When you have been charged with driving under the influence in Illinois, you will need a lawyer who has extensive experience handling cases that involve impaired driving charges. While any lawyer can represent your interests in court, a legal counsel who has years of experience successfully representing clients (and a track record of plea bargaining) with DUI cases is your best chance of a reduced sentence and more lenient restrictions.
Selecting an attorney to represent your DUI case is similar to conducting an interview. Remember that your legal counsel works for you, the client. As such it is important to spend a reasonable amount of time meeting with and interviewing different attorney’s and firms to determine who will connect with you best, and represent your interests most effectively. If you are paying out of pocket for your own defense (and not using court appointed free counsel) you have the right to choose.
Finding a Local Attorney
If you are incarcerated, you are permitted access to resources that can help you arrange for legal counsel. If you are given access to a computer and the internet, you can easily look up law firms in your local area and call them. Alternatively if you are not provided with this access, call a family member to assist by contacting 2-3 DUI specialty attorney’s and schedule interview appointments. Be prepared to ask questions that will help narrow your choice down to find the best attorney for your case, and one you feel comfortable working with.
Interviewing Legal Counsel
It is expected that any lawyer who is interested in taking your case will be happy to share information on their case history and performance. After all, the whole point of seeking private representation is to increase your chances of plea bargaining your case before the court. You need a lawyer who has a good track record, and familiarity with your circumstances.
Be prepared to ask a number of questions to help qualify your selection of a DUI lawyer.
a) What is your hourly rate?
While it may seem awkward to ask the question, the cost of some counsel can exceed what you may have in terms of means. Do you have savings or other financial resources (including family members) who can contribute to the cost of your defense? Determine what your level of affordability is and ask for an estimate of the cost for your defense.
Remember that an estimate is based on an hourly rate, and the required work on your case is difficult to predict, but a good lawyer will be able to give you an average or “ball park” figure to help you make a decision that fits your budget. That figure should also include the cost of file review, evidence collection and the cost of investigators which may be used by your attorney to assist in building your case.
b) How many impaired driving cases have you taken to trial?
A lawyer can have extensive experience preparing impaired drivers defenses as part of a legal team, without ever having stepped foot in court. If your DUI charge includes a felony offense (involuntary manslaughter or reckless endangerment charges) or if they involve a loss of life or personal injury, you need a lawyer who is confident with presenting cases in court. It is also okay to ask for information regarding the number of cases they have won or successfully plea bargained. It will help give you an idea about their ability to create a strategic defense that will work in court.
c) Do you have malpractice insurance?
The question may seem awkward but it protects both your attorney and your own personal interests. All lawyers should carry valid malpractice insurance. Ask to see evidence of a policy to validate it. In the event that a lawyer does not have legal malpractice insurance, the client can be held responsible for damages in a negligence or malpractice suit. It is for the mutual protection of attorney and client that you should insist on seeing evidence of malpractice insurance.
d) Have you ever been disciplined by the Bar Association?
Would you like a lawyer who has a track record of “getting it wrong” when it comes to the defense of his or her clients? Complaints and discipline handed down by the Bar Association is an indicant of both the ethics and the professionalism of your attorney. For your DUI defense, you want a lawyer who knows the rules, not one that has a bad reputation within the Illinois court system. While there should be no bias, it can impact the successful plea bargaining in your case.
If the driving under the influence charge appears to fall in the category of a felony offense, you can face more than a suspension of your license and fines; you can face a lengthy prison sentence. Take your time and due diligence in selecting the best DUI lawyer in Will County for your case.