Driving under the influence is a serious charge that can face steep penalties, such as jail time, loss of license, and thousands of dollars in fines. Although being pulled over for drunk driving is anyone’s worst nightmare, it only gets worse and more complex from there. As a result, it is essential that you protect yourself by hiring a professional to assist you in navigating the complicated legal system. A skilled and experienced DUI attorney with a strong legal defense strategy will be able to ensure the best possible result for your case, and may even be capable of having the charges dismissed. It is certain that there is a dire need to invest, so the following is an in-depth explanation of what expenses you should expect when hiring an attorney.
Factors That Affect the Cost
Typically, when an attorney is more experienced in representing DUI cases, his or her fee will be considerably higher. Those with exceptional reputations among prosecutors, judges, and other lawyers reflect this expertise in hiking up the fee prices. An attorney’s specific focus in the specialized field of DUI defense will likely increase the cost as well. In comparing estimated quotes from various attorneys, you should keep in mind that experience and reputation are good indicators of how the lawyer will handle your case. Therefore, it is usually worth the added investment to have such a proficient DUI attorney on your side during your hearing or trial.
In addition, fees can be impacted by the circumstances and severity of your individual case. Accidents, injuries, speeding, high blood-alcohol levels, children in the car, prior criminal records, and test refusals are just a few of the complex situations that cause increased work by the lawyer and amplified costs. Legal expenses also take into consideration the time that has to be devoted to the case by the attorney. For instance, if the attorney must repeatedly appear in court, there will be higher costs. When lawyers need to make stronger efforts to obtain copies of video recordings, find breathalyzer records, or represent you in-person at a DMV hearing, you should expect the costs to reflect this work.
Although it is often overlooked, attorneys must also cover some costs for handling your case, which will have to be reimbursed in your own fees. The attorney may re-analyze blood samples by an independent laboratory, consult with a forensic toxicologist about your breath tests, and/or subpoena police records on the breathalyzer used. While all of these tests and records will increase your costs, it will also increase the likelihood that the lawyer is able to poke holes in the prosecution’s case and achieve favorable results. All of the evidence that he or she uncovers will be a main factor in how the prosecutor resolves your case.
Average Costs for Hiring a DUI Lawyer
For a basic first offense DUI arrest, DUI attorneys in Los Angeles and Southern California will typically set average prices between $1,000 and $7,500. Lawyers that have minimal experience, will spend little time on your case, and will not cover costs will charge at the low end, from $1,000 to $2,000. On the other hand, lawyers that are specialized attorneys in DUI defense, maintain a solid reputation in the field, and will spend an extensive time on the case will charge at the high end, from $4,000 to $7,500. If your case goes to trial, you should expect to spend anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000. The classic saying remains true here; you will get what you pay for.
Most attorneys require a deposit made upfront in order to take on your case. While the exact amount will vary depending on the specific circumstances, the price for most proficient DUI attorneys in Los Angeles can be expensive. Therefore, ensure that the attorney is willing to establish a type of payment plan to help you manage these costs. Some will be expected to be paid by cash or check, while others will take credit cards. If you are trying to gather a large sum of money quickly, the latter may simplify things greatly. Either way, make sure that the attorney is able to work out a payment plan that suits your financial needs and budget.
A Word of Caution
When searching for an attorney to represent your DUI case, it is important to be attentive to some of the misleading practices that are somewhat common among unqualified attorneys. Beware these attorneys that promise unusually low costs for their services. Although it is easy to be tempted by these low figures, there is a very good reason that the attorneys can offer discounted deals. Generally, the lower prices signal inexperience, bad reputations, and lack of ability to handle your specialized case. In the legal field, these attorneys are known as “dump trucks.” Since their costs cannot justify the hard work, time, and repeated court appearances, they will usually dump the client by pleading guilty within the first hearing.
Similarly, you need to be on the lookout for attorneys that are seeking ways to take advantage of clients and get rich in the process. Be wary of any lawyers that give you a quote that is higher than ranges presented above. Some attorneys may try to trick you into believing that they are the best in the field, while insisting on charges upwards of $10,000 for a first-offense DUI arrest. This is relatively common in DUI defense firms that spend a humongous amount on advertising, while you are left paying their bills and stuck with an inexperienced attorney. Beware these attorneys with unusually high costs and their empty promises.
Some DUI attorneys are willing to provide a free consultation before signing a contract, so take this opportunity to meet with multiple prospective attorneys. Inquire about all of the legal expenses that you will be charged, including attorney fees and retainer fees. If the lawyer shows any of the mentioned warning signs or will not provide an estimated price, it is highly recommended that you walk away immediately. Ensure that you are fully aware of all expenses before signing on the dotted line, in order to avoid costly surprises down the road.