If you have been charged with a DUI you are scared, anxious, worried and confused. You may feel depressed, ashamed or even victimized. All of these emotions take a heavy toll on you and will creep into, if not overwhelm, your work, relationships and personal life.Because you have only fourteen days to make a written request for a driver’s license hearing and to get it done right, you have to make a decision about an attorney quickly. The crisis in your life caused by a DUI arrest, and all of the anxiety and emotions that flow from it, can lead you to make a mistake in hiring an attorney. You may be tempted to hire the first one you talk to just to get the decision over with. You may allow someone to capitalize on your fears without giving you accurate information and without taking time to make the right decision. Or you may base your decision purely on who is the cheapest because you are so concerned about the financial impact that a DUI conviction or driver’s license suspension will have on you. Please review the following information regarding the things to think about when trying to find the best DUI attorney to assist you.
DO YOU EVEN NEED AN ATTORNEY?
Some people think that they don’t need an attorney to represent them, especially if it is a first offense. In fact, a lot of police officers will tell first time Kansas DUI offenders that they don’t need an attorney. A DUI, especially given the ever-tightening DUI laws in Kansas, is like a disease on your life. A DUI charge can result in a loss of driving privileges, loss of a job, jail time, upheaval of personal relationships, enormous expense and inconvenience, as well as a criminal record for life, higher insurance rates and a long-list of other social and legal problems. If you had a disease you would go see a doctor. If you needed surgery you would not perform surgery on yourself. This is an important, potentially life-altering, situation and you not only need a lawyer, but you need someone with a lot of experience and skill in the area of DUI defense.
You can represent yourself if you want. The saying that “the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client” did not become a cliché without good reason. You will likely lose your driver’s license in the administrative proceeding and have the criminal case navigated for you by a prosecutor. That is the lawyer who is against you! He or she may seem helpful, but his or her job is to get convictions and collect money for the State or City, not help you. Even if you elect to accept diversion, the quality of your life while on that diversion will be dictated by the terms of the diversion agreement and you need a lawyer’s advice about that document. DUI diversions are counted as convictions if you ever get charged with another DUI in Kansas any time in your entire life. A driver’s license suspension will be on your driving record and used to enhance the penalties on a future driver’s license suspension for the rest of your entire life. This is no time for amateur hour.
Our law firm has seen many clients come to us just before accepting a diversion or conviction only to achieve through our representation acquittals, dismissals, return of their driver’s license or significantly reduced impact on their personal and professional lives. We have also had to help people deal with the aftermath of poor legal representation in DUI cases and it has not been pretty in many instances.
WHO IS THE RIGHT KANSAS DUI ATTORNEY?
The representation of persons charged with DUI in Kansas has become an extremely complex and Byzantine maze that few lawyers have really invested the time and energy to understand. The laws concerning administrative driver’s license ramifications and criminal case penalties change nearly every legislative session. Because decisions by the Appellate and Supreme Courts are issued every few weeks, the Kansas DUI laws actually change on an almost monthly basis. It takes serious dedication and focus to stay on top of the law and to be able to provide accurate, reliable advice in a DUI case.
You have to be careful about relying on advertising and sloganeering. Anybody who graduates from law school can call themselves a DUI attorney. Anyone can place an ad in the back of a newspaper or on a billboard touting themselves as a DUI lawyer. You need an attorney who does not just call themselves a DUI lawyer, but that actually has a reputation and track record as a DUI lawyer.
COMMON MISTAKES IN SELECTING A KANSAS DUI ATTORNEY:
- Hiring your friend, friend’s dad, or your real estate attorney to represent you for a Kansas DUI charge. Not just anybody with a law license can give you effective representation in a DUI case. It is a particular area of the law. The guy that did your divorce, wrote your will or helped you sue someone may not be the guy for your DUI. In fact, even an attorney that practices general criminal defense may not have expertise in the area of DUI defense. A Kansas DUI is a whole lot different than a speeding ticket, domestic violence charge or a theft case. Also your friend or a friend’s family member may be trying to help you out, but unless he or she handles a lot of Kansas DUI’s he may hurt you more than help you.
- Hiring the first person you get hold of from the yellow pages. If you have not opened the yellow pages and looked under the category “attorneys”, you should. You will be amazed at the enormous number of attorneys marketing themselves in the Kansas City area, and you will have some sense of the competition for clients in this market. Anyone can buy a yellow pages ad. No one checks the accuracy of the claims made in the advertisements. You can also see from the ads that many attorneys are attempting to “do it all”, including bankruptcy, divorce, immigration, or other disparate areas of the law in addition to doing some DUI’s on the side. Some attorneys that rely on advertising and yellow pages ads may be running “fee mills” in which they count on the high volume of random people finding them in the yellow pages. They have low fees, but their aim may be to resolve cases quickly and in large numbers in order to make a living.
- Hiring someone based on online advertising. Just like with the yellow pages and all forms of advertising, anyone can put up a webpage and declare themselves a DUI attorney. It does not necessarily make it so. One thing to watch out for is the national “pay to play” websites. There are a lot of them. These sites claim to have a stable of the best DUI attorneys in the country – all you have to do is type in the name of your state or click on a map. In reality, these sites make money by selling their web advertising space to the first attorney that comes up with the money. Many sites will offer an exclusive listing for a certain state or area of a state to lawyers in exchange for dollars. There is no vetting done to determine whether these people are competent or have any experience in litigating DUI cases – the first one to come up with the money gets a webpage and the referral of every potential client that comes to the site. Take a look at the pages of lawyers that the site offers from other states. Usually, all of the different lawyers’ pages look the same because they are just forms that the attorney advertiser fills out. They will even have the same slogans and graphics. Some of these attorneys may actually emphasize DUI cases in their practice, and be good at what they do, but some others are running a fee mill and may not be willing to actually try your DUI case. An attorney that has taken the time to invest a lot effort in a website that he or she hosts and maintains him or herself, and which provides a lot of information, is more likely to be someone dedicated to the defense of people charged with a DUI in Kansas.
- Hiring someone based on a newspaper or magazine article. You can look at the back page of many local papers or magazines and see the ads of attorneys touting their services for one thing or another, usually DUI, bankruptcy and divorce. Often, when an attorney is just starting out, advertising this way is a good way to introduce one’s name into the marketplace and to get some clients from which to build a practice. There comes a time, though, when an attorney’s reputation in the community and the word of mouth of former clients should be able to sustain him or her. Making a decision about an attorney based solely on what you see in an advertisement may not be the best way to find a skilled attorney who will fight for you. Would you feel comfortable leaving a life-threatening illness to a doctor you found on the back of a free paper?
- Hiring an attorney based on price. Another cliché that became a cliché because it was so true is, “You get what you pay for”. Nothing could be more accurate when it comes to lawyers. Another saying you might not have heard is “There’s nothing more expensive than a cheap lawyer”. Making the decision about who to hire based on the fee may be a very costly mistake. If you’ve had a DUI before and only paid your attorney a few hundred dollars, you recall how that worked out. A DUI charge can have serious long term financial ramifications, from fines, fees and court costs, to higher insurance, the loss of employment, driver’s license reinstatement fees, the costs of court-ordered drug and alcohol treatment programs, ignition interlock devices, “color-code” bodily fluids tests etc. Making an upfront investment in effective representation, and at least someone who knows how to navigate the system well, may save you thousands over the long term and greatly diminish the impact of this situation on your life. An attorney that is charging a high fee should be doing so based on his or her knowledge, skill and reputation in the community, as well as the amount of work that he or she intends to put into defending you. Going the cheapest route possible may get you the opposite and cost you financially and otherwise for a long time to come.
HOW TO DO IT RIGHT:
- Word of mouth: This is the most effective form of advertising and should be one effective way to determine which lawyer can best represent you. Almost everybody knows someone who has been cited for DUI, and some of your acquaintances themselves may have been in this situation. Ask those people who it was that represented them, whether they were satisfied that their lawyer did everything he or she could for them, and whether they would hire that person again. You should be able to get the names of 2 or 3 competent attorneys this way, as well as the names of people to avoid.
- Do your own research: You should get familiar with Kansas DUI laws and be prepared with questions for the attorneys you intend to talk to. You should also try to research the attorneys themselves and get to know something about their experience with DUI cases. Go to the attorneys’ websites and see what you can learn about them. Are they maintaining their own website and providing information to the public, or are they just on pay sites? Does the person’s name come up often in sites concerning DUI cases in Kansas? What organizations do they belong to? Attorneys that belong to organizations dedicated to the defense of persons charged with DUI, or criminal defense in general, are more likely to be dedicated themselves to effective representation of those charged with a DUI in Kansas.
- Meet with the attorney: You need someone that you are comfortable with, in whom you have confidence, and who has your best interests in mind. You should be able to gauge to some extent whether this attorney intends to work for you and fight for you, or sell you out the first chance he or she gets.
- Make your decision based on who it is that you believe can best represent you: Try to block out considerations of money, allegiance to friends or family, or anything other than in whose hands do you feel most comfortable with your life being held. That person is probably the attorney for you and you must find a way to secure his or her representation.
WHAT YOU SHOULD EXPECT FROM YOUR KANSAS DUI ATTORNEY:
- Answers to your questions when asked.
- Prompt return of all telephone calls and emails.
- That a copy of all police reports, videotapes, photographs and other evidence will be obtained by the attorney and copies sent to you.
- A willingness to meet in person to discuss your case.
- Correspondence concerning all activity in your case, including any upcoming court dates or driver’s license hearings.
- A thorough review of all of the facts and law applicable to your case.
- An honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
- A desire to talk to witnesses, review medical records and come up with other defenses in your case,
- Good advice about strategy, evidence collection, and how to resolve your case.
- Knowledge, experience, skill, confidence and total honesty. If you are willing to invest the time and resources necessary to find the lawyer who can best represent your interests in your case, you are likely to have far less anxiety during the pendency of your case and have a far better chance at achieving a satisfactory result and minimizing the immediate and long-term impact of this charge on your life.
Please feel free to contact our office if you have any questions regarding this information.
If you have scheduled a consultation with Norton Hare, LLC, please download our client questionnaire and take a moment to fill it out as completely as you can. By completing the questionnaire prior to the meeting and bringing it with you to our offices, you will spend less time in our waiting room and more time in consultation with one of our attorneys.