Providing discreet and superior DUI defense for the discerning few since 1975.
If a DUI conviction is not an option; if a DUI conviction will destroy your life; then it is time to turn to a nationally recognized leader of the DUI Defense Bar—James Farragher Campbell.
The ABCs Of DUI Defense: A guide for those arrested
by James Farragher Campbell, ESQ.
CHAPTER 2: MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION
O.K. you have been arrested. Now it is time to get it together and figure out the best thing to do. The first thing you should definitely do is set up a consultation with a DUI defense attorney. If you woke up with severe chest pains you would see a doctor! Well this is much the same – see a lawyer. But by all means, see a DUI defense lawyer! If you had chest pains would you see a podiatrist?
The big surprise is that if you went to see a doctor to determine what might be wrong with you, you would pay. To see the best DUI defense lawyers in the country will not cost you a dime. All you are spending is your time. Don’t be a fool, talk to a lawyer.
When you do arrange for a consultation, be sure that you are going to interview with the actual lawyer who you are considering for representation. As I said, you usually can speak with some of the top DUI defense lawyers in the country without having to pay a consultation fee. So, why not start at the top. Go see the best. My advice, of course, is to speak with a DUI defense lawyer and not a general criminal lawyer. When I first started practice as a criminal defense lawyer in 1975, DUI cases were handled by general practitioners because, for the most part, the cases could easily be negotiated. With the advent of no plea bargaining positions, new statutory crimes and advancements in chemical testing, avenues of defense were blocked. Now this area of criminal defense (DUI defense) has become so complicated that it is now recognized as a “specialty” by the American Bar Association. Today DUI defense is one of the most difficult areas of criminal law. Public sentiment has moved the courts and the legislature to impose much stricter laws and penalties for DUI. Trial has become much more difficult due to the public initial emotional mind set against those accused of a DUI, an offense the average juror today often perceives as “Drinking and Driving,” not “Drunk Driving.”
Any lawyer who undertakes the defense of a DUI case today does not have an easy task. We all hope that our courts apply the law even-handedly to all citizens accused of a crime in all types of criminal cases. But, in a DUI case, there are many exceptions that do not exist in any other type of criminal case. Usually, the arrested person gets to call a lawyer after an arrest – not in a DUI case. Usually, an arrested person gets to speak with a lawyer if they want – not in a DUI case. Usually, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt each and every element of a crime before the person can be convicted – not in a DUI case. There are many judicial and legislative exceptions that apply to virtually all phases of substantive and procedural law in DUI cases which does not make the defender’s job easy. The defense of a drinking driver is one of the most difficult tasks in criminal law. The general public perception, stiffer penalties, relaxed constitutional safeguards and an attitude adjustment in both the legislature and the courts has caused the DUI trial to evolve into an area suited only to those well-versed and well-trained in the complexities of alcohol related criminal litigation. These complexities involve an array of physiological, biological, pharmacological and legal issues which the average criminal defense lawyer may be ill-suited to handle.
The task of DUI defense today requires a lawyer not only with extensive legal skills, but also with a solid understanding and knowledge of the scientific and technical aspects which will be encountered in the DUI case. Any lawyer today who views the DUI case as a routine traffic offense is either ill-prepared, naïve, or both. No longer is their client merely facing a fine or a short license suspension if the case is not handled properly. Today, a convicted drunk driver faces mandatory incarceration, a substantial fine, a lengthy license suspension, community service, a criminal record and a whole litany of collateral consequences that impact employment and travel.
When you think about selecting a DUI defense lawyer, be careful. There are some law firms that claim to provide representation all over the state. Do you really think one lawyer is going to be all over the State of California handling DUI cases? In these situations, it is likely that you will be assigned to another lawyer who has an office in the area where your case is located. The referring lawyer will then probably take some kind of a referral fee to turn your case over. There are a few firms that spend a great deal of money on advertising and have a standing relationship with local lawyers who, in turn, are assigned your case. You can easily spot these lawyers and firms in that they each advertise separately and jointly. In other words, lawyer X is listed as a member of law firm Y, but you see lawyer X’s advertisements for his own office standing separate and apart from law firm Y. You are probably paying more for the referral from law firm Y to lawyer X, than if you hired lawyer X directly.
When you have your interview, the interviewing lawyer should be able to give you a case evaluation and intelligently explain how she would go about defending your case. Any lawyer who spends time telling you how good they are is not telling you how they would go about trying to win your case. Get information on what he perceives to be the issues in your case and what chances you have in either winning the case or getting a favorable settlement away from a DUI conviction.
Also, if you are interviewing a prominent DUI defense lawyer, ask what his actual legal involvement in your defense case will be? Is she just overseeing the case? Is she available to you for ongoing case consultations during the litigation? And, the big question, will she actually go to court on your case and be personally available for trial? What is the benefit of a “big name” if that individual is not there at your side? What is the benefit of an excellently-skilled lawyer if he is going to have an associate try your case?
You should also be sure to ask about the firm’s procedure on how you will be kept informed about the status of the case. Will you be receiving letters and copies of all motions filed in your defense, copies of all police reports and DMV reports? You want to be sure that you will be kept well-informed on the progress and developments in your case at all times. These are difficult cases and, as the case proceeds, decisions will have to be made. You cannot make an informed decision if you are not properly informed.
Also, once retained, most DUI defense lawyers will automatically contact the DMV within the ten (10) day time limit and will represent you at the DMV hearing. Most times, you will not have to attend this hearing; however, each case is different and the lawyer will advise you if your appearance will be necessary well in advance of the scheduled hearing. This time limit for a requested DMV hearing is limited to ten (10) days. If you do not make your request within the ten (10) day period you are not entitled to a hearing. It is best to have the lawyer who is going to represent you make the request for the hearing; but, if you do not get a lawyer within the ten day time limit then, by all means, you must call the DMV yourself and request the hearing. More information on the DMV will be found in Chapter 3.
THIS IS IMPORTANT. You simply must set aside some time to undertake this task. The lawyer you hire will have a large part to play in determining the outcome of your case. The outcome of your case can and will impact you for many years to come. IT IS IMPORTANT!
Traditionally, you might ask friends, relatives, business associates and or other lawyers you might know for the name of a good DUI defense lawyer. This, however, also reveals to others that you have been arrested and many people do not want this known. This is certainly not unusual, but it is more important to get good representation than to worry about your embarrassment. However, you do have a great research tool available to you – the Internet!
Remember, anyone can put up an Internet web site. It can say almost anything and the lawyer certainly wants you to think that they are great. Look to the lawyer’s reputation and standing in the DUI defense bar. That is what should be on the web site, not a lot of self promotion and TV appearances. There is absolutely no substitute for experience and reputation. A lawyer’s knowledge and reputation is really all that they have to sell. Naturally, those lawyers with the best track record, experience and reputation will end up costing the most, but not always. Think about the value you are getting versus the costs.
Legal Fees And Costs
Again, no surprise, you will usually get what you pay for just like any other service. The biggest names in the business will charge the most. But be careful; be sure those lawyers will actually be the lawyers working on your case. Unfortunately, there are a few-well known lawyers that attract clients but then have other associates do the actual legal work. Be sure you speak with the lawyer you want and make sure that lawyer will be available to you for trial. There are some well-known lawyers who never even interview a prospective client. They have a law clerk, an investigator, or a paralegal do it. That’s like a nurse interviewing you for open heart surgery. Why would you settle for that?
A Word of Caution on Low-Fee Lawyers
There are lawyers who can quote you a low fee, a very low fee in some cases. But you should know what you are getting for the fee. Are you going to get the quality and time commitments that are needed to be taken in your defense? They may be doing that because they have no intention of spending the proper amount of time defending your case in court. Such an attorney may have a strong financial incentive to avoid a number of court appearances and/or conduct the proper case preparation. These types of attorneys rarely, if ever, go to trial.
Favorable pretrial settlements come about through a strong advocate. A strong advocate is one that knows how to successfully try a DUI case. To successfully try a DUI case, you must have tried a great many. This is the great strength, the professional standing and reputation of good lawyers.
Again, be careful. A large fee does not necessarily guarantee a good lawyer. There are some bad apples out there just waiting for you. Always check the lawyer’s standing in Martindale-Hubble. It is the oldest directory of lawyer’s standing and reputations in the legal community. It is voted upon by other lawyers. So you have, in essence, lawyers ranking other lawyers. Some cities also have magazines, such as “San Francisco Magazine”, “Los Angeles Magazine”, etc. which from time to time, publish a “Super Lawyers” section. Here, again, this is a survey of lawyers judging or recommending other lawyers that they would choose for a particular legal problem.
Search the listing of legal organizations such as the National College for DUI Defense www.ncdd.com. This is an excellent resource for DUI lawyers. But you should be careful of commercial sites that simply list lawyers. These lawyers usually pay a fee to be listed and it really does not provide any guide to their abilities except that this is an area of law in which they want to get cases. The commercial lists are the equivalent to a yellow page ad in the phone book; it gives you a starting point.