Experience is everything. Do you want a jack of all trades and a Master of none. You have a serious DUI, you need a DUI lawyer.
Yes and No. Its true that many Criminal Defense Attorneys deal with a large amount of DUI cases. HOWEVER, that doesnt mean that they are as equipped and knowledgeable when it comes to the science behind DUI's.
Ultimately though, you should go with the attorney you trust and feel like you could have a good working relationship with. Especially if it is that serious. You will be relying on the attorney to perform an in-depth investigation (at least they should be doing it), and you don't necessarily want to second guess information they provide you.
That said, be careful of those who "make lots of promises". No one can promise a specific outcome. If either of them are promising you one, don't hire them.
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You should hire an attorney that you trust and that has a good reputation with the Court. Find an attorney that will do the best job for you. Most attorneys handle DUI cases, but all criminal and DUI attorneys should know the Courts. The attorney that you hire should be able to tell you what he/she believes will happen and will have a game plan on how to handle the case. If the attorney is unable to tell you what the strategy will be, you should continue searching until you find one that will defend you effectively.
It's all in the science. Have any attorney you talk with explain the science of a DUI, what their expert will say, and how to rebut that. The California DUI Lawyers Association has many great DUI Trial attorneys around San Mateo. Many general criminal attorneys do not understand the science behind a DUI.
Disclaimer: This was not legal advice, and in no way formed an attorney-client relationship.
Hire an attorney that you trust and have faith in. The attorney-client relationship is the cornerstone to any successful criminal defense. That being said, there are certain attorneys who specialize in DUI matters and do nothing else. They are usually familiar with the science involving blood alcohol and other issues that may come up in a DUI case. Since there are so many DUI cases filed by most DA's offices, every criminal defense attorney thinks they can handle them. One way to find out is to ask the attorney not only how many DUI's he or she has handled, but how many he or she had taken to trial.
If the choice is between a competent attorney and an untrustworthy attorney, you should hire the competent attorney. As a former prosecutor who has tried many DUI cases, i will say that the jury will only follow the science so far. If your case is going to trial, your attorney will have to tell the jury a compelling story about why the prosecution's case is wrong. An attorney who comes across as untrustworthy is unlikely to succeed. Even if he calls to the stand a defense expert to rattle off statistics and error rates, it will not bolster his credibility or the credibility of your defense. I think you need to go back to the "competent attorney" and pointedly ask about the defenses he plans to use, whether he thinks the case can be pled down, the strengths and weakness of your case, and the likelihood of success based on his experience. If he talks in generalities, you may want to keep looking. If he satisfies your inquiries, go with your gut. Just remember, you are the most sympathetic listener to your own defense! And more to the point, the difference between a criminal defense attorney and a DUI attorney is a merely a difference of labeling... there are "DUI attorneys" who can ably defend individuals charged with white collar crimes or murder.
Go with who you trust but it is strange that a criminal lawyer would have a lack of experience with DUIs; they are nuances in the law and CA Title 17 that one needs to know to effectively fight a DUI case and DMV hearing. That being said any competent criminal lawyer can handle a DUI. I got a hung jury on a .19 about 9 years ago when I did my dui and first trial, and after negotiated an infraction.
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