from their work.
For example, a district attorney is a lawyer for the government also known as a prosecutor. A public defender is a lawyer also. A DUI attorney and a DUI lawyer are also the same. But what makes all these lawyers unique is their experience (both professional and personal), their approach to a DUI case, and their knowledge of law as it applies to a DUI criminal charge. Understanding these things is important when choosing a DUI lawyer.
There is no such thing as a stupid question when choosing a lawyer. (There is such a thing as a stupid lawyer but that’s for another blog entry.) Some lawyers offer a limited time for a first interview and that can be stressful. It’s important you ask the right questions to find out if the lawyer you choose can successfully defend you in a court of law.
The type of questions you want to ask the DUI lawyer should cover their experience with DUI cases, their knowledge of DUI law and their relevance in the DUI law community. In the next two parts we will go over what exactly you need to ask in order to have some comfort level in trusting your DUI lawyer. A DUI and any criminal offense can be stressful and scary. Your lawyer should have most of the answers for you right away and not leave with a mindset of uncertainty or doubt. A DUI lawyer should be able to effectively answer your questions and provide you with confidence in their legal services.
(Please note: These are not the ONLY questions to ask a DUI lawyer. Here are 4 BIG questions that will help you get started in choosing a DUI lawyer. )
When you are looking and choosing a DUI lawyer you will see many lawyers say they “specialize” in DUIs. The truth is there is no formal degree or certification in the legal profession to “specialize in DUIs.” A lawyer that knows or “specializes” in DUIs is a lawyer that has had different DUI cases with many different clients. A true DUI lawyer goes to court on a regular basis, has done several jury trials, and knows what it takes to win a DUI.
The total number of DUI cases a lawyer has handled is important to know. You can ask the lawyer how many different courts they have been in or how many DUI jury trials they have done in their career. It’s important to know if how many times a lawyer has defended a DUI case and the results of their cases.
Be careful of the lawyer that practices all types of different law. They might be brilliant attorneys and have an excellent memory of all the rules of law. Or they can be struggling to make ends meet and are trying to tap into all different legal practice areas including criminal law. This means they may not know all the tactics of a DUI lawyer.
A DUI lawyer should have the experience to carefully review all the possible scenarios that could happen in your case. What are the judges like in your court, how to use the police report for case, what are your chances challenging the DMV suspension, and/or how soon can you get your license back. These are just a few issues a DUI lawyer should be able to explain to you.
A DUI lawyer should be comfortable with writing motions and filing documents that are necessary for your case as well as making arguments in court in front of a judge. It is up to your lawyer to choose the best strategy to win your case. Asking a lawyer what they can do to win your case will make them explain whether they are qualified to handle your case. You want a lawyer that is familiar with several different approaches to win a DUI. And you also want a DUI lawyer to share his experiences with you. If they can’t get into specifics, they may not know how to handle a case like yours.
A lawyer that can discuss with you the trial scenario in your case is also a good sign of a competent attorney. While jury trials do not happen in every case they are a true challenge of a lawyer’s skill and knowledge in a DUI case. You should know a jury trial is only one way to win a case and can sometimes be a very costly option. A jury trial can be expensive because of the time it takes to prepare and complete it. You may want to ask if the lawyer fee includes trial or what the separate cost would be. A lawyer that is willing to discuss with you a jury trial as a possibility is a a DUI lawyer willing to fight for you. A DUI lawyer should review all your potential options including a jury trial.
If an attorney tells you the outcome of your case without looking at a police report or reviewing all the necessary paperwork relating to your arrest, that lawyer is trying to avoid any real work preparing your case. The lawyer could explain to you about all the bad consequences that COULD happen without knowing how to find the strengths of a case.
For example, the law says a first DUI conviction could result in a maximum punishment of 6 months in the county jail. Some lawyers use the consequences of a DUI to scare you into hiring them. The truth is most first time DUIs do not result in a sentence of six months of county jail.
Finally, you should choose a DUI lawyer that you are confident in. You should be confident that they know the law and will make the best decisions with you to get you the best results available for you.
If you ask this question, I am certain not only will you impress the lawyer you are speaking to, but you will also quickly get their attention. A solid DUI defense attorney not only has experience and knowledge of the law but they also have a strong awareness of new case law and popular scientific studies that apply to the DUI defense world. For example, DUI drug defenses have ongoing studies for marijuana DUIs and prescription drug DUIs. Also there can be problems with blood samples if they are not obtained properly by law enforcement or blood technicians.
Currently, there are a number of cases in courts actively being fought in appellate and supreme courts on important DUI defenses. If your attorney is not aware of these cases your lawyer could miss out on opportunities to limit the prosecutor’s case against you. For more information on scientific studies or current case law speak with a lawyer on how these defenses could play a role in your case or call The Law Office of Daniel P. Flores at (888) 326-0919.
A public defender is a lawyer that can be appointed to represent a defendant. Usually this happens on your first court date when you appear in front of a judge and a judge asks if you want to plead guilty or not guilty. If you want to fight your case, in most cases a judge will appoint you a public defender if you cannot hire a private lawyer. You must qualify for a public defender. For a DUI, you should always consider retaining a lawyer. DUIs are incredibly tedious and scientific and task heavy.
Asking a lawyer in a consultation whether they should hire a public defender simply challenges the lawyer to detail their worth. So, before you give your money over to a private DUI lawyer be sure to ask them what you are paying for. Many people are mostly concerned with avoiding jail. While DUI’s do carry the possibility of jail as a consequence, there are several other factors to consider when hiring a private DUI lawyer.
Public defenders can be amazing lawyers. However, they are usually over worked and under paid. They run a tight calendar with hundreds of cases and meet many faces day in and day out. You should know that a public defender will not be handling any DMV appearances that may result from your DUI arrest. So if you want to be treated like a unique and wonderful snowflake you may not get that attention from a public defender.
Mostly this 4th question demands a private attorney explain their worth to you before you decide to sign a contract for their services.
Here are some additional questions to consider and ask your attorney during your consultation when deciding on the best lawyer for your defense.
(Please note these questions are not the only questions to ask but a selection that we suggest you to to take into consideration).
This is one of the most popular questions a person has after a DUI arrest. After going through the interview/interrogation by police, conducting dexterity tests out in the dark and cold, after giving a chemical sample of blood or breath, and then waiting in a cell for several hours the last thing a person wants to do is return to jail especially for a longer period of time up to six months or a year or more!!!
A DUI is a serious offense and can be punishable by jail and even state prison. The severity of the jail sentence depends on how serious the offense was and/or if there are any prior convictions for a similar offense.
An experienced DUI defense attorney should be able to answer this question immediately once they know your history and review your case. After the arrest, the officer writes a report and sends a copy to the district attorney or city prosecutor to file formal charges. During this pre-filing stage the charges can be enhanced to include greater penalties or be reduced. So this means, even if the officer gave you a ticket with a simple DUI charge, if it is determined during or after the investigation there were additional facts such as an injury involved or a high BAC (blood alcohol content) or prior convictions the penalties and charges can be changed and made greater than what was issued to you after the arrest.
Many people think they can handle a DUI charge on their own in court and plea guilty on their first date of court without looking at a police report or reviewing the final chemical results and trusting the prosecutor is giving a fair offer. A DUI has several consequences that can affect your reputation, your job, your driver license and also include possible jail consequences. Discuss with your attorney your options before you guilty and those options should not only be limited to pleading guilty to avoid jail time. (There may be alternatives to jail like city jail, or home confinement or work release.) An experienced DUI lawyer should present you with defenses and allow you to decide the best result for you.
Many people seeking a private defense lawyer for their DUI make a decision to hire an attorney based on their experience, or on their asking price for a retainer fee, or how many jury trials they have won, or if the fees include motion work and substantive investigation. These are all good reasons to consider when choosing whether a lawyer’s cost is worth the services provided.
Sometimes a retainer fee for a lawyer is paid because it is the cheapest or because there was a promise for no jail. But before you hire based on only those two set of criteria, please consider some of the information mentioned in this and previous posts related to this topic. Jail is not always mandatory for a DUI. Also, a lawyer can charge high fees but do the least amount of work and have little experience fighting DUI cases. Or a lawyer can also charge low fees and include the least amount of services which means you may get charged additional fees if you wish to fight your case rather than just plea guilty.
Also, be sure to ask for fees on a jury trial. A jury trial is a constitutional right all persons have when accused of a crime like a DUI. In some cases a jury trial is the best solution for a dismissal or to be found not guilty of the crime. However, some attorneys find jury trials time consuming and work intensive and therefore charge more fees sometimes up to two to five times the amount of the initial retainer agreement. While this is a normal practice, to enter into a separate agreement for lawyer services for a jury trial, they fees should not be so expensive to scare you away from seeking your constitutional right. By this, I mean a new fee should not be the reason you choose to plead guilty instead of go to trial. You should make a decision to go to trial based on your available defenses and whether the risk and reward scenario is something you choose to do.
Overall, be sure to know the cost of a jury trial up front so you are not surprised when the lawyer gives you a new fee for trial and you were not prepared for that option. As discussed in an earlier post, public defenders are lawyers also and defend people in court hearings including jury trials. Most public defenders represent their clients and give them the option to go to trial at little to no cost because that person wants to have their day in court. Private lawyers should give the same consideration to a client that wants their day in court but they also need compensation to continue with their practice and be reasonably paid for the amount of time it takes to prepare and fight for a 3 to 7 day or more jury trial.
For any more questions or if you are in need of a lawyer for a DUI charge or criminal defense please call the office of Daniel P. Flores at (888) 326-0919.
"*" indicates required fields