When Does It Make Sense To Hire A Lawyer For A DUI/DWI Case In Houston?
In every state in the US, driving under the influence is tried as a crime in criminal court. While you have the right to represent yourself in such a trial, most defendants choose to hire a lawyer of their own or make use of the public defender provided to them.
If you’re facing a DUI and uncertain about the right sort of legal representation to seek out, this article will help you understand your options.
The Value Of Expert Advice
Every DUI case has its strengths and weaknesses, and the laws that apply are often complex. Assessing a case can be extremely difficult without training and experience. This is why at least hearing an experienced DUI lawyer’s opinion on your case is valuable.
Many DUI specialists provide free consultations to prospective clients. Even if you end up having to pay for a consultation, you’re not going to be wasting your money. When you have a DUI consultation, bring all of the relevant documents you have, including your police report. It’s also helpful to think about the specific questions you want to have answered and to bring them in writing.
A consultation does not oblige you to hire the attorney you meet with. It is, though, a very good way to gauge a potential attorney and decides whether or not to hire them.
Can You Handle A DUI Without An Attorney?
Prosecutors will typically deliver a standardized plea offer if you are facing a standard DUI without prior offenses. The plea deal usually entails a sentence at the low end of the spectrum of possibilities for a first DUI. A standard plea is usually only offered if there are not any aggravating factors in your case, like injuries, accidents, or an exceptionally high BAC.
The standard plea offer can be taken no matter what sort of legal representation you have. This might lead you to believe that there’s no need to hire an attorney for a first DUI case if there aren’t any aggravating factors. For many DUI defendants, though, the standard deal can be improved upon by a knowledgeable DUI attorney.
By collecting information on mitigating factors and potential weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case, an experienced DUI lawyer can negotiate a more favorable outcome for you. An attorney who is familiar with the local court, the judge and the district attorney involved in the case may also have valuable additional insight to improve your negotiating position.
If a defendant has a strong defense, going to court may be preferable to accepting a plea deal. It is difficult or impossible to know if you are in this situation if you are representing yourself, though. This is why it is wise to at least consult with a lawyer before accepting a standard plea offer.
Every defendant in a criminal case has the right to representation. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you will have one appointed for you by the court. These lawyers usually come from the public defender’s office.
Public defenders represent a large number of clients, and most of them have considerable DUI experience. Public defenders also tend to have the positive local insight discussed above – they’re familiar with the courts, district attorneys, and judges they meet. This makes public defenders adept at plea bargaining, and most of them also have strong trial skills.
There are potential disadvantages to public representation. Public defenders all handle lots of cases simultaneously. This means your case may not get as much attention as you feel it deserves. You also do not get any choice in who represents you; you are obliged to accept the attorney provided by the court.
In many jurisdictions, you have two separate court proceedings to handle following a DUI arrest. In addition to a criminal case, there is also an “administrative per se” case with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Because public defenders are appointed only for criminal proceedings, you will have to handle the DMV case on your own if you opt for a public defender.
A private DUI lawyer can represent you in both criminal court and DMV proceedings. There are significant advantages to having consistent representation in both proceedings. A DUI attorney can typically get you a shorter license-suspension period, for example.
The cost of a private lawyer is the biggest stumbling block to hiring one. For most cases, a private DUI lawyer will cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. Taking your case all the way to trial can cost even more. And the money you spend is no guarantee of a better outcome; sometimes a private lawyer can’t do anything more for you than a public defender could.
If you can afford a private DUI attorney, it’s usually worth the expense. Paying for a private lawyer allows you to exercise full control over who represents you. Many lawyers who seek out DUI work have in-depth expertise that cannot be matched by public defenders or other attorneys. That additional experience can, in some cases, deliver better results.
Working with a private attorney also often reduces the amount of time you need to spend in court. Some jurisdictions require clients represented by public defenders to appear in person at every court date. You do not need to attend every routine appearance if you have a private attorney on your side. The ability to skip these appearances is a significant perk, particularly for defendants who would have to miss work to appear in court.
Retaining private counsel also gives you more one-on-one time than you would receive from a public defender. This allows you to have all your questions answered and ensure that all of your concerns are addressed by your attorney.
An Attorney Is Virtually A Necessity If You Go To Trial
While you have the right to represent yourself all the way to trial on a DUI charge, it rarely works out well. Trial practice comes with a steep learning curve, and making your case effectively requires a great deal of experience. You will be significantly disadvantaged without legal experience and trial skills. Most judges are not charitable to defendants who represent themselves in DUI cases and slow the proceedings down with their lack of understanding. If your DUI case is going to trial, you need to have an attorney on your side.