There is no shortage of lawyers claiming to be DUI lawyers. The yellow pages is full of ads from lawyers claiming to be “DUI Specialists,” but if you look closer you see they have only been out of law school for a couple of years or have never taken a DUI case to trial. So how do you find a good DUI lawyer? Here are some questions to ask any lawyer you are thinking about hiring.
- “Are you a member of the National College for DUI Defense?” Any lawyer who is serious about defending DUI cases is a member of this group. Period. You should also hire a lawyer who is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
- “How many DUI jury trials have you had? How many DUI trials have you had in the last year?” Amazingly, I know lawyers who continue to handle DUI cases but have never taken a case to trial. This is mind-boggling. Many cases demand to be tried, and these lawyers convince their clients to plead guilty. It's shameful. A good DUI lawyer has tried dozens or hundreds of DUI cases and takes several DUI cases to trial each year. Even if you're pretty sure you don't want to go to trial you should hire a DUI trial lawyer. Why? The prosecutors know which lawyers are willing to go to trial, and they give these lawyers better deals. The lawyers who never go to trial will take whatever the prosecutor offers.
- “What percentage of your cases are DUI cases?” Have you heard the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”? If a lawyer spends the majority of her time writing wills or handling divorces, find somebody else.
- “Do you have a DUI defense website?” If a lawyer is serious about DUI defense, he will.
- “Are you frequently invited to speak at DUI defense seminars?” Some lawyers teach at these seminars and some sit in the audience. Hire the teacher, not the pupil.
- “Are you certified to administer the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests?” If the officer who arrested you didn't do them correctly they are not of much value. Your lawyer should be trained in the tests so she knows if they were administered correctly.
- “Are you trained in the use of the breath test machine?” If the breath test was not done correctly, or if the machine has not been maintained properly, the breath test can be excluded from court. Most lawyers have no idea whether a test was done correctly.
- “Are you trained as a Drug Recognition Expert?” If you are charged with Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (prescription or non-prescription), you need a specially-trained lawyer to recognize the issues in your case.
- “How much do you charge and what does your fee include?” Make sure you are clear on this from the beginning. There are two ways lawyers go about attracting clients. One is to rely on their experience, reputation and skill. The other is to charge a cut-rate fee. The lawyers who charge a low fee do so because they lack the experience, reputation and skill to attract clients. Hiring the cut-rate lawyer may cost you a lot more in the long run.