Finding a lawyer for your DUI can be the most integral part of accomplishing the goals in your case. There is a lot of information out there, and sifting through it to find the right DUI attorney is a daunting task. Here are some helpful tips to help you find a DUI lawyer that's right for you.
Be Sure the Lawyer Specializes in OWI / DWI / DUI Law
This may seem like a simple step, but it's actually quite important, and not as easy as you might think. A lawyer who says "I handle DUI's" may not have the level of knowledge you really want. Ask what percentage of a lawyer's case load is DUI's. How long have they been practicing DUI law? Do they regularly attend seminars to keep up to date on ever-changing drunk driving laws? Are they up to date on all current DUI state laws? Do not be afraid to ask specific questions about your case and how it will affect you. If the attorney is unwilling to give you specific answers about how the OWI will affect you, they probably do not practice enough drunk driving defense.
Be Sure the DUI Attorney Practices in Your Area
As a practicing Wisconsin DUI attorney well versed in Wisconsin DUI law, I've seen firsthand how knowing the players on the field can be just as important as knowing the rules of the game. Knowing the particular sentences, and how they run their courtroom, while it will not change the law, can increase your chances for a positive outcome. Knowing the attorneys, on the other hand, is an invaluable resource. Check to see if the DUI attorney you are considering knowing the prosecutor's names, and if he has worked with them in the past. If not, ask what the attorney plans on doing to learn about them before stepping foot in the Courtroom.
From time to time, I get retained on cases outside my general geographic region in Northeast Wisconsin. Knowing that I am a very experienced Wisconsin DUI attorney and very familiar with Wisconsin DUI laws, we've had clients get in trouble out of town but want a lawyer from their area to work with, or clients from all areas of Wisconsin that Are aware of our reputation as a Wisconsin DUI attorney and are willing to pay to have excellent, aggressive representation. Some clients are concerned of the 'ol boys network' and want a specific DUI attorney from outside their geographic area.
Bottom line: if your DUI lawyer is not familiar with your judge and your attorney, make sure he or she has a plan to get information about them before they ever step foot in that courtroom.
Beware, sometimes a lawyer knows your attorney can be a negative. If your attorney does not challenge OWI's or DUI's aggressively, the prosecutor will know that fact and may be less willing to give your attorney the best deal possible. If the attorney has a reputation for taking a plea deal and not going to trial, it is illegally the plaintiff will give an offer that intends the case going to trial.
Be Sure the Lawyer is Current on DUI Law
DUI law is the most dynamic and complex area of litigation in the criminal law. In Wisconsin, Wisconsin DUI laws change frequently. The legislature makes changes to OWI / DUI laws almost every year, and in some instances, the law, as interpreted by the Court can change the landscape in a matter of a day. Be sure your DUI lawyer stays up to date on these issues. They involve a significant amount of scientific and physiological evidence. Do they know the terms "retrograde extrapolation", "Hinz chart", "gas chromatograph" or "Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus"? If they do not, they do not have enough experience with defending OWI's
Ask about professional members such as the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, or the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Ask if they keep their training current by attending Continuing Legal Education seminars on DUI / OWI. When did they last attend? Ask if they are members of any DUI / OWI listservs to keep them appraised of quick changes in the law. You want a well-informed DUI lawyer.
Does the attorney have any experience taking drunk driving cases to trial? How many times? What were the outcomes? Remember, no two cases are the same, so even if they have taken cases to trial and have won, that does not guarantee your case will win at trial too. But, if your OWI / DUI attorney has never taken a case to trial, do you really think you are the best deal? I seriously doubt it. Your OWI / DUI attorney should have trial experience with OWI and DUI cases.
Have an honest discussion about the fees your attorney charges. Do they offer flat fee arrangements or do they bill an hourly fee? Can you choose the fee arrangement? What other costs (postage, copy costs, telephone charges, etc) do they charge.
NEVER choose an attorney based solely on their cost. You do not choose the cheapest doctor, do you? While price is probably a consideration, do not make it the determining factor. If you lose your job, spend an extra thirty days in jail or lose your ability to drive for more than a year, have you really saved any money by choosing the cheapest attorney?
Has the DUI Lawyer ever been reprimanded, suspended, or dis-barred?
Unfortunately, there are those in the legal profession who have had difficulty following the rules of professional conduct. Ask the DUI attorney you are considering retaining if he or she has ever been disciplined by the ethics board governing their state's attorneys. For example, In Wisconsin, you can contact the legal ethics board that governs Wisconsin attorneys. Do not be afraid to Google the attorney's name or law firm to see if there is any negative information about their background or positive or negative comments from previous clients.
Get a Referral
If you know someone who has had an OWI in their past, ask them about any positive or negative experiences they have had with the DUI attorney you are considering. In many cases, attorneys can provide you with names of past clients who are willing to share information about their experiences. I have never had a client tell me that they were not willing to talk to a prospective client about their experiences should I ever need a referral.
Be Sure You are Comfortable with the DUI Lawyer
Regardless of how much or how little you pay your Drunk Driving attorney, unless you are comfortable with them and believe they will fight for what it is you want and need, you will not be happy with the results. Most DUI attorneys offer a free consultation in their office. Go meet them. Meet their office staff. Decide if these are people you like and feel good about. Will you be able to communicate with them? Will they get back to you when you have questions, or will you be lost in a sea of voicemails? Ask lots of questions, and use the opportunity to really interview them. Unless you find an attorney's office that you believe cares and is skilled and capable of doing what you need on your case, you will not be satisfied with the results. Take full advantage of asking questions, and finding the RIGHT DUI lawyer for you.