If you’ve been charged in Illinois with DUI (Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol/Drugs/Intoxicating Compounds), you are in serious trouble. If convicted, you are facing the loss of your driver’s license or driving privileges, possible incarceration in the county jail or state prison, and substantial fines, court costs and hours of counseling. Even if jail can be avoided, you may not be able to drive your car without having an expensive Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) installed in your vehicle before you can drive it.
For these reasons, it is imperative that you have a very good attorney on your side to represent you and counsel you in your upcoming court proceedings. Whether you are looking for your attorney to challenge the 6-month or longer statutory summary suspension, negotiate a favorable plea agreement, file motions to quash the arrest or suppress evidence, or contest the charges in a bench or jury trial, there are critical things to look for when you hire a DUI attorney:
1. Does Your Lawyer Have an Office?
An office indicates that your lawyer is established in the community. He or she has a lease or mortgage on the property, has contracts with utility companies, has invested in technology (phones, computers, printers, scanners, copiers, etc.), has access to a law library (law books or online research) and may have support staff. Certificates on the wall bearing the lawyer’s name, indicate that the lawyer has achieved certain professional credentials, that the office does in fact belong to that lawyer (as opposed to an hourly rental), and that he or she is likely to be there if you come back another day. You probably don’t want to hire the Lincoln Lawyer, working out of the back of his car.
2. Does Your Lawyer Provide a Written Retainer Agreement?
A written Retainer Agreement or Engagement Letter sets forth the scope of the legal representation as well as the financial terms of the attorney-client agreement. Know how the lawyer charges – flat fee, hourly rate, by the court appearance, by the task (motion/trial), or otherwise. Know whether the fees are minimum or fixed; know whether the hourly fee is built into the minimum fee or charged in addition thereto; and know when payment of fees is expected. Make sure you abide by the payment schedule to avoid having the lawyer withdraw as your attorney, which would require you to find another lawyer or represent yourself. In the absence of a written Retainer Agreement, some unscrupulous lawyers have been known to drag on or continue cases longer than necessary just to run up the fees. Therefore, you should know exactly what you are paying for and how much it will cost.
3. Will You Have Access to Your Attorney?
When you hire an attorney, it is likely to be for a matter that will be somewhat foreign and complex, with unique ramifications to the client. All of your questions are not likely to be answered in a single meeting. You want your attorney to be familiar with you and your case, and not be passed off to another attorney, possibly a junior associate or contract lawyer, when you get to court. You want an attorney who is willing to meet with you in the office, take your phone calls and spend the necessary time to discuss the facts, educate you about the law, explain your options, advise you and answer your questions. If you do not have access to your attorney after hiring him or her, or your attorney has to run between multiple courtrooms with a rolling briefcase full of other client files, you may not have the right lawyer.
4. Does Your Attorney Have the Necessary Experience?
Age alone does not equate to experience as some lawyers attended law school when they were older. Ask your lawyer how many years they have been licensed as an attorney, what State or Federal jurisdictions have issued them licenses and how long they have practiced law. Ask particularly about his or her experience practicing before the judge or in courthouse where your case is being heard. Ask what areas of law they concentrate their practice in. If the lawyer claims to practice 15 areas of law, there may not be much depth to the experience (“jack of all trades, master of none”). Ask about similarly-situated clients and cases, the legal strategy employed and the results obtained. Ask about trial experience, both before judges and juries. Ask about the factors involved in making a recommendation to plead guilty or proceed to trial. Then ask yourself whether you agree with the recommendation.
5. Does Your Attorney Have a Good Courtroom Demeanor?
Your attorney represents your interests in court and should have a good courtroom demeanor. He or she should have a respectable appearance, appropriate attire, come prepared, have the ability to speak and argue clearly and intelligently, exude confidence, be persuasive, show due respect for the judge and opposing counsel, and be able to stand up to fight (figuratively) when facing adversity. Your attorney should be a professional in order to present you and your case in the best possible light, in order to achieve the best possible result.
The Martucci Law Office has a strong concentration in the areas of DUI/Traffic Defense, Criminal Defense and other litigation, serving Du Page, Cook and Kane Counties and surrounding communities. Attorney Greg Martucci has maintained a law office in Roselle for over 20 years; provides every client with a written Retainer Agreement containing reasonable fees and payment terms; offers clients individual attention and unique access; the benefit of over 30 years’ courtroom experience; skilled advocacy and a respected professional in your corner.