You’ve been charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated under Michigan law. You know you need a lawyer. But how do you find a good one, and what questions do you ask that lawyer when you meet for the first time? In this blog post, we cover the basics of finding and interviewing a Michigan DUI lawyer to make sure you give yourself the best chance of mounting the strongest possible defense.
Part One: Finding a DUI Lawyer
It’s not particularly difficult to find a Michigan lawyer who advertises services for clients facing DUI charges. A simple Google search will turn up plenty. To narrow down your search, you might also ask friends whether they can recommend someone. You may also want to consult the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board listings to check the attorney’s disciplinary record, if any, and how any complaints against the attorney were resolved.
The next step is to reach out and set up an appointment to meet with attorney(s) you’re considering. When facing a DUI charge, you should do this as soon as you can to make sure you don’t put any of your rights at risk by waiting to find counsel. The sooner you call an attorney, the better.
Part Two: Interviewing a DUI Lawyer
As in any professional service relationship, the more you know about the lawyer you hire to defend you in a DUI, the better off you will be. And as a rule of thumb, if the lawyer you interview doesn’t have time for your questions, move along until you find one who does. The legal profession is a service business; you have every right to expect your lawyer to treat you not just as a client, but as a valued customer.
With that basic rule in mind, here are some good questions to ask a Michigan DUI lawyer to find the one who will serve your interests best.
How Often Do You Handle DUI Matters?
Police and prosecutors charge Michigan residents with DUI all the time. But just because DUIs are “routine” cases doesn’t make your DUI charge any less significant for you. Because DUIs are so common in Michigan courts, there is a vocabulary and mode of practice that’s built up over time. The best DUI lawyers are those who know that process inside-and-out, not just the laws and potential penalties but also the subtle variations in how individual police officers, prosecutors, and judges handle them.
Asking your potential DUI attorney about how often he or she takes DUI cases is a shorthand way to find out how familiar your attorney is with the inner-workings of Michigan DUI law and practice.
What Information Do You Need From Me?
Another way to get at that same question is to ask your potential DUI attorney what information you can provide that would be most helpful for your defense. Experienced Michigan DUI lawyers will have a list of questions and topics for you to address; everything from a minute-by-minute description of the traffic stop that led to your DUI charge to your diet, health condition, and lifestyle. Skilled DUI attorneys know there are multiple ways to challenge the evidence in a DUI matter and will be ready to explore all of them with you.
Likewise, expect your potential DUI attorney to respond to this question by grilling you about your history with the law. Don’t take offense at this. Your lawyer needs to know what you are up against to plan the best strategy for your defense. There are big differences in the potential penalties a person on his fourth DUI charge could face as compared to someone who has never been in trouble with the law at all. Be honest and open. The more information your potential DUI attorney has about you, your life, your family, and your circumstances, the better the job your lawyer can do for you.
What Do You Know About the Law Enforcement Personnel and Prosecutor?
Still another way to test your potential DUI lawyer’s knowledge of the DUI system is to ask about the individual police officer(s) and prosecutor involved in your case. Law enforcement personnel and prosecuting attorneys are human beings. Like anyone, they have their own personalities, ways of doing business, priorities, and blindspots. Find out if your potential DUI attorney knows the “players” in your DUI story, and whether he can offer some insight into how those people “tick” that might give you an advantage in defending your case.
What Is This Going to Cost Me?
This is a loaded question, of course, and you should pay attention to how your attorney handles it. In terms of what the lawyer is going to cost, you have every right to expect your potential DUI attorney will be up-front and clear with you about how much money you can expect to spend on legal services, including not just the lawyer’s time but also (if required) expert witness expenses and court costs.
There’s a second way to look at that question, which is what is a potential DUI conviction going to cost me? A skilled Michigan DUI attorney will also have a complete and honest answer to that side of the question. Here, too, you should expect your potential DUI attorney to level with you; you need to know how “bad” a DUI conviction could be, and the life consequences it could bring, so that you can help your attorney understand your priorities.
Obviously, no one wants to have a conviction on their record, but for some people it is more important to retain driving privileges, or to stay out of jail, or to minimize the financial consequences. An attorney who helps you understand the “downside” of the DUI charges you face will be able to serve your interests in minimizing the consequences you most want to avoid.
When It Comes to DUI Defense, Be a Proactive Legal Consumer
To find the right DUI defense advocate, you must first be an advocate for yourself. Asking the questions above and holding out for an attorney who answers them to your satisfaction is the best way to make sure you mount the strongest possible defense against DUI charges.
To learn more about defending against a DUI charge, contact an experienced Michigan DUI lawyer today.