When you hire an attorney, you should feel confident they are going to take good care of you and have your best interests at heart. You should ask a lot of questions in a consultation about what a lawyer is going to do for you.
The lawyer that you're interviewing should know the district attorneys, judges, and the court where your case is going to be held. The lawyer that you talk to needs to be proficient and experienced in DUI defense. You need to make sure that the attorney knows DUI defense inside and out. Don't be afraid to ask the attorney any questions you may have.
- How much experience do they have in DUI defense?
- What percentage of their cases are DUIs?
In the end, what you're really looking for, is someone who understands what you're facing, who understands your goals in resolving your case, and strives to achieve those goals for you.
What should you ask when interviewing legal counsel?
When you're talking with the attorney, make sure the attorney you are speaking with is going to be your attorney throughout your case. Oftentimes, especially at larger firms, you're going to be initially talking with the attorney who has all the experience and all the education. Once you hire the firm, they're just going to hand off your case to another attorney at the firm, maybe someone that you've never spoken with. Sometimes your case can even be passed off between different lawyers throughout the process. To avoid this, be sure to ask important questions when interviewing the attorney, including:
- "When was the last time you attended a DUI conference?"
You want to make sure that the attorney stays up to date on the latest case law and technology in DUI cases. DUI laws change all the time, and you don't want an attorney that only dabbles in DUI. You want an attorney that knows DUI defense inside and out and specializes in handling DUI cases.
- "How familiar are you with the court where my case is located?"
Do they know the DMV hearing officers where your case is going to be? You want to make sure that the person you're hiring can handle your DUI case and knows what your goals are too. It's important that when talking with your attorney, to be sure they recognize what your goals are and let you know how they're going to try to achieve those goals.
These are a number of other questions you should ask when considering hiring a DUI attorney to defend your case.
- How long have you been a California DUI lawyer?
- Do you take regular DUI training and MCLE in the field training?
- Do you know the prosecutor / judge / police officers in my case?
- How many DUI clients do you represent at any one time?
- How many DUI clients do you represent each year?
- What is your definition of a win?
- When would you recommend a plea agreement versus going to trial in my case?
- What factors and circumstances could be used in my favor and against me?
- What is the plan for the different stages of my case? (Arraignment, pretrial, motion hearings and the trial)
- Do you investigate every case, even if the case looks solid for the prosecution?
- Can my case be won with a filed motion to suppress?
- Are there any recent changes to the laws that would apply to my case?
- Are there any new penalties that may apply to my case?
- Have you handled and won cases like mine?
- Do you bill by the hour or a flat fee?
- What does your fee include? What is not included?
- What forms of payment do you accept?
- What payment options do you offer?
- Is there a separate fee to go to trial or to file an appeal?
- Who is responsible for paying the court-reporter?
- Who is responsible for paying expert witnesses?
- Who is responsible for paying fines and court-costs?
How should you prepare for the initial consultation with your lawyer?
You're going to find out a lot of information about a lawyer online. Before talking with your lawyer, you're probably going to know something about their education and experience, but you might want to bring some questions with you to the consultation. Those can include questions about what specifically is going to happen in your case. You need to know the potential outcomes, including preparing for a potential license suspension. Every case is unique. Be sure your lawyer understands that your goal is keeping your license, and making sure you can keep your job.
When you're preparing to meet with your lawyer, make sure that you bring all your paperwork with you. Have your paperwork in front of you when talking with the lawyer over the phone. This paperwork can include a temporary license that you were given, and a notice of appearance that may have a court date.
How can I recognize if the lawyer may not serve my best interests.
When you ask who will be handling the case and the lawyer says, "You're just hiring the firm. You're not hiring me," then that's a sign you will probably never speak to that lawyer again. People want the person that they're speaking with to be representing them throughout the whole process. Imagine showing up at court and finding that your lawyer is someone you've never met and never spoken with. The experience of going to court is stressful enough, and you should have the confidence that you know who will be there for you.
Lawyers that only dabble in DUI cases may not be able to tell you all the potential outcomes of your case. They're not going to know the judges, the district attorneys, or the hearing officers. You want to be careful about who they know, because each court jurisdiction, even within counties, have different sentencing outcomes in DUI cases. It's important that the attorney you speak with has actually gone to the court where your case will be, and knows what can potentially happen in that court.
What should I expect to leave with at the end of my consultation?
Most of my consultations take about 30 minutes. In that time, you will leave with a good understanding of the potential outcomes of your case. That includes the potential penalties you may experience, as well as what can happen with your license, or length of suspension. You will understand exactly what steps I'm going to take in defending your case. I will be the only lawyer handling your case from beginning to end. I have experience before the judges and prosecutors in the court where your case will be. After your consultation, you will leave with the confidence that I have the experience, education, and commitment to handle your case.