Before Hiring a DUI Attorney, Ask These Questions When you have been charged with a DUI, or any crime for that matter, it is a serious matter. To protect your rights and possibly your freedom, it is important to retain the services of a criminal defense lawyer. Hiring the first criminal defense attorney you encounter can lead to serious consequences, and there are several questions that it is in your best interest to ask before hiring a Utah DUI attorney, or an attorney for any other criminal matter.
- How experienced are you in handling DUI and criminal cases? Lack of experience should not necessarily be enough to disqualify a skilled attorney. After all, attorneys have to start somewhere. Generally, it is better to look for an attorney who has handled cases similar to yours before, and this is especially true if the crime you are charged with carries jail time. Some attorneys will begin their legal careers as prosecutors, and then switch sides after a period of learning and acquiring a proven track record as a litigator
- Are you willing to take my case to trial? Have you had any jury trials? There is “book smart” and then there is “practical experience.” An attorney may have experience with criminal law, but lack the expertise to put it into practice in an actual trial. This can be a major negotiation point between your attorney and the prosecutor. If the prosecutor knows up front that your attorney is willing, if not eager, to take your case to trial he may be more willing to work with you (and your attorney) for a favorable outcome. Having some hands-on experience can make a difference. It is perfectly fine to ask for specific experience.
- How much of your legal career is dedicated to criminal defense matters? This goes hand-in-hand with experience. Someone who has merely studied criminal law, as opposed to someone who has dealt with it on a day to day basis, is going to approach a case very differently than someone who makes it part of their life. It is about more than knowing the law, it is also being able to attack the case in an efficient and effective manner.
- Have you ever handled a criminal defense case such as mine? Every attorney will learn something new at one point or another, but it is generally better if your case is not being used as someone’s classroom. Each type of criminal charge carries certain nuances, elements, and possible defenses. When selecting your attorney, you want someone who has “been there – done that” with cases such as yours.
- Will you be handling my case, or will my case be handed off to a junior member of the firm? Law firms can be busy. There are some things that junior associates, clerks, or paralegals may handle. Some firms are prone to bait and switch, luring in clients with promises of a well-known or experienced attorney handling their case, and then farming it out to an associate. You should insist that you have the attorney you choose beside you in court, who knows the details of your case, and who has been well informed from the beginning.
- What type, and how much, communication should I expect as my case progresses? Communication is key. There is an unfortunate trend among many professionals to not keep in contact with a client, or to only update them infrequently, regardless of what news has come to pass in their case. With today’s technology this is unacceptable. An ethical attorney will provide prompt updates when something happens, rather than leave you hanging for weeks or months.
- How much will this cost me in the end? This is the question on most peoples’ minds and there is no simple “one size fits all” answer. Every case is different, and each will have its own unique circumstances. As a general rule felony cases will have a higher fee than misdemeanors. There is a saying that says you get what you pay for, and this is also generally the case with attorneys as well. There may be other factors to consider if a certain attorney is offering services for a reduced rate, but you should balance the fees charged with the attorney’s experience and what they bring to the table. While an inexpensive attorney is generally a red flag it is important to ensure that your attorney will accommodate you if you are low on funds. While criminal defense attorneys may not take cases on a contingency basis, they will usually work with you to reach an agreement that is favorable to you both regarding payment terms.