By Garth O'Brien | December 17, 2009
Filed Under Washington DUI
Hiring an attorney can be a daunting experience especially if you have never used an attorney. The best advice is to hire the attorney that is the best fit. So interview a few lawyers before deciding which lawyer will represent your legal interests. Ask these questions:
What percentage of your practice is dedicated to DUI defense?
Rule of thumb: Your attorney better spend 80% or more of their time defending DUIs.
Defending DUIs is a complicated job. The breath test machine is based upon scientific theory so those not qualified to talk about the device should not defend your case. Further, most police officers have received hours upon hours of training in DUI detection, investigation and breath test administration. You need an experienced attorney that understands DUI better than the cop that arrested you.
You are facing mandatory DUI penalties such as jail, fines, driver’s license suspension and more. It is not the time for an attorney to gain DUI defense experience by defending your case. You need an attorney that is already experienced.
How many DUI cases have you defended?
Rule of thumb: A very busy and experienced DUI defense attorney located in or near a city can handle 80 to 110 cases per year. You want an attorney that have a few years of experience.
Prosecutors and public defenders will handle hundreds upon hundreds of DUI cases annually. Defense attorneys in private practice will not and should not handle such volumes. If your attorney is practicing in or near a city then they most likely will have the opportunity to manage 80 to 110 case each year. A city such as Seattle, Tacoma and even Everett are busy jurisdictions. Do not expect an attorney in Cashmere to handle that many cases per year, but they should be handling quite a bit proportionately to the amount of DUI arrests in or around Cashmere.
How many of your clients are found guilty as charged?
Rule of thumb: It better be a very very small percentage (5% to less).
The legal process is setup so both parties can come to a settlement. That means there is generally great opportunity for a plea bargain to a lesser charge or to a criminal charge that does not have as harsh mandatory DUI penalties.
Some extreme cases are just not meant to be settled, so you better have an experienced DUI defense attorney that knows how to perform in a jury trial.
Do you continue to receive training related to the crime of DUI?
Rule of thumb: Lawyers must attend Continuing Legal Education courses each year. Your prospective DUI defense attorney better attend CLE classes that are DUI related.
No sense in your attorney attending classes about Family law or Contracts law. That attorney better attend DUI seminars every year and evidence classes that can assist them in throwing out damaging evidence.They should attend courses that train them to administer the field sobriety tests, perform a drug recognition evaluation and they had better attend courses that scrutinize the breath test machine.
An experienced DUI attorney will be able to show you certifications proving they attended courses or that they can administer DUI related investigation tools (i.e. field sobriety tests).
Can they clearly explain the criminal and civil DUI process?
Rule of thumb: When you leave their office it better be clear you are facing a criminal and civil lawsuit.
In a vast majority of DUI cases you will be a party to a criminal and a civil lawsuit. Just about everyone understands the criminal process. However, an inexperienced DUI defense attorney may not understand that the Department of Licensing will initiate a civil lawsuit against you to take away your driver’s license. They better know the hearing request deadline and how to defend your license at that hearing.
This question is for you: What is your guy feeling?
Rule of thumb: You are hiring an attorney to advise you about the law and the advantages and disadvantages of potential outcomes. You need to trust and feel comfortable with your attorney.
You ultimately decide whether to plea guilty to any crime or to go to a trial. You lawyer must advise you on the advantages, disadvantages and risks choosing one path over the other. If you cannot trust your lawyer, or if you are not comfortable around your lawyer then you will not be comfortable making a decision about your case.
That will only result in a disastrous result. Since DUI have mandatory penalties that include jail, fines, a driver’s license suspension and more you do not need a disastrous result. You MUST hire an experienced Washington DUI attorney if you have been arrested for DUI.