Choosing a DUI/DWI lawyer immediately after arrest
The situation you face when arrested and charged with a DUI-DWI crime is one of the most tangled legal webs in the entire criminal justice system, and gets literally more tangled with every passing day. In addition, the police and the prosecutor already have almost all the evidence they need to prosecute you for DUI-DWI before you are even allowed out of jail. From the first minutes after your arrest, you are fighting an uphill battle to assert your best defense to these charges. Because of this, it is vital to your defense to obtain the best possible attorney as soon as possible so he or she can start working for you.
Even if you are a lawyer, because of the constant changes and the hidden secrets that surround DUI-DWI law, you will not get justice unless you locate and contact a top DUI-DWI lawyer to take charge of your defense. These offenses carry too much public scrutiny to ask the prosecutor to "give you a break" and drop the charges, based on state Bar membership.
Reference from friends or any lawyer you might know personally
A strong reference from a friend or colleague who has successfully referred or used the potential DUI-DWI attorney is often the best indicator of whether a lawyer is worthy of hiring. This gives you a starting place. Be sure, however, that the friend or colleague has seen the attorney's skill in court versus merely winning by default or by handling a guilty plea. Often, attorneys you may know personally in your "market area" who do NOT handle criminal cases will know the names of several top DUI attorneys in your area.
The Lawyer's Community and Courthouse Reputation
Taking the following additional step may be the very best measuring stick that anyone can use to judge an attorney's "skill level." If your attorney has a sterling reputation within the legal community where your case is pending, chances are it was earned through hard work and over many years. Having a great COURTHOUSE reputation is more difficult than having a stellar community reputation. Checking the attorney's COURTHOUSE reputation is the most direct and accurate litmus test of the GREAT drunk driving defense attorneys.
Go to the courthouse in the county in which you were arrested, not necessarily the county in which you live. Very politely, talk with a person from the clerk of court's office, a bailiff, a deputy who is assigned to that courthouse or to a court reporter who is in court. Ask for their opinion about each "candidate's" skill in fighting cases.
After finding possible attorneys that may fit your needs, check them out on-line with a Google or Yahoo search. Search within the Internet profiles of the attorneys you are considering to confirm that he or she is a specialist in "drunk
driving defense." The most highly trained DUI lawyers will have attended several of the following specialized courses which will be listed on their websites: the NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Test (Student or "Practitioner" Course), the NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Test (Instructor Course), the Breath Instrument Training Courses, the Drug Recognition Expert (or Drug Recognition Technician) Overview Course, and Blood and Urine Training.
Specialized Membership or Professional Affiliations
You should also consider their "involvement" and "commitment" to the field of drunk driving defense once you have any names. What specialized professional membership standing does he or she maintain? Top attorneys are often found in special "founding member," "life member" or similar "special status" categories in these organizations.
This information will either be on each lawyer's website or on the websites of the professional organizations. In the DUI-DWI defense field, here are some places to examine to determine "proficiency":
a. National College for DUI Defense, Inc.
b. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).
c. Many states and even a few large metropolitan cities have formed local affiliate branches of the NACDL.
d. Martindale-Hubbell is the oldest and most widely respected directory of attorneys in America. Their rating of "av" and/or their "Pre-Eminent Lawyers"