How to Hire an DUI Defense Attorney
CUT THROUGH THE CONFUSION AND HIRE A DUI DEFENSE ATTORNEY WHO WILL FIGHT YOUR CASE AND GET YOUR LIFE BACK!
Thank you for reviewing this material. I offer this common-sense guide to helping you find the right attorney because I believe that with a good game plan and realistic expectations you can win your case. Since the inception of my practice I have provided the accused drunk driver with access to information about Ohio’s tough drunk driving laws. I believe that information is the key to overcoming fear and empowering you to make good decisions. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and demand straight answers in order to make an informed decision. Here are 10 questions that you should use to interview potential DUI defense attorney.
Question One: Do You Limit Your Practice to DUI?
All web sites (even this one) are marketing tools set up to highlight the best aspects of an attorney’s practice. As one web development company tag line puts it, “NO ONE SHOULD LOOKS BAD ON THE WEB.” Often, a firm will have multiple pages dedicated to each area of law that they practice, implying that they are “dedicated” to one or another particular practice area when in fact DUI defense is a small part of their practice. You don’t want a lawyer who “dabbles” in DUI.
ASK THE QUESTION: “Is your practice limited to representing the accused drunk driver?”
DUI defense is a complex area of law involving forensic science, specialized knowledge and litigation techniques specific to DUI. Successful practitioners will have access to information, arguments, experts and materials that come from being exposed to multiple DUI cases. Your DUI defense attorney should have blogs, websites, materials, scientific studies, and books specific to the field. Ask your potential attorney what DUI-specific organizations he belongs to, what legal education conferences he has spoken at or attended. Also, ask your potential attorney to hand you his or her copy of the NHTSA Student Manual that he will use in court. Does the attorney have one? Is it up to date?
Thanks to the internet you can find out all you need to know by looking at other sites that the attorney is featured on. On www.AVVO.com attorney profiles have a breakdown of the lawyer’s practice areas that are self-reported by the attorney.
Question Two: What Kind of DUI Credentials Do You Have?
Lawyer earn credentials through hard work and dedication to the cause of drunk driving defense. Often, a DUI defense attorney receive specialized training and certification on the breath testing machines in their jurisdictions. These certifications are invaluable in understanding how a machine could malfunction or give a falsely high reading. Dedicated OVI counsel can also receive specialized training in the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing by becoming certified to administer and evaluate the field tests.
Having worked both sides of the DUI issue can also be an important credential. Has the attorney ever worked as a prosecuting attorney? Has the attorney ever prosecuted a DUI case? Has the attorney ever lectured or written on DUI topics for journals, newspapers or bar associations? The truth is that the internet has many directories or referral services where an attorney can be listed as a “DUI” attorney with little or no DUI experience whatsoever. Yellow page advertisements, which often have DUI listed among many other practice areas, can also be misleading as to DUI credentials. It is up to you to dig deeper and demand that the attorney demonstrate a depth of knowledge in DUI defense.
See the “About Me” section above to learn about my DUI defense attorney credentials.
Question Three: What Is Your DUI Experience?
You should walk out of your attorney’s office confident in the knowledge that you have spoken to someone who has real experience defending DUI cases. Ask the following and, if you don’t get straight answers, get up and leave: Have you ever tried a DUI case to a jury? Have you ever tried a felony DUI case? Have you ever tried a “test” case (a case where the person blew into a breath machine)?
Have you ever tried a “refusal” case (a case where the person refused to blow into a breath test machine)? Have you ever tried a DUI case in federal court? Have you ever argued cases involving dentures? Have you ever argued a case involving AMBIEN sleep medication? Have you ever represented doctors? Dentists? Pilots? Paramedics? Athletes? Military Personnel? How many DUI Motions to Suppress have you done? Have you ever done a motion or trial in the court where I will appear?
Some firms add up the years of practice of each person in the office and say things like, “our firm has over thirty years of representing clients,” This is not experience, this is mathematics. If you were having heart surgery would you care how many years of experience some other doctor had, or would you want the most experience heart surgeon you could get.
I have tried each of the “types” of cases described above. See the following ARTICLE on my Aggravated Vehicular Homicide case in the Greene County Common Pleas Ct.
Question Four: Will You Or Someone Else Represent Me?
One of the most important questions to ask is “who will be representing me in court.” If you meet with a highly qualified, experienced DUI defense attorney make sure that he or she will be beside you in court. Having the attorney answer this question by referring to a “team approach” may be a way of saying that you will be shuffled off to an associate once we get your money. Another evasion is for the firm to say, “all of our attorneys are involved in your case.” If you hire Michael Jordan make sure you don’t get someone who attended the Michael Jordan basketball camp. Your case is the most important case in the world to you! I do not treat you like a commodity to be managed, but a client to receive my best effort.
Question Five: What Do Other Attorneys (and Real People) Think of You?
The legal profession requires a high degree of collaboration and cooperation with others in the legal community. Often, successful attorneys will be an active member of their local or state bar associations. Like jury trials, serving on boards, taking on leadership positions and having valuable “real-life” experiences demonstrate that the attorney has the ability to represent your interest. You can also see your attorney’s rankings and endorsements on www.AVVO.com.
Use this information to form your own opinion. There is nothing like sitting down and having a conversation with someone to learn about that person. Trust your instincts! If something about the attorney seems off-putting in his office, imagine how nervous you will be when that attorney goes into a room to talk about your life without you there. The OVI experience is traumatic and you are very vulnerable, so consider bringing someone you trust to interview the attorney with you.
See the “About Me” section above to learn about my credentials beyond the courtroom.
Question Six: Have You Ever Been Disciplined by the State Bar?
It goes without saying that a lawyer disciplined in the past should receive extra scrutiny. Also, look for things like gaps in the attorney’s resume, dramatic job shifts or traveling from job to job.
Question Seven: What Is The Court Process?
Have the attorney explain in detail what each step in the DUI court process will be like. Have your attorney explain what he or she will be doing at each stage and what will be required of you at each stage. This is also a good way of determining what level of communication you can expect from your attorney and how your attorney approaches the problems in your case. Have the attorney explain what possible defenses he or she will raise. Ask how the attorney what his or her philosophy is regarding pre-trial hearings. Ask how the decision to go forward on a motion to suppress will be made. If the attorney won’t (or can’t) explain things easily to you, why should you expect he or she could communicate well with a jury.
Please click HERE for a video of me explaining the DUI court process.
Question Eight: Who Do You Work With?
OVI defense attorneys often rely on expert witnesses in defending cases. Experts can prove vital to raising defenses to chemical tests and challenging the officer’s interpretations at the scene. Other experts can include optometrists, accident reconstruction experts, psychologists, private investigators, forensic toxicologists, doctors and forensic scientists. Experienced DUI counsel will have worked with top-of-the-line experts in court and will know how to use them to your advantage. Another benefit of hiring experienced counsel rests in knowing when not to rely upon an expert. In addition, ask for names, and case references and don’t be afraid to demand an interview with the expert prior to hiring them. Remember the attorney works for you – you don’t work for the attorney.
Question Nine: What Will This Cost Me?
My father always said, “If you know how somebody gets paid you’ll never get ripped off.” Here are some common-sense questions to determine your potential charges:
- Does the DUI defense attorney charge a flat fee or will you pay a retainer fee and have an open-ended bill?
- Does the attorney have a financial incentive to keep the case going on longer?
- Does the attorney have a financial incentive to take any plea just to end the case?
- Does the attorney charge copy fees, filing fees, paralegal fees, or any other fees on top of your bill?
- Does the bill come monthly, weekly or all at once?
- Does the fee include the costs of a trial?
- Does the fee include the costs of an appeal?
- Does the fee include representation on case-related issues after the case is over (driver’s license issues)?
Again, if the attorney won’t give straight answers to these questions leave without hiring that attorney.
If you are shopping based on price alone, you probably won’t hire me. I am not “cheap” and I don’t want to be. In my opinion, hiring an attorney based solely on price is as stupid as representing yourself. Do not expect answers to fee questions over the telephone. I cannot give you a realistic price unless I know all the information about you and your case. It is inconceivable to me that a dedicated and ethical attorney could, or would, quote a fee without a thorough investigation of your case.
If you get a letter in the mail offering a flat fee for DUI services – be careful. If you find an attorney who will charge considerably less than any other attorney you consult with – be careful. If you talk to, or visit a web page that tries to scare you – be careful. If you talk to an attorney that puts down public defenders – be careful. If you meet with an attorney who stresses his friendship with the Judge or Prosecutor – be careful.
If you talk with a referral service rather than an attorney – be careful. If you meet with an attorney who puts other attorneys down – be careful. If you meet with an attorney that pressures you into making a decision right away – be careful. If you get treated rudely on the phone by the attorney, staff, or anyone associated with him or her – be careful. If you meet with an attorney that guarantees an outcome or makes an outcome seem a foregone conclusion – be careful. Let common-sense be your guide.
Question Ten: Can You Help Me?
Lastly, do not hire an attorney that promises outcomes or implies that they are the only lawyer who could handle your case. You know better! All that ethical counsel can promise is their best effort at defending you. Some lawyers, through hard work, may be in a better position to recognize issues in your DUI case. No lawyer will win all their cases, but you can’t win issues you don’t know exist. Hire the best person to guide you through your case. As the old cowboys used to say, “he’ll do to ride the river with.” Like all relationships, you will know when it is right. Rely on your judgment and experience and trust your instincts. You will know whether or not you have made a good decision.
- The Reality of an Ohio DUI Arrest (daytondui.com)
- Dayton DUI on YouTube (daytondui.com)
- Why Allowing Junk Science in the Courtroom is Hurting Our System (daytondui.com)
- Why You Shouldn’t Represent Yourself in DUI Case (paduiblog.com)