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How Much Do DUI Attorneys Cost

If you've been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or DUI, you know that you have some expenses ahead of you. A legal bill is one of them. This article will explain how much DUI attorneys bill for their time.

If the police recently arrested you for DUI (also called driving while intoxicated, or DWI) you need a lawyer. You should not face the criminal justice system alone. Depending on the severity of the charge, you could be facing everything from a fine or loss of your driver's license to jail time.

But if you've never hired a lawyer before, you may not know how much one costs. We can help.

Rates for DUI attorneys can be competitive. However, with a possible arraignment in your near future, you don't have time to waste. When you're still in the interview phase of looking for a DUI attorney, you can ask the lawyers whether there is any wiggle room in their fees.

However, once you have hired a DUI lawyer, it is too late to re-negotiate the price.

In general, attorneys who work DUI or DWI cases use one of two billing methods. Some charge by the hour, called an hourly fee, while others ask for a single amount, called a flat fee.

These billing methods can have just as much influence on your bottom line than the actual rate they charge. For example, with an hourly fee, if your case is resolved quickly, you may end up paying much less than had you paid a flat fee.

But the reverse is also true. If your DUI case takes much longer than the lawyer originally anticipated-for example, you decided to go to trial rather than taking a plea agreement-than you may end up paying much more.

Some of the factors that go into calculating how much you pay a lawyer are:

  • The billing method the lawyer prefers
  • The billing rate within that billing method
  • How long it takes to resolve your case
  • Other legal expenses outside of your attorney's time you must pay

Busier and more experienced lawyers may charge more for their time. However, this doesn't necessarily translate into a bigger bill. Knowledgeable attorneys who frequently represent clients charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, or OVI, may be more efficient with their time. You may, in fact, pay less overall in the hands of an experienced attorney.

Among other legal expenses you are likely to pay:

  • Any travel-related expenses
  • Photocopying
  • A paralegal's time
  • An investigator's time
  • The fees for an expert witness you may have testify on your behalf

In addition, in some states, if you are found guilty, you may also owe the court some money. For example, North Carolina's criminal court fees will have you paying for everything from the phone systems to any time you spent in jail.

Paying a DUI Lawyer by the Hour

If you decide you want to hire a DUI attorney who charges by the hour, you'll probably be asked to pay a retainer fee. The retainer fee acts like a down payment. After that, you'll likely receive monthly statements. Your attorney will expect prompt payment.

How much a lawyer charges by the hour is influenced by several factors, including:

  • The going rate in the area
  • How much experience the lawyer has
  • The cost of overhead to run the firm or office

DUI lawyers who charge by the hour divide the hour into either 15-minute or 6-minute increments. This is a difference that really adds up.

Take, for example, a 5-minute activity such as writing an email. If a DUI attorney charges $200 an hour in 15-minute increments, you will pay $50 for that email. Another attorney, who also charges $200 an hour, but in 6-minute increments, will charge you only $20 for that same email.

Hiring a DUI Lawyer for a Flat Fee

If you want to hire a DUI lawyer who bills with a flat fee, make sure you ask a lot of questions, such as:

  • How much is the flat fee?
  • Is it the same if I want a plead not guilty and go to trial?
  • What does that price include? What does the price not include?
  • What other kinds of expenses do you expect me to pay?
  • Is the flat fee refundable?

Some things to keep in mind about flat fees:

  • Most flat fees are not refundable. This means if you want to switch attorneys and you have already paid your flat fee in full, you may not get your money back.
  • Payment plan options will vary from lawyer to lawyer. Find out what forms of payment are accepted, and when the payment is due.
  • You may be able to break the fee into smaller payments. However, it is likely that you will have to pay off the fee before the conclusion of your DUI case.
  • The cost of a flat fee will depend on the severity of the charges you're facing. For example, a DUI misdemeanor may cost less than defending your second DUI charge.
  • The Cost of Hiring DUI Attorneys

    While the billing methods a DUI lawyer uses is simple enough-hourly or flat fee-you can see how much goes into your total legal bill. When you are still in the interview phase of the attorney search, you need to ask detailed questions about billing. Consider asking:

    • Do you charge by the hour or use a flat fee?
    • How much is your rate?
    • Is there room for negotiation?
    • What does the rate include? What is not included?
    • What are all the expenses I will have to pay on top of your legal fee?
    • Can you give me an estimate for them?
    • How and when do you expect payment?

    The answers to these questions are specific to your case and cannot be generalized here. When you get the answers, you will know exactly how much DUI attorneys charge.