Shopping around for your DWI attorney is always a wise idea; stakes are high and you’ll want to get the best representation possible. But how do you know when you’ve found the right lawyer, and, more importantly, how can you tell if the suit sitting across the table from you is worth the fee they are going to charge? Fortunately, there are indicators to answer both of these questions.
Spotting Red Flags
Many of the biggest warning signs for DWI attorneys, or any criminal defense attorneys for that matter, can be seen from the first consultation. This is because fast work is easily distinguished from good work when the two are mutually exclusive, which is often the case with the law. It’s hard to win a case if you’re not willing to put in the time and effort necessary to build a solid argument. So if the rate for lawyer’s services in your area is say $300/hr, and the person you are speaking to has quoted you a fee of $1,500, you know that lawyer has no intention of trying your case.
A free consultation on its own is not a red flag; many quality attorneys use free consultations to bring in new clients and offer advice to those in need. If you have scheduled one of these free consultations, pay close attention to see what parts of your story they ignore and what parts they ask for further details on. Once they hear your case, they’ll likely give you advice. If the only advice they have to offer has to do with plea deals and makes no mention of an actual defense strategy, leave. There is no way, having not even seen the police reports and squad video recordings, that a lawyer should be talking about you pleading guilty during a consultation.
Doesn’t Care About Evidence
If you’re worried that you’re guilty, you may think that focusing on evidence is the wrong way to go. Unsurprisingly, things are rarely as straightforward as they seem. People are often surprised when an officer tells them their alcohol content because they felt fine to drive. So they then start to question their own judgment because the breathalyzer said they were a 0.12. A good attorney will know that breath tests are not infallible and look into every aspect of your story and beyond. Perhaps the machine you blew into was taken down for calibration the day after your test and was found to be out of calibration. How would you ever know that if all your lawyer did was counsel you to go to an alcohol awareness class so you would “look good to the judge.” Properly defending against a DWI charge is hard work. Ask questions to see if the lawyer you are talking to is willing to do that work.
Won’t Fight for Your Driver’s License
The most immediate, and for many, most important impact of a DWI charge is the license revocation. As soon as you are ticketed, your license gets taken away. You might be given a work permit, but the revocation will stay on your record for life, even if you’re found not guilty of your criminal charge. Unless you fight it. A bad lawyer won’t bother even trying to get your license back, largely because it’s extra work and the license will likely be reinstated after a waiting period. This doesn’t mean it has no consequences. Even if your lawyer works hard to clear your criminal charges, if they don’t also fight the license revocation, you will always have a DWI on your record. The first thing your attorney should do in every single case is file a challenge to the license revocation.
Signs You’ve Found A Good Attorney
As important as recognizing a bad attorney is, it is just as important to know when you’re talking to a good attorney. If you know what to look out for, you can land yourself a life-changing lawyer.
Things you MUST ask
There are two questions you should be sure to ask any lawyer you’re interviewing:
- How often do you file a challenge to the license revocation?
- What percentage of driver’s license challenges you file go to trial?
A good lawyer will answer these two questions with “all of them.” If the answer is anything other than 100%, RUN! There is nothing to lose by challenging a license revocation. Every bad thing the DMV can do to you has already been done. Things can only get better by fighting, not worse. So even if you are likely to lose, what is the harm in trying? This is the easiest way to tell if the person you are interviewing is actually interested in taking up the fight on your behalf.
When Is a Good Lawyer Worth The Cost?
It’s no secret that DWI attorneys can be expensive. Not everyone can afford thousands of dollars in legal fees, so how do you balance legal fees with the penalty fines? What’s important to remember is that the costs of a DWI don’t end with the fines. Once you have a DWI on your record, your insurance premiums will skyrocket, your career can take a hit, and any future DWIs will have far more severe consequences. By hiring a bad attorney, you’re not only paying legal fees, you’re paying with your future. In order to find a proper balance of upfront costs and long term benefits, you need to shop around for a lawyer that fits your budget. You obviously can't spend more than you can afford, but you can be discerning regarding how you spend your money. There are good lawyers that are affordable, and there are bad lawyers that are expensive. Find the lawyer that works for your situation and your budget.