Few criminal offenses call for greater attorney expertise than those involving driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. And hiring the right DUI attorney is no easy task. Being represented by an experienced DUI attorney can impact the penalties you face, the charges against you, and whether your case is completely dismissed. That being said, how do you know an attorney is right for you? It is important to go beyond searching Google for “DUI attorney” before hiring an attorney and to know what questions to ask when meeting with a DUI attorney for the first time.
The following is a list of 10 questions you should be asking any prospective DUI attorney (as well as the basic reasoning behind the question) before making a decision to hire them.
1. How long have you been practicing law, specifically criminal and DUI defense?
This should be the first question you ask any prospective attorney, as it acts as an immediate qualifier of the lawyer’s credentials as a DUI attorney.
2. Do you practice in other areas of law? If so, which?
Another qualifying question meant to determine an attorney’s level of expertise when handling DUI cases. DUI cases should comprise a significant part of the attorney’s practice and this question is meant to confirm that DUI isn’t handled “on the side” of other prominent practice areas.
3. What is your philosophy or “strategy” when handing DUI cases?
The answer to this question should give you important insight on how this attorney will handle your DUI case. No two DUI cases are identical and DUI attorneys who guarantee certain outcomes or want to pursue aggressive strategies without knowing the details of your case may not always have your best interests in mind.
4. If handing my DUI case, will I be able to contact you directly or will I be dealing with your assistants, paralegals, or associates?
The DUI attorney you hire should personally be handling all aspects of your DUI case, from answering your questions to appearing in court to walking you through the process. However, it is unrealistic to think that your DUI attorney will be available at your “beck and call”, but it is completely reasonable to expect your DUI attorney to personally return your calls or emails within a reasonable period of time.
5. How much will this cost? What is your retainer and how will I be billed?
This is typically the first question DUI attorneys are asked prior to being hired and the attorney’s response to this question will tell you a lot about them, as attorneys who quote you an unrealistically low price for DUI representation may just be trying to get your business without providing the best possible representation.
While retainer amounts and hourly rates will typically depend on the attorney’s expertise and experience, skilled DUI attorneys should explain their fees to you up front. He or she should explain what their retainer is, what is charged against the retainer, and at what hourly rate. If it is a flat-fee arrangement for a specific DUI hearing or issue, the attorney should explain this to you before hiring.
6. How would you predict a Judge would rule on my case?
It is impossible for an attorney to guarantee specific results in any legal matter, including DUI cases, so be wary of any attorney that tells you otherwise. However, listen closely to the answer the attorney provides to this question and any analysis behind it. Experienced DUI attorneys may be able to instantly alleviate concerns you may have or provide you with potential results that may occur.
7. How often do your DUI cases result in lessened charges?
The majority of those arrested for DUI would prefer to have their charges lessened as part of a plea deal rather than fighting their DUI charges in court, which can be much more expensive and risky. While it is never a guaranteed option, it is important to know whether your potential attorney is able to work with the District Attorney’s Office and the Prosecution to potentially come to a beneficial result outside of fighting your charges.
8. What could happen to my driving privileges as a result of my DUI?
More times than not, DUI charges result in a temporary loss of license. However, license suspensions are not always handled solely through the courts, but in the case of Pennsylvania, along with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Your DUI attorney should be familiar with your state’s DOT regulations, how long you license may be suspended due to your DUI charge, and how to have your driving privileges reinstated after your period of suspension.
9. Will a DUI affect my ability to get a job?
Experienced DUI attorneys should be familiar with, and be able to communicate to you, the real-world implications of having a DUI on your record. Unless a DUI charge is eligible for expungement, it remains on your record and is available for public access. The reality is that this may affect future educational and professional opportunities. This should be a consideration any skilled DUI attorney has when making recommendations as to a particular course of action regarding your DUI offense.
10. It is my first DUI, are there any programs or options available to me?
DUI attorneys should be very familiar with the pre-trial program known as ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition), as it is extremely beneficial for many first-time DUI offenders. Confirming your DUI attorney’s knowledge of the ARD policies and eligibility requirements can ensure he or she is qualified in representing you going forward.
You have already made the error of being caught driving under the influence, it is imperative not to make another error by hiring the wrong DUI attorney. Having an experienced DUI attorney guiding you through the process and having your best interests in mind provides you with the best opportunity for a positive result. Asking the above questions to each prospective DUI attorney will provide you with a great deal of knowledge regarding their practice and allow you to make an informed decision of who is right for you.
License: Creative Commons
Jason B. Martin, Esquire is a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer and founder of The Martin Law Firm in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Jason is exceptionally experienced in legal family matters, including prenuptial agreements, child custody, and divorce according to Pennsylvania state law. For more of Jason’s articles, visit http://www.jbmartinlaw.com/blogs.