Even for a first conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) in Georgia, you could be facing a year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. Once you factor in costs for court fees, completion of an alcohol treatment program, and a huge hike in insurance premiums, you’re actually looking at a total cost of around $8,500.
And that’s for a first offense DUI conviction.
An actual conviction for DUI, though, is a far cry from merely being charged. The key to avoiding such a heavy financial hit, jail time, and a permanent blemish on your record is to leverage the expertise of a skilled DUI defense attorney.
The Importance of Hiring a DUI Attorney
If you’ve been pulled over for suspicion of DUI, It’s the responsibility of your DUI lawyer to represent your best interests, protect your character, and keep you out of jail.
Because being completely honest with your DUI lawyer is crucial to winning your case, it’s important to be cautious in selecting your attorney. To make sure you make the right choice for your DUI attorney, be sure to read the following eight tips.
Be Selective, But Don’t Take Too Much Time
In addition to having some of the harshest DUI penalties, Georgia also has very strict deadlines that must be met.
- 30 days to appeal arrest. If you intend to appeal your DUI charge, you have 30 days from the date of your arrest date to submit a letter and a $150 filing fee to the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
- 30 days to apply for an ignition interlock device. In order to be able to continue driving, you’ll need an ignition interlock device for a minimum of 120 days. For this, you should have no prior DUI convictions within the previous five years, and no other suspensions against your license.
Missing any of these deadlines will mean you lose your right to appeal the DUI charge.
Look for DUI Experience
Even if you’re innocent of the DUI charge, you still want a defense attorney who specializes in DUI law. Georgia DUI law can be tricky and difficult to understand.
Avoid attorneys who try to handle a whole range of different kinds of cases.
Those who specialize in DUI defense will have a thorough understanding of the process and the legal thresholds that must be met.
Listen to What Previous Clients Are Saying
The experiences and opinions of a DUI attorney’s previous clients carry a lot of weight. Pay attention to how they describe their relationship and level of satisfaction with their lawyer.
Ask them if their lawyer followed through on promises and prepared their client for their day in court.
Do They Play Well With Others? Pay Attention to Their Relationship With Prosecutors and the Court
A DUI attorney who does not get along with prosecutors, judges and the police in your jurisdiction is probably not going to be successful with your case.
In many DUI cases, prosecutors and defense attorneys hammer out plea deals to allow your charges to be lowered or dismissed altogether. That kind of negotiation requires mutual respect between the two.
Meet Potential Selections Face-to-Face
Because a level of comfort is so important, make a point to meet several DUI lawyers personally. Be sure to take notes in your meetings.
Ask them how about their strategy to defend you, and if they’ve handled cases similar to yours.
Ask About Their Legal Fees
Freedom isn’t free, but it sure does beat having to shell out nearly $9,000 when you may not have to.
If you’re comfortable, tell potential lawyers what your budget is. Some will work with you to keep costs under control.
Consider The Size of the Law Firm
Large law firms may not be able to provide you with the level of individual attention you need.
On the other hand, law firms that are too small may not be in a position to devote much-needed resources to your case. During your meetings with potential legal candidates, ask what the firm is able to devote to your case.
Don’t Commit on the Spot; Decide at Home
As tempting as it may be, do not make a decision while still in the attorney’s office. Rather, thank them for their time and say you’ll be in touch. This shows you’re a professional and are taking the matter very seriously.
If a lawyer or attorney pressures you to make a hurried decision, the best course of action is to decline. They’re definitely not looking out for your best interests.
Once you’re home and comfortable, read back over your notes and consider what you discovered during your interviews. Because the level of comfort with your DUI lawyer is essential to the success of your case, trust your instinct about what feels right.