A DUI (now referred to as OVI) is a serious charge. Even a first offense carries mandatory time in either jail or a court ordered treatment facility. You will also have a criminal record, lose your license for six months to three years on a first offense, and see your car insurance premiums multiply. In some circumstances, you may have to install an ignition interlock device on your car so that you have to pass a breath test each time you try to start your car.
Should this DUI be your second or greater offense, you risk having to spend substantial time in jail or residential rehabilitation, as well as the collateral consequences of a conviction.
Finding a competent DUI/OVI attorney for your case is essential, and you need to do it quickly. A DUI/OVI charge also has a civil component, which involves the suspension of your license. You are entitled to an appeal of this suspension, but you must request it within a very short time after your arrest.
The following are several avenues you can use to find and retain the right attorney for you.
If you have used an attorney in the past for whatever reason, ask them for a referral to a well-known and reputable DUI/OVI attorney. Legal professionals are usually aware of the specialties and reputation of other attorneys, even in areas where they do not practice. If the DUI/OVI attorney referred to you is well-regarded, seriously consider him or her.
Many reputable DUI/OVI attorneys have websites. Carefully look at their site to see if the attorney routinely practices DUI/OVI law.
Once you have selected one or two potential attorneys, make an appointment. When you are in their office, observe the following:
- Is the attorney genuinely interested in your case? Is he or she asking relevant questions or acting distracted?
- Will this attorney be handling your case, or will it be handed off to an associate? Although many associates are very competent, you will want to know about their skills and experience in DUI/OVI law. Make sure that you will get the lawyer you are expecting to get.
- Discuss the lawyer’s litigation and trial experience. Although most cases do not go to trial, there are attorneys who rarely do so and may refer the case to someone else to try if you are not satisfied with a plea offer. If the attorney appears reluctant to disclose their trial experience or downplays it, this shows a lack of professionalism and credibility.
- Ask for a copy of the attorney’s retainer agreement, and go over it with him or her. There may be other costs, such as those to hire investigators and experts, which need to be disclosed.
- If you like the attorney, meet the staff and assess their demeanor and professionalism, since you may be meeting with them again during the process. A professional-looking office and staff is a reflection of the attorney as well.
Hire a DUI/OVI attorney who is trial-experienced and with whom you feel comfortable and have confidence in to resolve your case under the most favorable terms.