Advice on what to do after a DUI and choosing an attorney

by Sami Azhari on October 20, 2011

Choosing an Attorney

Every person who is arrested for driving under the influence goes through the same process of evaluating what happened, and then deciding how to respond. On the day following the arrest, the first priority is usually getting the vehicle out of impound. After that comes the unpleasant experience of explaining the situation to a spouse, or to family. And finally, the decision must be made as to how to get an attorney.

Half of the time, a person informs his employer before seeking an attorney. This is a mistake. Usually the employer would not otherwise find out about the arrest. Most employers do not run criminal background checks on a regular basis, nor do they look at drivers records. You should not inform your boss unless you have to.

The process of finding an attorney can be difficult. This article provides some pointers. But first, some background on attorney advertising.

Illinois law allows lawyers to advertise their services to prospective clients. Lawyer advertising is almost unregulated. While there are a few rules governing advertising for attorneys, such as a ban on false or misleading advertising, generally attorneys can advertise to new clients in any way they choose.

Some lawyers use billboards. Other attorneys use radio commercials. Some even appear on television. And still, some lawyers advertise using the Yellow Pages.

Many people arrested for DUI are surprised when they receive numerous letters from attorneys soliciting their business. Some may feel that this is an invasion of privacy. But the law in Illinois allows attorneys to communicate directly to prospective clients. Illinois courts have decided that this type of advertising is not an invasion of privacy, because the name and address of the defendant in a DUI case is actually public record. The name, address, date of birth, and sometimes even Social Security number may appear in the court file in the Circuit Court. Marketing agencies use this information to send direct mail.

A newer form of advertising is the internet. There are more than enough lawyers online to cause confusion.

My primary source of business is referrals from former clients and other attorneys, but I also have a presence online. I write three blogs on criminal law, which is my area of concentration. (Read more about Illinois criminal law, and federal crimes.) There are days when my blogs have as many as 1,500 readers. Not all of the readers have been arrested. Rather, many of my readers are law enforcement officers, attorneys, and even some judges. I also have reporters contact me from time to time asking for my opinion on a legal issue. The readership is diverse.

Word of mouth may be a good way to choose an attorney most of the time, but not for a DUI. The problem with DUI is that this area of law is becoming more and more specialized. While your family may have an attorney they turn to for advice on real estate, divorce, or other issues, a DUI attorney should be your only choice for your case.

A DUI case poses special problems for the defendant because the prosecutor concentrates exclusively on DUI law and criminal issues. The State’s Attorney goes to court every day on hundreds of DUI cases. There is no way the family lawyer can compete with that knowledge and experience. Whereas the family lawyer may dabble in many areas of law, the prosecutor concentrates on only one: your case.

DUI attorneys are usually former prosecutors and public defenders. When I worked for the county, I used to go to court every day with at least 30 clients accused of DUI. I believe I have seen almost every issue conceivable in a DUI case.

Here I am going to provide you with some rules to follow which should help you in choosing your attorney:

First, the lawyer must have experience in defending DUI cases. This is a no-brainer. Do not make the mistake of choosing an attorney for your first DUI if it is his first DUI as well.

Second, choose a lawyer with a proven record of winning DUI cases. One of the problems posed by the web is that any lawyer can represent that he wins DUI cases. But the question is, how can you tell if this is true?

The only way you could tell whether a lawyer wins his cases is if he shows you. I publicize the outcomes of my cases along with case numbers. People can look up the results. The purpose of this information is to allow new clients to make informed decisions about who is going to represent them.

Third, choose an attorney who is willing to provide you with useful information at no charge. There are far too many attorney sites that tell you how good they are without providing any information about the problem that you have. Many attorneys believe the information they have should be paid for. I think this is wrong. While it is true that the client is paying for information, more importantly, the client is paying for advice on how to make decisions based on that information.

Lawyers have been slow to adapt to technology. A person with a computer and an internet connection can find information on almost anything, given the time. Most information about DUI and Illinois law is public anyway. The Secretary of State publishes a yearly report called the DUI Fact Book in which the process of a DUI case is explained.

My opinion is that a lawyer who provides free information about the law to prospective clients is not doing a disservice to other attorneys. The reason is, a client who possesses that information still could not represent his or herself in court. The lawyer shows the client how to act on this information.

So, choose an attorney who provides you with information. I hope you find this site useful.

Making a decision about who is going to represent you in DUI case is challenging. I hope the above rules can help you. To contact me 24 hours a day, seven days a week, click here.

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