How to Find DUI Help
If you've been charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, also known as a DUI charge, you will need a lawyer. And not just any criminal defense attorney will do. You need DUI help from a lawyer who regularly represents clients accused of DUI (also known as operating a vehicle while intoxicated, or OVI, or driving while intoxicated, or DWI).
If you have never needed a lawyer before, it's understandable if you're not sure how to go about finding one. This article will explain the process of how to find and hire the very best one for you.
Finding a DUI Lawyer
If you cannot afford an attorney, the court may appoint one for you. A public defender, however, isn't necessarily free. In some states, there is a fee to apply for a public defender. (If you cannot afford the fee, it will be waived.)
Many of those same states have laws that allow the judge to re-assess your financial situation at the end of your case. If the judge decides you have some ability to pay, you may be billed a portion or even the full cost of your representation.
In most states, you may ask for an attorney while in jail or at your first court appearance, called an arraignment. Sometimes it's the judge who makes the determination whether you qualify for a public defender. Other times, it's the staff at the public defender's office.
If you do qualify for a public defender, you must accept the lawyer assigned to you. You do not get to choose which lawyer will represent you.
Whether you were involved in a DUI accident or are charged with aggravated DUI (also called felony DUI), if you do not qualify for a public defender, you need the help of aDUI lawyer. You should not try to brave the criminal justice system alone.
There are several ways to find a DUI lawyer. You can ask your circle of friends and family members to see if they have ever hired a DUI attorney. If they have, they can help you by sharing what they thought of their attorneys. Did the lawyers aggressively defend their case? Did the strategy work? Would they re-hire the lawyers if they had to do it all over again?
If you are hesitant to discuss your drunken driving charges with people you know, you can get a referral right here. Attorneys.com offers a service that can connect you with a DWI lawyer in your area.
Simply call us at 1-877-913-7222 or fill out the short form on this web site. After answering a few questions, we'll forward the name and contact information for at least one DWI attorney near you. You may call the lawyer directly, or he or she will get back to you within two business days.
Preparing to Meet a DUI Lawyer
It's not enough to have the name of a DUI lawyer or two. You need to interview them to find out which one is the right attorney for you
Many DUI attorneys are willing to talk with you briefly to introduce themselves and learn about your case. Take advantage of this offer because you can accomplish a lot at these meetings. You can:
- Learn more about the attorney's background and experience
- Discuss your options and possible strategy
- Determine whether this is the lawyer you want to hire
When you call to make the appointment with a DUI lawyer, the office help may want you to fill out a questionnaire. If asked, make sure you complete it and send it back ahead of your meeting.
You'll want to take some time to think of questions for the attorneys. Because your primary goal at the first meeting is to decide whether you want to hire the attorney you meet, focus on topics that will help you make that decision, such as:
- How much experience the attorney has with criminal law
- How much experience the lawyer has representing clients facing DWI charges
- How familiar the lawyer is with the prosecutor in your case and other people who work at the courthouse where your case will be heard
- Your legal options and possible strategy
- How much the lawyer charges in legal fees and expenses
Write your questions down and bring them with you to your first meetings. Bring also some writing material, so you can record the answers and any notes you want to take.
The DUI lawyers will also find it helpful if you bring certain documentation with you, including:
- Any paperwork from the court spelling out the charges against you and your next court date
- The police report, if possible
- Any other paperwork the police may have given you, such as a search inventory record
- Your bail papers
- A list of all the people involved in your case
That last item is important because generally, DUI lawyers may not represent you if they-or someone in their firm-have previously represented another person connected to your case. A prior relationship may cause a conflict of interest. So, be sure to include witnesses and victims on this list.
Meeting with a DUI Lawyer
When you first meet with the DUI lawyers on your list, resist the urge to blurt out your story. Let the lawyers ask the questions first. It's important they understand the prosecutor's charges and the evidence against you.
Do not hold anything back when answering the lawyer's questions. Lawyers who help clients with DUI accidents or charges of either misdemeanor DUIs or aggravated DUIs (also called felony DUIs), are bound by strict confidentiality rules that prevent them from repeating anything you tell them. Even if you hire someone else, all lawyers will keep your conversations confidential.
When it is your time to ask the questions, systematically go through your list, jotting down the answers. Does the lawyer seem in command of the local DUI DWI laws? Is the lawyer patient with you? Does he or she explain foreign concepts well to you? Can you see yourself working side-by-side with this attorney for several months?
If you have any special requests, you need to ask about them at the first meeting. For example, perhaps you need weekend appointments or communication in Spanish. Find out at the first meetings whether the lawyers can accommodate your requests.
Hiring a DUI Lawyer to Help You
When you are done interviewing all the DUI lawyers on your list, it's time to choose one to represent you. If you only met with one, but the lawyer is qualified in every way, your search is over.
If, however, you cannot decide between two or more attorneys, ask for the names and contact information for a few previous clients. Then call those clients to get some first-hand feedback about the lawyers. Ask the same kinds of questions above recommended for friends and family members who may have used a DUI lawyer in the past.
If you still cannot decide, it's time to ask yourself a few questions:
- Which lawyer had the strongest background representing clients accused of DWI?
- Whose strategy did I like best?
- Whose judgment and advice earned my confidence?
- Which attorney had legal fees and expenses that were fair and reasonable?
- With which attorney was I most comfortable?
The answers to these questions should point you in the direction of the very best DUI attorney for you. Once you have hired him or her, you can face the rest of the legal process with an attorney at your side.