Drunk Driving Defense, DUI Arrest - FAQs
14. What will it cost to retain a DUI attorney to defend me?
The fees charged by an attorney in any DUI case will vary depending upon:
- His or her reputation, experience and specialization;
- The factual circumstances increasing the complexity and severity of the case (blood-alcohol level, accident/injuries, speeding, children in car, test refusal, prior criminal record, etc.);
- The time typically devoted by the attorney to a case (discovery of breathalyzer maintenance and calibration records, copies of video/audio recordings; in-person representation at the DMV hearing vs telephonic; repeated court appearances to obtain better results; etc.);
- The costs covered by the attorney's fee (blood sample reanalysis by independent lab, consultation with forensic toxicologist on blood/breath tests, costs of subpoena of cop to DMV hearing, DMV hearing transcription, etc.).
Generally speaking, the more experienced an attorney is the higher his fee will be. Similarly, those with excellent reputations among judges, prosecutors and other attorneys will be reflected in higher fees. And as with physicians (such as heart surgeons), an attorney’s focus on a specialized field of law -- such as DUI defense -- tends to increase fees.
In comparing the fees quoted by an attorney, you should consider the experience and reputation of that attorney, along with the likelihood that he will be able to expose weaknesses in the prosecution's case. Will he re-analyze any blood tests, for example, or subpoena the police maintenance, usage and calibration records for the breath machine used on you? The attorney's reputation and the evidence he uncovers will be major factors in how the prosecutor views your case -- and thus in how it is finally resolved.
Beware of attorneys who charge unusually low fees. These attorneys charge lower amounts because of their inexperience, poor reputations and inability to specialize in this complex field. And they are forced to accept a broad range of criminal (and often civil) cases, limiting their exposure and expertise in DUI defense. This will affect the outcome of your case, as the quality of your attorney will directly impact how prosecutors and judges will deal with your case.
Attorneys who charge low fees are known in the profession as "dump trucks". As the fees they charge cannot justify the time, attention and court appearances necessary to achieve a good result for the client, they will commonly plead the client guilty at the first or second court appearance -- without investigating the calibration and maintenance of the breath machine, for example, or obtaining copies of video/audio tapes.
As a very rough gauge of fees charged by DUI attorneys in Southern California, the following range for a first offense DUI arrest (no injuries, prior convictions, etc.) may be helpful:
|$1000 - 2000||Minimal experience and competence, little time spent on the case, no costs covered.|
|$2500 - 3500||Some experience, competence and time given to the case.|
|$4000 - 7500||Experienced specialist, good reputation with prosecutors and judges, extensive time devoted to the case, all costs covered but jury trial.|
The old adage generally remains true: You get what you pay for. However, you should be wary of attorneys who quote unusually high fees. Some will charge $10,000 for a first-offense DUI, for example, believing that potential clients will assume they must be "the best".
When comparing attorneys, you should also be clear about what the fees include. Is the DMV license suspension hearing included? Will it be done in person -- or by telephone? Who pays for reanalysis of any blood samples at an independent lab? Who pays for investigators, experts and witness subpoenas?
Finally, beware any attorney who promises to get you a specific result in your case (reduction of the charge to reckless driving, no jail time, etc.). Ask him to put the promise in writing (he will not do this). It is simply not possible to predict a result without a careful investigation. Furthermore, it is a violation of the State Bar rules of ethics.
Note: You should view online "client reviews" on such sites as Google, Yelp and AVVO with caution. Unfortunately, there are disreputable attorneys who will pay internet services to post false "reviews", extolling the virtues of the attorney and giving him top ratings. Some of these attorneys have gone further and posted false reviews about their competitors, disparaging them with false allegations and poor ratings.
Generally speaking, then, you should seek attorneys who have excellent reputations, extensive experience and specialization in DUI defense. Conversely, it is wise to avoid attorneys who:
- Have graduated from unaccredited colleges and law schools (for a list of accredited law schools, see www.aals.org/about_memberschools.php).
- Have little experience as an attorney (the attorney's date of admission to the Bar can be found on http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/MemberSearch/QuickSearch) or in the DUI field.
- Attempt to represent clients charged with a wide range of criminal offenses rather than focusing on DUI defense.
- Advertise in newspapers or other periodicals, on radio or television, or via mail (so-called "jail Mail"); experienced attorneys with good reputations do not need to advertise.
- Claim high "win rates" in court or at DMV hearings (for example, "We win 80% of our cases!"); this is impossible to confirm as the attorney cannot ethically divulge his clients names and government agencies don't keep records of results by attorneys.
- Make promises as to results ("I can get the charges reduced to "reckless driving" and get your license back); this is both unethical and nearly always impossible. If you ask the attorney to put the promise in writing, he will refuse.
- Falsely advertise themselves to be authors. Check Amazon.com to see if their "books" exist.
At the Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor, we pride ourselves in offering value -- providing the highest quality representation at a competitive cost. Our fees are reasonable and do not involve any hidden additional charges. Credit cards are readily accepted and payment plans are available. Please feel free to contact us at any time to discuss fees without any obligation or cost. We look forward to serving you and helping you through this difficult time.