Hiring an Attorney for DUI Prosecution
Faced with a DUI, especially a first offense, it would be natural to ask "Do I need to hire an attorney?". Technically, the answer is no. There is no requirement in Minnesota that a person charged with DUI be represented by an attorney. There are, however, many reasons why it is usually best to be represented by an experienced DUI defense attorney. Often a person charged with DUI feels guilty. He knows he was drinking and driving, and may even feel it would be somehow inappropriate to "fight it". He might assume that the officer was experienced and followed correct procedures, and that the state has an "open-and-shut case against him. Even so, it is still in that person's best interests to have good legal representation.
An experienced defense attorney will be able to obtain all the police reports and related documents quickly, and will review them carefully. By knowing what to look for, the attorney may be able to discover legal defenses which the client would not have known about or recognized. Sometimes defenses are subtle, and while a defense may not be significant enough to get a case dismissed, it may help put the client in a better negotiating position. It makes sense for anyone charged with DUI to have someone with experience evaluate the case before proceeding on the assumption that they have no defense. Even in a case where there are no usable defenses, an attorney can do alot to assist the client in achieving the most lenient sentence possible.
By pointing out positive aspects of the case or the client, the attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor to reduce the charge to a lesser offense. By being familiar with the tendencies of different judges and knowing the procedural steps a client is entitled to, the attorney may be able to have the client's case handled by a more lenient judge. By presenting the case to the judge in the most favorable light, the attorney may be able to influence the judge's position on sentencing. And by helping the client prepare for the interview with the probation officer the attorney may be able to help the client avoid unnecessarily burdensome probation conditions.
An attorney can often help arrange time for a client to pay any fines or fees, and can help guide the client through the process of getting driving privileges reinstated. In order to get the best representation, it is important to hire an attorney who concentrates his or her practice in the defense of DUI cases. As with many areas of the law, DUI law changes frequently. Your attorney must be up to date on the most current laws and how they are being interpreted by the courts.
Your attorney should also be familiar with the other people involved in the system, such as the judges, prosecutors, court clerks and probation officers. Just as you wouldn't ask an eye surgeon to operate on your heart, you shouldn't ask a real estate attorney to handle your DUI. There are many well-qualified DUI attorneys in practice. You may want to speak with more than one before you make a decision. Being listed in an attorney directory, a telephone directory or an attorney referral service does not necessarily mean an attorney is good at a particular type of case. Most such directories will list whoever wants to pay to be listed. Referrals from friends or co-workers who feel they were well represented are a good place to start. You can ask your family lawyer if he or she knows a good DUI defense lawyer. You can even go to the local courthouse and ask a court clerk or public defender who they would recommend. If you receive direct mailings from attorneys offering to represent you, you may want to contact some of them as a starting point.
In speaking with an attorney, feel free to ask questions about how much of his or her practice deals with DUI cases. Ask about some of the facts of your case and some potential defenses. See if the attorney is knowledgeable about DUI defenses, driver's license reinstatement requirements, court scheduling, or whatever specific issues are involved in your case. Most important, see if you feel comfortable with the attorney. Does he or she seem competent and comfortable discussing the case with you? Is he or she willing to take the time to explain things?
If you are going to pay an attorney to represent you, you should expect to have a full understanding of what that attorney is doing for you, and why. You should also speak openly about fees. The attorney should be able to give you straight answers to questions regarding how much he or she charges to perform certain services. Some attorneys charge fees based on a "package" of services, while others charge on a service-by-service basis. For example, one attorney may quote a fee of $3,000.00 for a package of services including representation in the criminal case, including a trial if necessary, and an Implied Consent Hearing. Another attorney may quote separate fees such as $1,000.00 to represent you in the criminal case without an actual trial, an additional $1,000.00 if there is a trial in the criminal case, and a separate $1,000.00 for an Implied Consent hearing. Your attorney should be willing to discuss these issues with you and put your fee arrangement in writing.