Selecting A Colorado DUI Attorney
Finding an experienced and knowledgeable Denver DUI defense attorney can be a difficult and frustrating experience. When it comes to dealing with the consequences of a DUI, experience counts, especially when selecting a Colorado DUI lawyer. Although the penalties for a first-time offense are quite severe, they can be life-altering for people with a prior offense or conviction. DUIs are lifetime offenses in Colorado and finding the right DUI lawyer to represent you is critical in protecting your rights and avoiding a lengthy jail sentence. Choosing the right DUI defense lawyer can make the all the difference in your case and the outcome. Unfortunately, most people lack the understanding or experience necessary to find the most qualified DUI attorney possible. DUI defense is one of the most complex and scientifically based crimes in America. Almost all the evidence gathered against you is based on science, pseudo-science and scientific principles. Because of the complexity of DUI cases, finding the right DUI attorney can be a difficult process as most attorneys think they can “handle” a DUI case. There is no simple answer to finding the right DUI attorney; however, below are some things you should consider and ask all attorneys with whom you speak before making a decision on whom to hire:
- Area of Focus - Does the attorney or the firm focus exclusively on DUI defense or criminal traffic cases? If the attorney takes cases outside of this very specific area, you should ask yourself whether or not they have the knowledge, training and skills necessary to properly defend your case? You don't take your car to a guy who does a little mechanical work, a little plumbing and a little electrical work; you take it to a mechanic. Hire a DUI attorney for your DUI case.
- Training - How much advanced/specialized training do the attorneys have in DUI defense? If the attorneys do not regularly attend DUI training conferences and seminars then they do not take DUI defense seriously. DUI laws, scientific principles and methods used to arrest and prosecute DUI offenders are constantly changing. A top DUI defense attorney will be aware of these changes and will attend these trainings to ensure they have defense strategies for each area. A Colorado DUI defense attorney should be trained in Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and operation of the Intoxilyzer 9000 at minimum.
- Guarantees - Did the attorney make you any promises or guarantees? No ethical attorney will make any guarantees or promises as to the result of any case. Any attorney who has experience handling DUI cases in Colorado understands how difficult they are and will often error on the side of caution or even pessimism.
- Memberships/Affiliations - Consider the involvement and commitment to DUI defense. Do the attorneys belong to the National College for DUI Defense, DUI Defense Lawyers Association and other organizations like the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, etc.? If you speak to an attorney who does not belong to the National College for DUI Defense, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the DUI Defense Lawyers Association then they do not take DUI defense seriously enough. Also, check the business ratings of the law firm you are consulting as their business ratings are often times representative of the type of attorney they are.
- Disciplinary Actions - Has the attorney ever been disciplined by the Board of Professional Responsibility of the state bar of his/her practice location? Contact the American Bar Association on line to find links to all state bar associations. If they have been disciplined, figure out why? Was it an honest mistake or is there a pattern of incompetence or dishonesty?
- Fees and Fee Structure - What does the attorney's fee structure cover? A lot of attorneys' fees will only cover part of your defense. Make sure you get a contract in writing and that the attorney explains what his/her fee covers. You should expect flat fees and no hidden legal fees. Ensure that the attorney's legal fees include all DMV hearings, all preliminary court appearances and motions hearings. Motions hearings are one of the most critical components of your defense. Do not allow your attorney to charge you additional for motions hearings. Almost all attorneys will charge a separate fee for trial; however, if the trial fee is more than the legal fee for the preliminary work, the attorney is not a DUI trial attorney. A lot of criminal defense attorneys will charge an escalated trial fee as they do not want to go to trial unless the "price is right." Any DUI defense attorney you hire should be going to trial on a regular basis. Be wary of attorneys who offer "quality representation at a low cost". Attorneys who offer this combination of service are either not qualified or will spend very little time on your case.
- Ethics - Beware of attorneys who tell you it is OK to lie or act dishonestly. Unethical attorneys never have good reputations and this will hurt you in the long run. Judges and district attorneys will never forget an attorney who tried to pull a fast one in their courtroom.
- Communication - Does the attorney or their staff return your phone calls and emails in a timely manner? Attorneys who do not respond to you in a courteous or professional time frame prior to you retaining their services is either too busy or does not believe in communicating with clients. The number one complaint against attorneys is failure to communicate with their clients. Attorneys spend a large portion of their time in courtrooms, driving to and from courthouses and reviewing discovery. An attorney who has staff available to answer your questions during business hours is priceless. Expect a return phone call from all attorneys within two business days or less.
- Staff- A top DUI defense firm will have the appropriate amount of staff available to assist attorneys and clients. If the attorney does not have qualified and competent associates, paralegals and other staff members to assist in your defense consider whether or not the attorney has the time or resources needed to effectively represent you. A competent staff of DUI personnel is worth their weight in gold and can help eliminate some of the communication issues discussed above.
- Personal Connection - One of the most important factors to consider when hiring a Colorado DUI attorney is to hire an attorney with whom you feel comfortable. Once the attorney has met the above requirements you need to hire the firm or attorney that gives you that "gut feeling." Most DUI cases last four to six months or longer so you need have a rapport with the attorneys and trust that they have your best interest in mind. If you don't feel 100 percent comfortable with an attorney, do not hire them.