If someone is facing a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, he or she may be overwhelmed and not sure what to do or what to expect. The defendant may be unsure of whether an attorney is needed or whether he or she can handle the matter alone.
When is it best to seek the assistance of legal counsel if facing a DUI?
Reasons to Hire an Attorney
Many reasons exist for why it is important to hire an attorney to assist in defending a DUI charge. Some of the most prominent reasons are:
- Attorneys know the law, rules of evidence, and local court rules.
- An attorney has spent a great deal of time and money on obtaining a legal education and maintaining his or her license, and it is for good reason that attorneys are brought in to help on a case.
- The attorney will know the appropriate defense techniques. Defending a DUI is much more than saying that the person was not impaired by alcohol.
- The attorney will know how to review the police report to ensure that the determination that the person was intoxicated was made appropriately.
- The attorney will also be better able to argue in favor of the defendant than a layperson could.
- An attorney will know what facts and circumstances lead to a good plea bargain, when a case is worth fighting in trial and when it is not.
Requesting a Public Defender Versus Hiring a Private Attorney
Criminal defendants have the right to an attorney. If someone cannot afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint a public defender for that person.
Public defenders are attorneys hired by the county and are assigned to criminal cases where the defendants cannot afford an attorney.
Keep in mind that they are likely to be very familiar with the court itself, the prosecutors and attorneys on the other side and the DUI criminal laws. They are also likely to be skilled in taking cases to trial in the event plea bargaining is not successful.
One matter to be kept in mind, however, is the State of Washington has two separate proceedings for someone arrested with a DUI. The criminal proceeding would be handled by the public defender, but what about the administrative hearing involving the driver’s license? Public defenders are not appointed for these matters, and the defendant will likely need to handle this alone.
Defendants are always welcome to hire a private DUI attorney, and this person can handle both the criminal and administrative portions of the hearing.
It can help having the same attorney handle both portions of the case. While hiring a private attorney comes with legal costs, it can help to have the attorney cover the case in its entirety.
Most attorneys will work on a retainer basis, and the costs will be more if the case goes to trial. Be sure to discuss fees with an attorney before hiring him or her.
Arranging a Consultation
It never hurts to at least get a recommendation and advice on how to proceed on the case. Because most defendants are not well-versed in DUI law, it can help to meet with an attorney to go over the specifics of the case and get an idea on what to expect.
Most DUI attorneys will give clients a free consultation. After that meeting, the client can decide how to proceed.
Going to Trial
If the defendant anticipates the case going to trial, it is always recommended that an attorney be retained.
Clients are always welcome to represent themselves, but they are held to the same standard by judges that other attorneys are. Judges are not allowed to give preferential treatment to self-represented litigants, and many times, judges have little patience for these types of cases.
The best rule of thumb is to hire an attorney for the best outcome.