This may seem like a simple step, but it's actually quite important, and not as easy as you might think. A lawyer who says "I handle DUIs all the time" may not have the level of knowledge you really want. Ask what percentage of a lawyer's case load is DUIs. A good rule of thumb is that if a lawyer's caseload is 50% DUI or more, they likely are up to date on the constantly changing rules of this complicated area of law. If they say 75% or more, DUI is likely their forte, and they may have additional experience or associations that will be of use in your case.
Be Sure the Lawyer Practices in Your Area
Knowing the players on the field is at least as important as knowing the rules of the game. If your case is in Snohomish County, for instance, a lawyer from the other side of the state might not be as well suited as someone in the court's backyard. Knowing the particular judges, and how they run their courtroom, while it won't change the law, can make your experience smoother and more seamless. Knowing the prosecutors, on the other hand, is an invaluable resource. Check to see if the attorney you are considering knows the prosecutor's names, and if he has worked with them in the past. If so, negotiation becomes that much easier.
Be Sure the Lawyer is Current on DUI Law
DUI law is the most constantly complex area of litigation in the criminal arena in Washington. The laws change nearly every year, and in some instances, caselaw can change the landscape in a matter of a day. Scandals, such as the recent Washington State Toxicology Lab scandal, can also have drastic effects on your case. Be sure the lawyer stays up to date on these issues. Ask about professional memberships such as the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, or the National College for DUI Defense. Ask if they keep their training current by attending Continuing Legal Education seminars on DUI. Ask if they are members of any listservs to keep them appraised of quick changes. A well informed lawyer is the one you want.
Be Sure You are Comfortable with the DUI Lawyer
Regardless of how much or how little you pay your DUI attorney, unless you are comfortable with them and believe they will fight for what it is you want and need, you will not be happy with the results. Most DUI attorneys offer a free consultation in their office. Go meet them. Meet their office staff. Decide if these are people you like and feel good about. Will you be able to communicate with them? Will they get back to you when you have questions, or will you be lost in a sea of voicemails? Ask lots of questions, and use the opportunity to really interview them.
Unless you find a lawyers office that you believe cares, and is skilled and capable of doing what you need on your case, even if you find your case dismissed, you will not be satisfied with the results. Take full advantage of asking questions, and finding the RIGHT lawyer for you.
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