7 Important Questions to Ask when Hiring a DUI Lawyer

You or someone close to you has been arrested for drunk driving. Innocent or not, you know you're a lot better off with an experienced DUI lawyer. So how do you find one? The suggestions provided below will help you find competent and ethical representation -- and avoiding the alternatives.

The best source for finding a good DUI lawyer, of course, is a referral -- a recommendation from someone you trust. This may be a family member or friend who has faced DUI charges before, or it may be your family or business lawyer who can make educated inquiries. Perhaps the best source of referral is to ask a police officer, or go to a courthouse and ask a bailiff of court clerk: Who is the best you've seen? Who would you retain if you were arrested?

One possibility that may come to mind is a referral service of the local Bar Association. This is generally not a good idea, as you will usually be referred to the next attorney on a list of members the only requirement for inclusion on the list is the request to be placed on it.

Failing a recommendation from a trusted source, the best approach is research on the internet. A lot can be discovered about DUI laws, evidence, procedures, penalties -- and about lawyers who practice in this technical and complex field. There will, of course, be unending advertisements, self-promoting websites and, least useful, endless "directories" of DUI attorneys who have simply paid a lot of money to be included.

One excellent resource is the membership list on the website of the National College for DUI Defense. This is a professional organization of over 800 attorneys nationwide who emphasize drunk driving defense in their practices. Although membership is no guarantee of competence and/or ethics, it is usually a good indication the lawyer is serious about this field. The College emphasizes the education of the Bar through seminars, most notably an intensive annual 3-day seminar at Harvard Law School, and has been recognized by the American Bar Association as the only organization authorized to Board-certify attorneys as "DUI Defense Specialists", a process that is extremely demanding.

In making the important decision of which attorney to have defend you, the following should be considered:

1) DUI defense is a technical and highly specialized field: Does the lawyer handle drinking and driving cases only - or does he accept other types of criminal or civil cases as well? (This would be like a family doctor attempting brain surgery, cancer research and heart transplants.) What percentage of the attorney's caseload consists of DUI Cases?

2) Does the lawyer have access to technical expert witnesses in police procedures and blood/breath analysis? Will blood samples be reanalyzed by a lab?

3) Does the attorney make promises as to the results he can get in the case? This is something no ethical attorney would do, as specific results are unpredictable.

4) Are fees fully explained and set forth in a written contract? Is the fee simply an initial retainer, or is it all-inclusive? Do the fees cover such "extras" as the license suspension hearing, expert testimony, blood reanalysis, trial, subpoena costs, etc.?

5) What is the lawyer's rating with the Martindale-Hubbell International Directory of Attorneys? (The highest rating for competence and ethics is "A-V.")

6) Did the lawyer attend a reputable law school? Is he a member of the National College for DUI Defense? Is he Board-certified by the College?

7) Have there been any State Bar complaints against the attorney? (Most State Bar Associations maintain disciplinary records online.)

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Posted on Aug 5, 2010