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The Torrid Truth About DUI Defense Firms

Posted By Nors Davidson || 23-Nov-2010

While this entry may seem unduly biased against other DUI defense firms, I feel it necessary to expose the truth about many (not all) such offices for the benefit of the unfortunate individual who is regrettably arrested for DUI and in need of an attorney. 

I spent the greater part of five years working for a DUI defense firm.  While this experience allowed me to represent several hundred DUI clients, it also showed me how driven the DUI industry is to making money. 

DUI firm advertising is expensive.  Your search for a lawyer usually begins on websites like www.google.com or www.bing.com or some other search engine.  One of the first things you'll notice is the same firm listed repeatedly on the first five pages of your search.  Literally thousands of dollars are spent each year by the DUI firm to have such advertising.  These costs invariably lead to inflated attorney fees.  It is not uncommon for a first offense DUI to be quoted at fees close to or greater than $5,000.  In my opinion, it simply does not cost that much money for a DUI attorney to achieve a maximum Pre-Trial result for that kind of money. 

A second problem with the DUI firm is that you truly don't know who is representing you on your case.  Many offices advertise one big name lawyer, but the truth is that most of your case is handled by a junior associate or even a contract attorney who is not actually employed by the firm.  DUI cases should be handled primarily by one attorney.  That attorney should be your contact for your case and have a physical office where you can meet him or her prior to any significant stage of your case.  The old adage "too many cooks in the kitchen" aptly applies to DUI defense as well. 

Beware of DUI firms that really aren't local.  For example, many DUI firms are actually based out of Southern California.  These DUI firms charge you an inflated fee and then contract out your case with a local attorney with whom they split your money.  Basically, you're paying double for the same defense you could have received by simply hiring your DUI attorney directly.  Case in point:  A former DUI client of mine hired a Southern California based DUI defense firm to handle his first offense DUI case in Marin County.  The DUI firm charged him $8,000 for the pre-trial work alone (i.e. settling his case and handling the DMV hearing).  Although this was a "refusal" DUI case and the client's attendance at the DMV hearing was critical, the DUI firm advised him not to attend.  The
DUI firm then appeared for the San Francisco DMV hearing over the telephone.  The attorney handling the hearing entered only two objections and didn't ask a single question of the arresting officer who testified.  Needless to say, the client lost the hearing and his license was suspended for one year.  The client was so upset that he hired me to take over his case.  For less money that he spent on the DUI firm, I took his case to jury trial and he was subsequently acquitted.  The bottom line is: local cases require local counsel

In contrast, I believe the foremost concern of the DUI attorney is helping the client get the best result period.  Results require a local attorney who is responsive to your needs and can outline the best strategy for your DUI case.  Every DUI case is unique and each requires different strategical decisions.  After many DUI firms get your case, their primary goal is settling it as quickly as possible so they can move on to the next case.  This is not always in the client's best interest. 

In conclusion, not all DUI defense firms are like this.  However, you must do your research before you make an important decision like hiring a DUI lawyer.  Check the attorney's www.avvo.com rating, look them up on www.calbar.org and see if they've been suspended and why.  If possible, meet the DUI attorney at his or her office and see if they are legitimate.  If a DUI firm is asking for $5,000 or more to handle a simple first offense DUI, ask them WHY the fee is so high and what they can do for you that another attorney can't.  I won't deny that my office is "for profit," however; I believe in service to the client regardless of the bottom line.  In the end, you feel bad enough about your DUI arrest and have probably punished yourself more than any court will.  Don't let your DUI attorney punish you even further. 
Categories: DUI Defense