If you are charged with driving under the influence (DUI), you may feel concerned about the possible consequences of a conviction. Even a first offense may bring significant penalties that will disrupt your life. If you are charged with DUI, hire an experienced DUI defense lawyer who can advocate for you and help you get the best possible outcome for your case.
The Price of a DUI Conviction
Under Pennsylvania law, penalties for DUI depend on factors including blood alcohol concentration and whether the charge is a first or repeat offense. The minimum penalties for a first offense include a $300 fine and six months probation. However, maximum penalties include fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, three days to six months in prison, and 12-months driver’s license suspension.
Even if you never have another DUI, getting a conviction may affect your life for years to come. Your reputation may be harmed, your record may limit future employment opportunities, and you will automatically become a “high-risk driver,” and your auto insurance company may increase your rates or even deny renewal of your policy.
Use a Defense Attorney
Your hearing will be your one opportunity to minimize potential damage from your DUI, and those high stakes are why you should hire an experienced advocate who will work hard on your behalf. Using a private defense lawyer requires a financial commitment that using a public defender or trying to defend yourself does not. However, it is ultimately an investment in yourself and your future, and it may be one that you can’t afford not to make.
Find the Right Lawyer
Having a court date on the calendar may give you a sense of urgency, but that does not necessarily mean you should agree to representation by the first lawyer you meet. Before you hire a lawyer, know the qualifications you should be looking for. First and foremost, you need someone with specific and current experience in DUI defense, and a strong record of best outcomes for former clients. They should be professional, respectful, and responsive. You can make the best determination about who to hire if you schedule an initial interview with several potential lawyers.
It may feel tempting to simply hire a friend or relative who is a lawyer to represent you because you already have an existing relationship. However, if that person does not have experience with DUI cases you absolutely should not choose them to represent you in criminal court. Lawyers have specific areas of practice, not unlike other professionals. Just as you would not hire a dentist to remove your appendix, don’t hire a real estate lawyer to handle your DUI defense.
Ask Friends and Family for Recommendations
You may be able to find a good DUI lawyer by asking friends and family members for recommendations. If you know someone who has used a DUI lawyer in the past, you may want to ask them specific questions about their experience. Did their lawyer negotiate a plea deal? How did the lawyer perform in court? What was the outcome of the case? Would they hire that lawyer again?
Ask an Attorney for a Referral
Regardless of their area of practice, many lawyers may be able to offer the names of criminal defense colleagues they know through bar associations, professional organizations, former employment, or law school.
Search the Philadelphia Bar Association Website
You can find defense attorneys by searching the online referral resource on the Philadelphia Bar Association website. The bar association will provide you with an attorney referral and arrange a consultation for a $35 fee. You may also call them at (215) 238-6333 for search and referral by phone.
Check out Attorneys Through Independent Resources
You can find more attorney information on professional websites such as Martindale, The National Trial Lawyers, American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys, and others. These and other professional organizations provide information on the top attorneys in the country.
Get the Most out of Your Consultation
Take a list of relevant questions and make notes during your meeting. Treat the consultation like an interview, because that is what you are doing: deciding whether or not to hire this person to represent you.
When you interview potential attorneys, confirm that their experience is up-to-date. Unless you ask, an attorney might not disclose that she or he has not actually handled a DUI case in several years. You should also ask for information about their record. While they may not be able to reveal certain privileged information, they should still be able to tell you facts such as how many cases they have handled and their results.
Through the interview process, ask additional questions to determine whether this lawyer has:
- Strong working knowledge of DUI defense: Ask your attorney about potential defenses and strategies, and how they might work for you.
- A good relationship with the prosecutor: A client invariably benefits from their lawyer’s professionalism and ability to work respectfully and cooperatively with everyone involved in the case.
- Enough time for your case: Lawyers are notoriously busy, but they should still spend time with you discussing your case and answering your questions. It is fair to ask a lawyer about their current caseload, and how much time they devote to each client. The best defense will be offered by someone who can focus on your case and give it the resources it requires.
- Love for the job: You deserve a lawyer who practices criminal defense because they care about justice, their clients, and the rewards of their work.
- Commitment: The best lawyers are those who are committed to being prepared and getting the best possible outcomes for every case.
Contact The Zeiger Firm
If you have been charged with DUI you need an experienced criminal defense attorney working for you. The Zeiger Firm serves clients in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, and Chester Counties, and throughout Pennsylvania. Contact us at (215) 546-0340 or online to schedule a consultation and learn if we may be able to serve you.