Why Do You Need A Private Attorney To Prevent Your License From Being Suspended?
Interviewer: Why hire a private attorney over a public defender?
Aaron: Maybe people do not have very much money, or they cannot come up with the money for a private attorney. Therefore, they want to go with a public defender.
Most DUI lawyers will pretty much give everybody a free consultation. I always do that by phone or in person. We talk until I answer all their questions. Maybe in the end, they do decide they need to go with the public defender.
One thing to understand is the public defender cannot help with the DMV here. You have 10 days to request a hearing within your date of arrest; or else your license goes into suspension within 30 days of the date of arrest.
The DMV here is something that is very difficult to win. Again, the public defender cannot help you with that. You are not going to win on your own.
Interviewer: So if you go with a public defender, you can win the criminal side of the case; but still end up with the non-criminal side- the whole driver’s license suspension. A public defender is literally unable to help you with that side of it.
Aaron: Yes, that is absolutely right. So the worst part of a DUI conviction for some people is losing your license; especially for the people who need their license to get to work or to drive for work. It can be quite a long suspension. You do need to have an attorney for a DMV hearing.
What Is The Price You Pay When You Do Not Hire A Private Attorney?
Interviewer: I want to go back to finances for a minute. I am sure it comes up for you, a lot. I recently found statistics estimating a first time DUI can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000. This is from multiple sources on the web; not from attorneys themselves.
You mentioned all the ways an attorney can help save money; maybe on bail; if your car is impounded, court fines and fees; penalties and punishments; bracelets; jail time; loss of work; loss of license and all that.
Without knowing your fees, without even disclosing them, it sounds like hiring a private attorney is actually cheap in comparison to definitely paying all the costs of a DUI. This is if you give up, if you just let yourself be convicted or if you do not get representation.
If you face a pretty definite $10,000 to $25,000 penalty over all, it sounds like you can get a qualified attorney for a normal DUI for maybe $2,000 to $4,000. It sounds like you can improve your odds and pay a third or a quarter of what you would for sure have had to pay; or even less. Is that accurate?
Aaron: It is absolutely accurate. By the way, any attorney charging less than $3,000 in the San Francisco Bay area is not charging enough because of the time and effort that needs to go into the court case and the DMV case.
If you see that type of attorney, know that cheap attorneys are not good. That is something people find out the hard way. I get a lot of second offenses and people say, “I had a 0.08 on my first case seven years ago, and now I am facing a second case.”
My response is usually, “I wish you talked to me the first time, when you had a 0.08. We could have turned that into a non-DUI. If we couldn’t do that, then we could have gone to trial and at least fought it there.” This is because the consequences are just so severe on a second DUI.
Let’s go back to your question of financial savings. I have seen studies that show people save many hundreds of thousands of dollars and get a better result by hiring a good DUI lawyer. They are able to save their current job. When you think about not just what your salary is and how you are going to replace it, also think how much insurance is.
Insurance costs families $20,000-$30,000 minimum a year for a family with full coverage, when you are not doing it through a company. It is outrageous. Then the insurance savings can be many thousands of dollars. In the end, the lawyer fees are usually one of the smallest amounts that you are paying.
To pay $4,000, $5,000, $3,500 or whatever it is for a very good DUI lawyer, is going to be nothing in the long run when you look at what they can do for you.
The other thing they give you is peace of mind knowing you hired someone who knows what they are doing, someone who will do everything in their power for you. This is someone who will get you the best results possible; as opposed to going with someone who just goes in and pleads you guilty right away or who does not fight for you.
When you do that or if you represent yourself, you are never going to know. You have many years left. For the next 40, 50, 60 years, whatever it is, you are going wonder how your life could have been different if you had hired a very good DUI lawyer when this happened.
I always tell people they are free to make their own choice. It is a fantastic right that we have in the United States. You get a lawyer of your choice. Unfortunately for people who do not have any money, it is a little tougher. However, I think everyone who gets a DUI should find a way to make it happen.
You will find good lawyers who will do payment plans. You do not have to pay everything up front to every single, very good DUI lawyer. There are some, like myself, who will do payment plans for a DUI.
The reason I do payment plans is people are putting all their trust and faith in me. I am going to put my trust in them as well. I think that should go both ways. I treat people who become my clients like family. It is very important to show someone who is arrested for a DUI that you do care about them.
I do care about my clients tremendously and I want to help them any way that I can. For most, it is trying to get the best results I can in a case and advising clients in every aspect of their case. For some, it is trying to help turn their lives around.
I represent a lot of people who have very serious drug and alcohol issues. A lot of those problems stem from other family issues. For me, it involves getting people into counseling, meetings, and programs; and to go see therapists. There is so much that goes into this. So someone who represents people on DUI cases has to be someone who cares.
It cannot just be someone who only represents people on first DUIs; or someone who never does hearings or goes to trial. Those lawyers are out there. So someone looking for a DUI lawyer should always ask: Does this lawyer ever go to trial? Do they file motions? How long do they expect the case to go on? What does the attorney expect to do?
There are so many lawyers out there who are not doing what they really should be doing, to fight your case. If you want to go plead guilty, you do not need to hire a lawyer to just go in and sign paperwork.
Lawyers can do a lot for people. When someone quotes you $1,500, $2,000 or somewhere in that range to do a DUI, they are not going to do much for you.
Interviewer: I guess they literally do not have the money and the resources to do a lot for their clients.
Aaron: No, they do not. A lot of those attorneys are basically just trying to get as many cases as they can. They are just pleading everybody guilty and moving on to the next case.
By Aaron Bortel
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