Finding an attorney one can trust to fight a charge of drunken driving can be more than somewhat of a concern, especially since most motorists are not predisposed to retaining a DWI-DUI defense lawyer “just in case.” This isn’t to say that any choice should be made in haste when, one day, a person finds themselves holding a summons for driving while intoxicated. While time is of the essence once a DWI charge has been levied, the choice of attorney can have a major impact on the course and possible results of one’s drunk driving case.
As experienced New Jersey DWI and drug DUI defense lawyers, we know that there are a wide variety of legal advocates available these days to assist motorists with any number of traffic violations, from speeding and other lesser infractions to driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs and breath test refusal charges (not to mention instances where individuals have been accused of impairment due to marijuana use, or possession of weed in a motor vehicle). Any one of these may require an experienced professional, but a drunken driving charge, with all of its potentially serious implications, is not something on which one should gamble his or her future.
As skilled trial lawyers, I and my colleagues are well aware that it is next to impossible for most individuals who have been accused of DWI to become experts in the field of drunk driving law virtually overnight. However, it is still important that anyone charged with a violation as significant as a DUI to study up on who they will choose to represent them in a court of law. We know there are a lot of choices out there, but we also know our track record when it comes to representing drivers accused of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Given the relatively short duration between when a traffic summons for DWI is issued and when the first hearing date is set, individuals who need a lawyer have precious little time to settle on one and then get down to the job of crafting a defense. This is where experience comes in, both in understanding the law as well as having actively defended individuals in a courtroom setting.
For most people, they will want to use an initial consultation to both explain their situation to the attorneys, as well as use that meeting as an opportunity to interview him or her, and to better understand that lawyer’s qualifications and experience. The following is a brief list points when choosing a drunk driving defense attorney:
1) Ask about the number of actual cases the lawyer or his firm has defended where the defendant was found “Not Guilty” by the court. Defending a person who has been charged with a DWI or drug DUI violation. Having extensive experience, as we do, in New Jersey’s drunken driving laws, as well as detailed knowledge of the various breath-testing devices — such as the Alcotest machine — and other methods of determining intoxication, such as standardized field sobriety tests, makes an attorney a valuable asset to defendants facing a first-time DWI or other violation.
2) Find out from your potential lawyer if he or she is prepared to fight for you in court. For most people, pleading guilty is not an option. It’s wise to make sure that the attorney as the expertise to go head-to-head with the local or state prosecuting attorney. As a former municipal prosecutor, I have been on both sides of the aisle. I and my staff of qualified DWI lawyers have the experience and skills to fight for our clients’ rights
3) Get a sense of how many court appearances may be necessary to get your drunken driving case settled. Knowing what is ahead will help to prepare you for the inevitable lengthy process that is our legal system. Some DWI and drug DUI cases can take a long time from the start of the process through the final hearing and the court’s judgment. Being prepared ahead of time will help you be patient with the progression of your case and avoid any misunderstanding as to procedures.
4) Get to know your attorney as much as possible. Feeling good about a person can help you interact well and cooperate to get the most out of your relationship. Taking your fight to the very end sometimes means retaining a lawyer who you believe will be patient with your goals and objectives. Feeling good about an attorney as a person can be nearly as important as his or her considerable legal credentials.
5) Never make a snap judgment about an attorney based solely on his fees. Legal training and courtroom experience are critical factors when searching for a qualified drunk driving defense lawyer. Guilty verdicts in New Jersey drunk driving cases can lead to thousands of dollars in fines, court fees and statutory assessments. Hiring an attorney based only on his or her fee schedule can be a false economy, to say the least.
In the end, one should always consider carefully the choice of one’s legal representative. An attorney who not only will tell you what he or she can do, but on who you feel will do the best job of fight that drunken driving allegation, drug impairment charge or breath test refusal summons. One thing is generally understood; if a motorist chooses to enter the courtroom by himself to fight a drunk driving charge, the verdict will go against that person. All the more reason to retain a qualified attorney to assist in one’s defense.