Drunk driving laws in Pennsylvania are complex and the penalties are crippling. Finding a lawyer who is experienced in handling these types of cases should be your top priority.
It is advisable to interview a number of lawyers, especially as the initial consultation is usually free. This will equip you with the right information you need to move forward in your case. Here are 10 questions you should ask any lawyer you sit down with to determine if they can really fight for you or not.
DUI cases require extensive knowledge of law and criminal procedure, physiology of alcohol in the body, the pharmacology of drugs, chemical testing of breath and blood, field sobriety testing, and trial skills. Try to determine whether the lawyer has a reputation of aggressively defending against drunk driving charges. Is he a plea lawyer or a true trial lawyer.
2. Are you a Member of the National College of DUI Defense?
The National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) is a non-profit legal organization which is devoted to advanced legal education in DUI defense. A member is required to attend NCDD workshops and seminars which are the very best classes for DUI defense.
3. What percentage of your cases involve DUI?
A lawyer can be in practice for a number of years, but only handle DUI cases casually. You want a lawyer who devotes the majority of his or her practice to the defense of DUI cases and not just a dabbler.
4. How many DUI trials have you conducted?
You want an attorney who has courtroom experience- someone who can fight. Most lawyers will push clients to plea early. This is how they make money. They just take the money and run. They do no work. Ask them to see a typical case file and see how thick it is. The thinness of a file shows a lack of due diligence. If you want to plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of the court, you can do that yourself for free. If you want to fight, protect your rights, and keep your family together, then you need someone who can take the case to trial and win.
5. What strategies do you have to challenge the test results (blood or breath) in my case?
Normally the main piece of evidence in a DUI case is the result of the blood or breath test. However, testing is not perfect. There are a lot of errors and if your attorney knows the science those errors can be exposed. If your attorney does not know how to challenge the test results and only talks about the obvious things like the paperwork of calibration, you will be hard pressed to get a favorable outcome.
6. What training have you received in the administration of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests?
The field sobriety tests is another area where an attorney needs to be well trained. They should have completed instructor level courses in the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests as well as received training in drug impairment such as the Drugs that Impair Driving (DID) course, the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) course and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) course to have the knowledge needed to challenge the observations in court. This can be the difference between protecting your rights and ending up with a lengthy license suspension. If they do not have the full complement of training, then you are dealing with a dabbler.
7. What role will science play in my case?
DUI cases involve a lot of science. From the way alcohol is processed in the body to how tests were conducted, to the calibration of the testing equipment, and issue spotting bad testing practices, science plays the biggest role in DUI cases. This is why you should ask your lawyer about the science in your case. If they are comfortable talking about it and can explain it in terms you can understand then that is a good sign. If not then you should get a lawyer who can. Also ask them what sort of technical training they have received in the science of the DUI number. Have they been to the hands-on ACS Forensic Chromatography courses such as the Forensic Chromatography Class, the Solid Drug Dose Class, and the DUID class. If they haven’t touched any of the instruments involved how can they know the defense to them?
8. Do you use expert witnesses?
Many times, successfully fighting a DUI case involves getting expert witnesses involved to establish the facts of the case and counter the experts the government will call. Your attorney should be well connected with DUI experts and be able to use them to support your case if needed.
9. What will it cost me to hire a good DUI lawyer?
In all things in life you get what you pay for. Legal representation is no different. Good lawyers aren’t cheap. Cheap lawyers are no good. An attorney who doesn’t plan on doing a lot of work will normally quote you a cheap rate. If an attorney plans to thoroughly investigate your case and offer you a rigorous defense which leaves no stone unturned, then that takes a significant amount of time and the cost will be higher. Keep in mind, the cost of getting convicted of a DUI will far exceed the cost of defending one.
10. What is your specific plan for my case?
A good attorney will be able to tell a detailed plan for how to move forward from the time of the first meeting. They will also tell you which areas of your case can be challenged and give you a good idea of what to expect. If your lawyer’s only plan is just to avoid jail and put you on house arrest with a 12 or 18 month loss of license, you should run away from that plan. If your lawyer cannot detail a plan that truly minimizes your chances of a negative outcome, then that is a good sign that this person is not equipped to handle your case.
If you are charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, turn to the premier DUI law firm in PA—The McShane Firm, 1.866.McShane.