As a Michigan DUI Lawyer, I know the role I play, and the role I am supposed to play in helping a person get past a DUI charge. A DUI Lawyer is hired to make things “better.” As you look for a DUI Lawyer, it is important to first define your needs and wants, and then try to find the Lawyer that best matches them. To do that, it would certainly be helpful to first establish a couple of parameters to help narrow your search. Of course, I am in the business of defending DUI cases, but after more than 2 decades of doing it, I have the good fortune of not needing the business so bad that I have to try and be all things to all people. Instead, I can clearly define my place in the world of DUI Lawyers so that I match up with the right Clients.
First, the term “DUI Lawyer” is rather significant. I define myself as a “DUI Lawyer.” There is an appreciable difference between a Lawyer who “does” DUI cases and one, like me, who concentrates in them. A general Criminal Lawyer may handle a few DUI cases per month. A DUI Lawyer often handles several Drunk Driving cases in a single day, every day of the week.
Second, where a Lawyer practices matters. If you’re hiring a DUI Lawyer with the hope that he or she can make things better, your chances improve if the Lawyer you hire has experience in the particular Court where your case is pending. Every Court does things its own way, and very often, different Judges in the same Court do things differently, as well. Repeat experience in the same Courts allows the Lawyer to be able to explain how things are going to play out, as well as how they are likely to turn out in your case. In addition, having enough experience with the Judge deciding your case allows the Lawyer to know what kinds of things to do and, perhaps equally as important, what not to do. There is little point in going all out and signing up for Counseling, or starting to go to AA, only to find out you wasted your time, and that the Judge couldn’t care less. You’ll only know these things by hiring a Lawyer who knows your Judge from past experience with him or her. For my part, I limit my DUI Practice to the Courts in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties.
Therefore, as a general guide, a person facing a DUI should be looking to hire a DUI Lawyer (as opposed to a Lawyer who merely “does” DUI cases) who has had regular experience in the Court where the case is, or will be pending.
Even among DUI Lawyers, there are vast differences in personality and strategy. I think that the personality aspect is the more important of the two, because if you hire a Lawyer with an “I’m the boss, and this is how we’ll do it,” personality, you’ll never even have a chance to discuss strategy, or get meaningful answers to your questions. There is no “right” personality for a Lawyer to have, although I’d argue that there is certainly no shortage of those that are “wrong.” There is little need to describe that kind of person; they are usually abrasive or rude. Then again, and not to be funny about it, that kind of personality may work for some people. You’ll know who’s wrong for you right away.
I’m rather the opposite of that; I’m a talker. I examine and explain things. I’m friendly and conversant. No one could ever describe me as a man of few words. I’ve written loads of articles about DUI cases, and I write just like I speak. This means, of course, that I won’t particularly match up well with someone who wants a Lawyer who is the “strong, silent type.” When a person hires me for a DUI, our first meeting usually lasts about 2 hours. I’m certainly not the Lawyer for someone looking to be in and out of the Attorney’s Office in 30 minutes or less
On the other hand, those Clients with whom I match well would never be content with a Lawyer who is brief, and who doesn’t thoroughly answer questions. I take the lead, and chart the strategy of the case, but I do that while addressing my Client’s concerns and explaining the process. I would never do this in a way that brushes off questions or makes a person feel uneasy about asking for an explanation. An informed Client is an asset.
The right Lawyer will explain things to your satisfaction, and will make you a partner in the strategy of the case. Some Lawyers have a “one size fits all” approach to strategy. Some will fight everything, and charge a king’s ransom for it, while others will seemingly lie down and do little by way of actually defending a case. As with so many things in life, the correct balance lies somewhere in the middle.
Fighting for the sake of fighting can look good – at first. Yet sending subpoenas to the Police for every document they have can produce quite the opposite from the intended result, and can serve to test everyone’s patience. Everyone in the Judicial system respects a Lawyer who stands up for his or her Client, but if you hire a Lawyer who can’t even agree with what day of the week it is, you’re really just going to make things worse. And you’ll pay dearly for that, in more ways than one.
Some Lawyers, especially those who market themselves for their cut-rate legal Fees, offer, not surprisingly, cut-rate services in return. Whatever else, you cannot expect anything beyond the lowest quality of help from an arrangement, which, by its very nature, generates a profit by doing the least amount of work in the greatest number of cases.
The decision about what evidence needs to be examined further, and what evidence should be challenged is the direct result of careful and proper investigation. In my Office, for example, obtaining Police in-car video is standard procedure. I doubt that’s the case for any of the low-ball, bargain Law Offices.
The object in any DUI case is, of course, is to find evidence that can be successfully challenged. The ultimate goal for me is to make things better. You cannot do that if you just blindly challenge everything, and take a “shotgun” approach. Like the little boy who cried, “Wolf,” the more you do that, the less credibility, and, in turn, the less success you’ll have. You have to pick your fights, or you’ll waste your time, and your Client’s money by picking losing battles. And that will not, under any circumstances, ever make things “better.”
These things should be considered and explored as you look for a Lawyer.
In the end, a person should hire a Lawyer with whom they feel comfortable. And to be clear, comfortable does not just mean telling you what you want to hear. Remember the old saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The majority of DUI cases don’t get thrown out of Court. Of course, a DUI case will never get thrown out because of what some bargain Lawyer DOES NOT do, but neither will dropping a pile of cash on some Lawyer’s desk just make it go away, either. If that were the case, absolutely no one who is rich and famous would ever wind up on Probation for a DUI, yet almost every day, we hear about some celebrity or other doing just that.
You should also certainly listen to your instincts. No matter how good a referral you get about some Lawyer, if you don’t feel some connection when you speak with him or her, or you leave the conversation feeling some kind of doubt, then you should not commit, at least until you’ve taken the time to look around a little more, and think things over.
I think the same holds true when you call a Lawyer’s Office. Whoever answers the phone is the “Director of First Impressions.” If you get voicemail, that’s a pretty good indication of how your questions will be answered when you call. If you’re okay with that, then great. Personally, I hang up on voicemail. I want to speak to a live person if I place a call, but that’s me. If the person who answers your call can’t answer at least some of your questions right then and there, that’s another indication of how things work at that Office. For some, this would be a deal-breaker, while for others, it couldn’t matter less. My point is that you should think about these things before you just plunk down your cash and hire a Lawyer.
My job, and the job of any DUI Lawyer is to make things better. Bringing about the best, most lenient result possible is the destination, but how you get there can be every bit as important. As you search for the right Lawyer, read what they’ve written; you can clearly pick up the Lawyer’s “voice” in their writings. Consider the things about which you have questions. It may be telling that a Lawyer hasn’t taken the time to write about those things you find important, or maybe not. If you have unanswered questions, call his or her Office. In short, do your homework…