What questions should I ask a DUI lawyer?
Whether you were caught driving with a high blood alcohol content (BAC) or arrested for being too impaired by prescription drugs to safely operate a motor vehicle, driving under the influence (DUI) charges are taken very seriously by the court system. Penalties are generally two-fold: both criminal and administrative (you get your license taken away in addition to fines and a possible jail sentence). But you don’t have to go through the process alone. A good DUI lawyer will be able to help you understand the law, the facts of your case, and any potential defenses that may be available to you.
One of the most important sets of questions to ask your attorney concerns their background. For example, is this her first case or is she a DUI veteran? Obviously, the more experienced the attorney, the higher the possibility for a better outcome. Here are a few questions to ask your DUI lawyer:
- How long have you been representing DUI clients? How many DUI cases do you handle in a year?
- Are you a former DUI prosecutor? (Many times former prosecutors open their own criminal defense practice).
- What percentage of your caseload is devoted to DUIs?
- How often to you take cases to trial?
- Are you familiar with the prosecutor in my case? Do you normally practice in my county?
- How many cases have you been able to successfully plea bargain down to a “wet reckless” or outright dismissal?
Many times a DUI attorney will have specialized training or an advanced certification in DUI law. You might ask:
- Have you ever been on a DUI ride-along with a police officer?
- Are you certified by any DUI organizations such as the The National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) or similar state bar organization? Some states, such as Arizona, have a program where attorneys can get certified as a “DUI specialist” if they pass certain tests.
- Have you completed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) Student and/or Instructor Standardized Field Sobriety Test courses?
Right away, you’ll want to know how your DUI attorney will be billing you. Now is the time to ask about payment options and how often, and under what circumstances, you will be billed. Most DUI lawyers offer a free initial consultation, but be sure to clarify payment terms before your first meeting. You may also want to ask the following:
- In addition to your standard rate, are there any extra fees I will be required to pay, such as expert witness fees, blood sample re-testing, etc?
- What forms of payment do you accept? (Some lawyers now offer peer-to-peer payment services such as PayPal, Google Wallet, VenMo, or Square Cash.)
Don’t Waste Any Time
After being arrested for a DUI, you should talk to an attorney right away, even if your first court date is a ways off. Defendants often need to act quickly to protect their rights. In addition to representing you, an attorney can tell you what to do in the short term.
For example, an attorney might advise that you immediately get into substance abuse treatment or start going to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. And there’s typically a deadline (usually 10 days or shorter) for challenging or postponing the suspension of your license by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) (or equivalent state agency). A DUI attorney should be able to tell you how long you have and what you need to do to challenge the suspension.
Choosing the Right Attorney
There are lots of attorneys who handle DUI cases, so the process of picking the right one can be overwhelming. Below are some suggestions that might help you with your search.
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.
Why are you better versed to handle my case than another attorney?
An attorney may practice “criminal defense,” but maybe he’s more versed in domestic abuse or traffic citations. If you have a pending DUI trial and your attorney hasn’t handled a many DUI cases, he’s probably not a good fit. Ask your attorney why they are better prepared to fight your case than the average attorney. Do they have any specialized training in drunk driving laws? Are they familiar with all the legal processes that encompass your situation? Have you handled similar cases before? If so, how did it turn out? These are all probing questions that can help you answer your original question. Remember, you are hiring an attorney, but they are acting as your representation. If the attorney doesn’t seem like he’s willing to go the extra mile for you, look elsewhere.
How to you see my case playing out?
This won’t be one you’ll be able to ask within five minutes of sitting down with your attorney, but it’s definitely a question you should ask by the end of the consultation. Once your attorney hears your side of what went down, he’ll be able to give you a general idea of what to expect. This is why it’s very important to be open and honest when speaking with your attorney. Hiding certain facts or telling half truths will only serve to hurt your case. Again, your attorney isn’t going to be able to give you a specific outlook – once you hire him he’ll be reviewing witness testimony, police reports, dash cam videos and legal statutes – because he doesn’t yet know the best way to fight your case. That said, he should be able to give you an idea of what to expect from your DUI arrest.