How Much Does a DUI Lawyer Cost?
If you were arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI), you are not alone. In 2018, there were 32,177 DUI arrests in Florida, 108 of which were in Ocala, 172 in Gainesville, and 467 in Fort Lauderdale.
DUI means driving when your normal faculties are impaired, or when you have blood alcohol or breath alcohol level of 0.08 percent or above. DUI arrests are so frequent that sometimes people fail to take them seriously or think of them as just another traffic offense. However, Florida law takes DUI charges very seriously. The consequences of a DUI conviction in Florida may include jail time, large fines, a suspended license (which may affect your job, school, or relationships), a criminal record , and substantial insurance rate increases.
Being arrested and charged with DUI is traumatizing. However, being charged with the offense is not the same as being convicted. A skilled DUI defense attorney can help reduce your chances of a conviction and minimize any penalties. Do not assume that hiring a lawyer is too expensive or not worth the cost. Instead, consider the cost and benefits of hiring an experienced attorney to help fight your DUI charges. When considering potential felony charges a lawyer seems to become more a worthwhile investment than an expense to contact a lawyer.
Types of Fee Structures for DUI Attorneys
Generally, lawyers bill differently for a DUI case than for a personal injury case. Some personal injury attorneys accept cases on a contingency basis. However, for a DUI case, which is a criminal matter, attorneys usually require a deposit upfront. The total cost for a case depends on the complexity of the case and other factors.
There are basically two types of fee structures used in DUI cases. An hourly rate means that the attorney will bill you for services on an hourly basis. If the case is resolved quickly, this may be beneficial. However, a flat rate system means that the attorney will quote you a fee to cover your representation for the whole case, which means less uncertainty for the client. Your attorney will explain what services are covered in the flat rate agreement, but it may include defending the client at formal review hearings, pre-trial motions, and trial.
Factors Affecting the Lawyer’s Fee
Lawyer’s fees for a DUI vary widely. There are many factors, including the attorney’s time, ability, and experience, which determine an attorney’s fee. If your case is difficult or complex, naturally, it will cost more. For example, if your case involves a fatality, you will probably incur additional charges.
Those who have been arrested for DUI face a difficult situation. They are likely aware that they need legal help but may not have the resources to hire that help. Accordingly, they often look for the least expensive option. They may choose a lawyer based solely on the fee, not experience and qualifications. If the judge has appointed a public defender, the defendant may just stay with that attorney. The problem with that is that public defenders often have huge caseloads and little experience with DUI law, or the public defender may be unable or unwilling to represent the defendant at the driver’s license appeal hearing, or a university hearing if the accused is a student.
Keep in mind that some lawyers have low fees because their practices require a high volume of cases. However, these attorneys often do not have the qualifications or experience to defend serious DUI charges. A DUI is a criminal charge, but not all criminal defense lawyers handle DUI cases. Having a lawyer who has extensive experience with DUI cases is a definite advantage. It is critical to have the highest quality representation right from the start. You will want to seek a DUI lawyer who:
- Appears in court regularly
- Argues the laws related to DUI cases regularly
- Knows the court system of the jurisdiction in which your charges have been filed
- Has a solid reputation in the legal community
- Writes, blogs, and speaks about criminal topics, including DUI cases
Attorney’s fees vary so much between lawyers that it is impossible to pinpoint an average cost. Fees are generally lower if the client enters into a plea. Otherwise, fees may exceed thousands of dollars for a first-time DUI. For a second or subsequent DUI, the potential penalties are harsher, and the costs will increase.
The Cost of Not Hiring a Qualified DUI Lawyer
Lawyers who have successfully defended many DUI cases have honed their skills with practice. A DUI conviction is a serious, long-term problem. It can affect many areas of your future life. Working with an attorney who can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case is far more important than any short term savings from hiring a low-cost lawyer.
Hire an experienced DUI attorney without delay. Waiting too long may only make matters worse. Consider the following:
- Without good representation, you may fail to notice legal issues involved with your arrest or miss important opportunities to have your charges reduced or dismissed.
- Your lawyer cannot represent you at the arraignment if you wait to hire an attorney.
- You only have ten days to file an appeal of your driver’s license suspension. A suspended license may affect your employment or education.
- Early attention to details surrounding your stop and arrest may help your case.
- It takes time and experience to properly investigate a case and prepare for trial.
- Valuable evidence or witnesses may be lost.
- Having qualified legal representation for the formal review hearing may be a factor in winning your DUI case.
If you face a DUI charge, discuss fees at the first meeting with your lawyer to get the information you need about your DUI case. He or she should also bring up complexities and potential difficulties involved in your case, as well as the time he or she anticipates needing to resolve your case. In addition to attorney’s fees, you may also need to pay certain court and administrative costs. These costs are not within your lawyer’s control. If the quoted fee is substantial or beyond your immediate means, you should ask about financing or a payment plan.
Before hiring a lawyer, carefully read the fee agreement and make sure you understand it. This will prevent any misunderstandings that might arise later.