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Questions to Ask When Interviewing a DUI Attorney

The secret to finding a good attorney is in the questions you ask before you hire one. If the police have recently arrested you for driving under the influence, or DUI, of alcohol or drugs, you need to find a good DUI attorney. This article can help.

The criminal justice system moves a lot faster than a civil lawsuit would. You need to find a DUI attorney quickly. Asking the right questions will help you do that.

Many attorneys are willing to meet you briefly to introduce themselves and discuss your case. This is where you can conduct an interview to see if you have found the right lawyer for you.

This article will suggest a number of questions. Do not feel obligated to ask them all, but pick and choose among them. You may even add some of your own as you see fit.

After you get the name of a DUI attorney or two, call to set up an appointment for that first meeting. Your goals for this meeting are to:

  • Learn about the DUI attorney's background and experience
  • Discuss your options and possible strategies
  • Most importantly, determine whether this is the lawyer you want representing you

If one of the attorneys is too busy to meet, you might have to meet with office staff instead. Don't be put off by this. Many good lawyers are busy.

To make the most of the time you have, come to the meetings prepared. Bring with you:

  • Any court documentation that spells out the charges against you and your next court date
  • Your bail papers
  • The police report, if possible
  • Any other paperwork the police may have given you, such as a search inventory report

You should also create a list of all the names of the people connected to your DUI case. This includes any witnesses and victims. The lawyers need to see if they--or anyone else in their firm-have ever represented someone tied to your case. If they have, they may decline to represent you because of a conflict of interest.

Finally, bring your list of questions, so you don't forget to ask anything. You'll also find it helpful if you bring some writing material, so you can record the answers and any notes you want to take.

Also, know that not all states use the term DUI. Here are some other terms you may hear as you talk to your lawyer:

  • Driving while intoxicated, or DWI
  • Operating while intoxicated, or OWI
  • Operating a vehicle while intoxicated, or OVI

Background & Experience

When you first meet with DWI lawyers, it's important to lean about their background and experience. There are many types of crimes and criminal defense lawyers. You need one who focuses on DUI DWI charges. Consider asking:

  • Where did you attend law school? When did you graduate?
  • Do you belong to any bar associations or other professional organizations? If so, which?
  • How long have you been practicing criminal law?
  • How long have you been representing clients facing DUI or DWI charges?
  • How many DUI clients do you represent a year?
  • Do you take other types of cases? Which?
  • What percentage of your caseload is devoted to DUI or DWI cases?
  • How often do you appear at the courthouse where my case will be heard?
  • Have you worked with the prosecutor in my case before?
  • Is it your standard practice to negotiate plea agreements?
  • How often do you take your DUI or DWI cases to trial?

It's to your advantage to have a lawyer who is familiar with attorneys in the prosecutor's office. An attorney with a good reputation may be able to negotiate better terms for you. An example would be a DUI conviction resulting in community service and DUI school instead of a fine or jail time.

Assessment of Your Case

Before DUI DWI attorneys can give you feedback about your options, they need to understand the charges and the evidence against you. Listen carefully to the questions the attorneys ask you, and answer them directly.

Then you can get some suggestions by asking:

  • Would you recommend a guilty plea? Is a plea agreement a possibility? Should we go to trial?
  • Which factors work in my favor?
  • Which work against me?
  • What can I expect at the different states of the process, including arraignment, filing of motions, motions hearing, disposition, and trial?

Case Management

DUI DWI attorneys use the term case management to describe how they handle your case. It's important to know the logistics behind the scenes so that there are no misunderstandings. Some relevant questions to ask include:

  • Are you available to represent me?
  • Will anybody else work on my case? If so, who else will work on my case? May I meet them?
  • Will you be the one representing me in court or will someone else be there? If so, who else will represent me in court?
  • Whom do I call with questions? How quickly can I expect a response?
  • How do you prefer to be contacted?
  • Will I receive regular status updates? How often? What will they include?

Legal Fees

Being arrested for DUI can be expensive. Possible outcomes could include loss of your driver's license, increased insurance premiums, DUI school, fines, and possible jail time. And of course it costs money to hire a lawyer.

Most DUI DWI lawyers use one of two billing methods: either an hourly fee or a flat fee. They work just as they sound. A lawyer who bills an hourly rate gets paid for each hour worked. A flat fee is one to cover the lawyer's time.

The fees do not cover everything, so you need to be clear how these two billing methods work. Consider asking:

  • Do you bill by the hour or with a flat fee?
  • What is included in your rate? What is not?
  • What kinds of related legal expenses will I have to pay? Can I get an estimate for them?
  • What forms of payment do you accept? What payment options do I have?
  • If you require a flat fee, may I extend my payments past the duration of my case? Is it refundable?

Hiring a DUI Attorney

After meeting with the DUI DWI attorneys on your list, it's time to choose one. If you only met with one, but the lawyer was clearly qualified-or you met with several, but one was the obvious choice-your search is over.

If, however, you cannot decide between two or more candidates, ask for the names and contact information for a few former clients. Call them to get some first-hand feedback. Ask them:

  • What did you think of the experience working with your DUI attorney?
  • What were the attorney's strengths? What were the weaknesses?
  • Do you believe your attorney fought hard for you?
  • Would you hire this attorney again if you needed DUI help again?

If you still cannot decide, it's time to ask a few more questions, this time, of yourself:

  • Which attorney had the experience I need given the charges I'm facing?
  • Which one offered advice I found most helpful?
  • Of which one am I most confident?
  • Whose legal fees were 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 hire him or her, you can face the rest of your prosecution.