Things your DUI attorney would like you to know, or how to be a good client.
A guide to being a good client, or how to get the most bang for your buck from your attorney.
Pay the fee, get the service.It's pretty simple. McDonald's doesn't serve you your Big Mac and fries hoping you'll pay someday in the future. Your lawyer quoted you a fee. In DUI cases that's normally a flat, one time fee, unless otherwise agreed upon. He doesn't represent you until it's paid in full, or some agreed upon partial fee is paid. If you paid and he accepted a partial fee, you can rest assured that he intends to get the case continued for you to pay the remainder of the fee.
As for the amount of the fee. Lawyers are like any other service provider in that you get what you pay for. Some DUI attorneys may have the luxury of only taking clients that can pay their full, premium fee. Others may adjust their fee based on numerous factors, not the least of which is your ability to pay and/or your need for services. If you negotiate the price down, you're also negotiating down the level of service. Lawyers are not ethically or duty bound to pursue every client's case to the same degree no matter what. You get what you pay for. If a DUI conviction means little more to you than than some money out of pocket for fines and suffering through a license suspension, then maybe you can price shop attorneys and just find one to get you the best deal possible. You'll still probably come out better than representing yourself, and you will have an understanding of exactly what's going on, or at least a lot more so than the guy that just goes in and pleads guilty asking for mercy of the court. However, if you have a Commercial Driver's License, or drive a company car for a living, and your livelihood is at stake with a DUI charge, then I'd advise making an investment in your future by paying a DUI defense specialist for his best defense. If you think a DUI conviction will be a bad thing for your future, but simply don't have the money for the well seasoned specialist's "premium package" then try to see if he or she will refer you to a younger up and coming attorney that is focusing on DUI defense. It may even be one in his firm.
Case Updates, advice, plea dealsYour DUI case won't update like the stock market. You don't need weekly updates, and the lawyer won't have them to give. If the lawyer does his job at the initial consultation, and you told him the truth, he has all the information he needs from you until he gets discovery from the prosecutor. That may either confirm what you told him, or he may have follow up questions. In the event of a question or two, it probably won't require another hour sit-down with the attorney to go over it. If it does, you won't have to ask the attorney for it, he'll ask you to make an appointment. There's little or no need to meet prior to every court date, and there will likely be a few court dates. Your attorney has a duty to keep you reasonably informed about the case, and to advise you of any offers to settle. When it comes to offers to settle, he should explain the details of that, and the foreseeable collateral consequences. For instance, he'd be required to tell you that if you plead guilty you will or won't get a jail sentence, or probation, and the amount of fines. He may not be able to tell you the exact court costs, but can make a reasonable estimate usually. He should tell you the consequences as they relate to your license. Things he cannot tell you or reasonably predict are things such as exactly how strict and strenuous your probation officer will be, how often you might have to drug test, or what your current and future employers will do or not do based on your charges and case disposition. He is not required to explain all his legal strategy, tactics, or every nuance of the case. Fact is, you likely wouldn't understand most of it, and you don't need to. That's why you hired the attorney. If you don't trust your attorney to tell you what you need to know, then you hired the wrong attorney. And let's address plea deals a little more here. Neither the judge, the prosecutor, nor your lawyer can force you to take a plea offer or to plead guilty. I get people that call me all the time with stories that go something like this: "I pleaded guilty because (fill in the blank with my lawyer, the judge, the prosecutor) made me." No, no they didn't make you. They may have made is sound like your best option based on all they knew, but it's your decision, and nobody can force you to plead guilty. Don't plead guilty if you do not want to, or feel forced to. Your attorney may shake his head in disgust, may even tell you you're making a mistake, but he will go forward with your defense if you've paid him to do so. I've had clients turn down fabulous plea deals and opt for trial, and actually had them found not guilty. Others, should have taken the offer, but it was their choice!
Closing pointsIf you have a DUI charge, then hire a DUI attorney. If you're price shopping, then price shop the guys that do DUI as at least the majority of their practice, if not 100%. Pay him his fee in full, show up for court on time, dressed appropriately, listen to what he says and don't try to read between the lines. Don't expect him to put you through law school on your case. Let him do his job. If you retained wisely then you'll likely be as pleased as you can be given your facts and circumstances. If you retained the wrong guy, there's little you can do other than retaining new counsel to fix the issue. If you retain an attorney that has experience and devotes most of his practice to DUI (as opposed to a lawyer that just handles DUI cases) then chances are in many cases, he'll be able tell you the most likely outcomes for your case. That said, every case is different, and some are much more complex than others.