First, you need to determine what your goal is. If your goal is to not get convicted of a DUI, then you better have an expert DUI lawyer defending you. Because having an unskilled lawyer representing you is akin to doing nothing at all to defend yourself. And if you do nothing, you can bet that you will be convicted of a DUI and your driver license will be suspended.
Attorneys are not alike. Don’t assume that just because an attorney has a valid license to practice law, that the attorney is qualified to defend a DUI case. Likewise, don’t assume that just because someone has an Internet ad that they have the expertise to defend a DUI case.
Inexpensive and unskilled lawyers will usually show up in court at the Arraignment hearing, get an offer from the prosecutor or the judge, and will then continue the hearing out to another date. Then, before the next hearing the lawyer will help you fill out plea documents, have you sign them, and then submit them to the court at the next hearing. The result will be, you are convicted of a DUI.
Helping an accused person fill out plea documents and escorting the person to the Judge, is not defending a DUI case. It is facilitating a DUI conviction.
Do your research. Most attorneys will “handle” a DUI case, but there is a wide range in the skill level among attorneys. To defend a DUI, you want an attorney with specialized training and substantial experience defending DUI cases. You want an expert.
Ask the prospective attorney about their Trial history. No attorney can honestly provide a percentage of wins vs. losses, because a percentage assumes all cases are the same; and DUI cases are anything but the same.
Look up the attorney’s bar record at the California State Bar website to see how long he/she has practiced law.
Look at the attorney’s website. Google the attorney’s name and see what comes up. What specialized training does the attorney have? What awards if any has the attorney gained? Is the attorney an expert in DUI defense, or does the attorney handle all types of cases, such as bankruptcy, family law, personal injury cases, etc. Remember the adage: Jack of all trades, master of none.
Keep in mind that even if an attorney works in criminal defense, he or she is not necessarily qualified to handle a DUI defense case.
DUI cases are complex to defend and require a defense attorney who has specialized knowledge in DUI investigations, field sobriety testing, how the human body processes alcohol and/or drugs (pharmacokinetics), how the human body is affected by alcohol and/or drugs (pharmacodynamics), as well as expertise in breath, blood and urine test analysis.
Without an expert DUI defense attorney defending you, you will likely not be able to get the best possible result in your DUI case.
Don’t be fooled by paid internet search engine advertising, or lead generation websites such as Avvo.com; these ads and websites place attorneys’ profiles at the top of the search list because the attorneys are paying them to do so. On Avvo.com there are many attorneys that are listed as a #10 but have never taken a DUI case to trial. Don’t be fooled by “pay to play” websites or other search engine paid advertising.
Develop a short list, then call and talk to the attorney, not a sales person.
Don’t listen to friends or family who say that you don’t need an attorney. The reality is they likely don’t know much about defending a DUI case.
Expertise in the court room matters. DUI cases are complex, but they are defensible, and the knowledge of the attorney defending you is crucial.
Remember, the tests for alcohol, drugs, or medication are very complex and errors can occur. In addition, the procedures used by the crime lab when analyzing your blood sample may be faulty, or the analyst may be ignoring best scientific practices and is simply cutting corners. Only an attorney with this specialized knowledge in this area can find the problem.
Chemical testing is not as simple as just blowing into a machine or having a blood or urine sample taken from a person. The sciences behind breath testing, and blood or urine sample analysis are very complex; there are many factors that affect the accuracy and reliability of the alleged results.
When defending a DUI case, the question should not be: “what are the results of the chemical test?” The questions should be “how did the crime lab arrive at those results, and are those results reliable and accurate?”
Unfortunately, many lawyers that pretend to defend people accused of DUI do not have the knowledge and expertise to successfully challenge the chemical test results, so they take the results at face value, and simply plead their clients guilty in Court. You could have done that yourself.
Do you need an expert DUI defense attorney? Only if you want to get the best resolution for your case.