"How Do I Hire a DUI Attorney?"
A Guide to Retention Agreements and the Retention Process.
It is important to hire a DUI attorney immediately if you are ever charged with a crime. However, it is even more important if that crime is a DUI. Most people do not realize that many of the defenses to DUI expire long before trial. If you do not have an attorney to file specific paperwork before the expiration date, you lose the chance to make those defenses. Never put off hiring an attorney.
Besides, in Virginia you usually pay the same amount for a DUI attorney no matter when you hire them. Why not get more service for your money and hire your DUI attorney sooner?
Getting a Continuance to Hire a DUI Attorney
If your trial date is approaching and you still do not have an attorney, most courts will allow you one or two continuances in order to find representation. However, using continuances for this purpose is very dangerous. In addition to losing the opportunity to make certain defenses, you also lose the right to make future continuances. You are allowed a limited number of continuances. If you use all of your continuances finding an attorney, then you will not have any left for your trial.
Continuances are very important and should never be wasted. In Virginia, continuances can be used to discover the prosecution's evidence against you. In many jurisdictions, your attorney cannot talk to the police or Commonwealth attorney to discover the evidence against you until the actual day of the trial. Consequently, on the day of your trial your attorney may discover new evidence and need to request a continuance to prepare a strong defense.
Also, being granted a continuance may increase the odds that the court will grant the prosecution a continuance if they ask for it. If the police officer or breathalyzer operator do not show up at trial, the prosecution will likely ask for a continuance in order to prevent the case from being dismissed. If the court has already granted you several continuances, it may be more likely to grant the Commonwealth a continuance as well.
Do not put yourself in a position where you or your DUI attorney will have to waste continuances. Find a DUI attorney immediately.
Typical DUI Attorney Fee Structures
Most (but not all) criminal defense attorneys in Virginia charge a flat fee and demand that the fee be paid before they agree to represent you.
These fees usually do not cover any court expenses (such as hiring a court reporter, gathering evidence, serving process, or hiring expert witnesses). Some DUI attorneys also charge for travel expenses. It is very important to read the fine print of your attorney-client contract and discuss the possibility of being charged for these extra expenses.
Court reporters and process servers can cost hundreds of dollars while expert witnesses can cost thousands. Discuss the possibility of needing these services before you sign an attorney-client contract.
DUI-Related Post-Trial Services
Some attorney-client contracts end as soon as the judge makes a ruling. When those drivers walk out of the courtroom, they no longer have an attorney. In that situation the DUI attorney may not be obligated to aid the client in registering for the mandatory Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP or ASAP), applying for a restricted license, getting their bail back, paying fines, or appealing their conviction.
If you are convicted of DUI there is a significant chance that you could be sentenced to additional jail time if you fail to comply with ASAP, the terms of your restricted license, or other conditions imposed by the judge. A DUI attorney can be invaluable in helping you navigate the post-conviction process. Always make sure your retention agreement discusses post-conviction responsibilities.
Beginning and Ending an Attorney-Client Relationship
It is extremely important for the attorney and the client to clearly define how and when their relationship will begin and end. It is also important to define what conditions will terminate an agreement. Can your attorney drop you as a client? Can you switch attorneys if you are not satisfied? If you terminate the agreement will your money be refunded? What happens if your attorney becomes sick or otherwise unavailable? These questions should be clearly addressed in the retention agreement.
Orders of Substitution
If you ever want to change attorneys, your new DUI attorney must file an order of substitution with the court. However, the motion for an order of substitution requires the signature of the old and new attorneys and in some cases it also requires the signature of the prosecution. This process can take quite a bit of time so if you are not satisfied with your DUI attorney, do not wait to find a new one.