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:

  1. His or her reputation, experience and specialization;
  2. 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.);
  3. 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.);
  4. 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.

CAUTION: In looking for a DUI attorney, be aware of deceptive practices commonly used by some unscrupulous and unqualified attorneys. Read further for more on this....

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.

It is also typical of such attorneys that they will not appear in person at the DMV license suspension hearing, but rather will handle it by telephone. As this is an extremely ineffective way to defend against a suspension, you should directly ask the attorney if he intends to appear at the hearing in person -- and if he will provide you afterwards with a copy of the audio-taped proceedings. DUI license suspension hearings are almost impossible to win over the telephone.

Yet another potential pitfall to be wary of in hiring a DUI defense attorney is what is known in the profession as a "mill" or "factory". This is a DUI or criminal defense firm that spends huge amounts of money on TV, radio, newspaper and internet ads. Although the fees are relatively high, the attorneys handling your case will be young and inexperienced -- commonly recent graduates hired at low salaries or paid a small commission -- with extremely high caseloads. You are largely paying for the high advertising costs (often well over $50,000 a month). A simple precaution: ask to meet or at least know who will be your attorney, and demand reliable information as to his DUI defense experience and when he graduated from law school (and which law school). If this information is not readily available on the firm's website, you should already be looking for another attorney.

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:

  1. Have graduated from unaccredited colleges and law schools (for a list of accredited law schools, see www.aals.org/about_memberschools.php).
  2. 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.
  3. Attempt to represent clients charged with a wide range of criminal offenses rather than focusing on DUI defense.
  4. Pay for internet ads appearing at the top of Google or other search results, or advertise on radio, in newspapers or via mail (so-called "jail mail"). Experienced attorneys with good reputations do not need to advertise.
  5. Claim high "win rates" in court or at DMV hearings (for example, "We win 80% of our cases!"); this is highly unlikely and impossible to disprove as the attorney cannot ethically divulge his clients names and government agencies don't keep records of results by attorneys.
  6. 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.
  7. Falsely advertise themselves to be authors of DUI defense books that are, in fact, self-published for advertising purposes only. Simply check Amazon.com to see if the attorney's “book” actually exists.

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 DUI specialist, good reputation with prosecutors and judges, extensive time devoted to the case, most costs covered short of 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".

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.

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