When facing life-changing decisions, “cheap” is not the same as value. Over 30 years, I’ve met hundreds of people charged with DUI. Many, some might say too many, are facing a second or third offense. Too often, they were told either to represent themselves or to get the cheapest lawyer.
All lawyers do not provide the same services, and all lawyers do not charge fees in the same way. Lawyers can charge fees based on an hourly rate or a fixed amount. Some lawyers also charge costs for parking, travel, postage, and other expenses.
With an hourly fee, the client receives an itemized statement of the time that the lawyer expended on your case. The problem, which experience has taught me, is that most folks prefer not to pay a lawyer for a wasted trip to court. Sometimes, the court has too many cases on the day’s docket. Almost always, the court system is arranged to lead the defense into a plea. Fighting the system typically requires multiple trips to court. While my clients may be very happy with the final outcome, clients are faced with the unfair decision of choosing to fight and pay more legal fees or surrender and pay less.
For these reasons, my clients almost always choose a fixed fee. All of my fees are identified in a clear agreement. Typically, a DUI case involves at least one session, or occasionally two sessions, to complete an MVA Hearing. For cases with any measure of complexity – and developing this complexity is the job of the defense lawyer – the Circuit Court is the better forum. At least three days should be planned in such a case.
A first offender certainly can walk into the District Court, with a certificate from an alcohol counselor, and receive about the same result whether accompanied by an attorney or proceeding without an attorney. If you consider the DUI as a legal proceeding and a potential health issue, then going the cheapest route is less likely to achieve the best result.
Value comes from taking every logical and lawful step to optimize your chances to succeed. Contrary to the claims of lawyers and others, pleading guilty in DUI cases does not produce a “better deal”. Judges do not punish defendants for maintaining their rights.
I have had many clients who had, in prior cases, entered a guilty plea in a previous DUI. Perhaps a trial would not have altered the outcome. Almost everyone expressed regret in not having a lawyer who explored every option and then communicated with them about their options.
The best value is not a matter of dollars. The best value comes from receiving the attention that you are entitled to receive.