Overall rating: Excellent
Trustworthy: 5 Stars
Responsive: 5 Stars
Knowledgeable: 5 Stars
Kept me informed: 5 Stars
Recommend Jon Woolsey!
“While visiting the Santa Rosa area on vacation I was arrested for a DUI. Once I returned to the Southern California area I contacted Jon. He was knowledgeable and honest and put my fears at ease. He was able to handle all court proceeding without me having to travel back to Santa Rosa and took care of all the DMV issues as well. On top of everything else he was affordable and I was able to make monthly payments. I truly do not know what I would have done if I did not have Jon in my corner every step of the way. If you ever find yourself in a situation like this I would strongly recommend calling Jon Woolsey. The only thing left to say is THANKS JON! “
What to Look For?
OK, you’ve decided to hire a lawyer! Now, you’re faced with your next major decision-which one should I choose? Perhaps you’ve talked to friends or family and they’ve recommended attorneys who represented them in a divorce or contract dispute. Perhaps you’ve scanned the Yellow Pages and everybody looks the same except for the size and color of their ads. You probably have searched the Internet or you wouldn’t be reading this now and, you’ve discovered that most of the sites dealing with Driving Under the Influence have just left you confused or bewildered with all the options and choices. Well, welcome to the we’re going to offer you the following advice to help in your decision making process:
Finding and choosing a DUI/DWI lawyer in a drunk driving case can be a difficult process; there are many incompetent, inexperienced DUI/DWI attorneys. However, asking the right questions can be helpful in retaining good DUI/DWI lawyers:
There isn’t any specific quality to look for in finding a successful attorney. Each individual has differing views as to what is most important. Some are seeking the lawyer with the most extensive track record, others may want someone they can trust the most, and some are looking for years of experience.
It’s best to interview a few different attorneys.
Ask them if they have an idea of how they would go about defending your case. But, first of all, make sure that they ask you to provide enough information to handle your case on an individualized basis and see to it that they ask enough about your case that places them in a position to evaluate your case. Beware of the attorney who just wants to handle you like a piece of dough with a cookie cutter approach.
Has the attorney handled cases similar to yours?
DUI charges can vary extensively so make sure that the attorney you select has handled cases similar to yours. If your case involves an accident and injury, don’t turn the case over to someone who has never dealt with these circumstances. Or, if your case deals with an out-of-state license, then make sure that your attorney has dealt with this before. Each case is unique and so is the experience of each DUI attorney.
Does the attorney have relevant trial experience?
If you and your attorney plan on taking your case all the way to trial, but make sure that your attorney isn’t cutting his teeth on your case. And, don’t fall for the ” Former DA” qualification. Chances are that they weren’t District Attorneys, but rather deputy district attorneys or assistance district attorneys. And, while trial experience is important, you need someone who has experience on the criminal defense side of the table! Prosecution attorneys are used to having witnesses on their side—the cops and justice department experts meet with them and tell them what to ask and what not to ask as prosecutors—then they read their questions from a preprinted manual! MAKE SURE that the attorney you select has the experience and ability to effectively cross-examine antagonistic, professional witnesses such as criminalists and cops.
Does the lawyer have a plan of attack?
After hearing the details of your case, a lawyer will usually decide on a plan of attack to either prove your innocence or implement a strategy to negotiate a favorable plea bargain. Make sure you feel comfortable with their (“your”) plan and that the attorney can articulate the process to you clearly. Can this attorney credibly allege that the officer’s documentation was insufficient, or that your blood/breath test results were incorrect? Communication is key and if your attorney can’t educate you, then it is unlikely that they can convince a prosecutor or judge or jury of your case’s merits and your innocence!
Will the lawyer dedicate himself/herself to your case?
Is the lawyer so busy with other clients that he/she will not have enough time to become fully dedicated to your case? You need an attorney who will go above and beyond the call of duty for you. Stay away from lawyers who say they want to settle your case as quickly as possible. Will the attorney you interview with actually be working on your case? and in what way? Find out if any other person in or out of the office will be doing work on your case. What will they do?
What to Avoid?
The law is complex and you need competent representation. You must raise the right defenses at the right time or you will lose them. Facts will disappear, memories fade and witnesses vanish. A winnable case can quickly become a loser.
An old law saying states: “Only a fool has them self as their own attorney.” Even very respected and experienced attorneys do not attempt to represent themselves in legal actions before a judge or jury.
Not hiring an attorney
Even attorneys hire other attorneys to represent them. It is not nearly as effective to speak about yourself as it is to have someone else talk on your behalf! In fact, most DUI attorneys don’t put their clients on the stand for obvious reasons, but if you represent yourself, then you are effectively on the stand at every step in the process.
This is not to say that your local Alternate Defender or Public Defender isn’t an excellent attorney! They are most likely very competent, but the downfall is that they have an excessive workload and even if you qualify for their services due to an impoverished situation, they are not allowed to handle your DMV license issue that come up at the DMV Administrative Hearing. If you can’t afford a good DUI/DWI attorney, then consider borrowing the money from relatives or friends or other sources. In the long run, winning is cheaper than losing.
Whatever price you pay for a lawyer will likely dictate how much time they will put into your case. If you are offered an extremely low fee, consider whether it will motivate the lawyer to spend sufficient time on your behalf. Defending a DUI can involve hours of research and dedication. If enough time isn’t put into important tasks such as consulting an expert or gathering test results or making a site visit and recording the crime scene, then you could lose your case due to insufficient effort.
Even in law, the old adage still applies, “You get what you pay for!” The typical Bargain Attorney offers a low fee but isn’t really including all of the steps that lead up to trial. Don’t be surprised if he/she later wants additional money to file a motion or charges you extra for visiting the location of your stop or wants additional funds to talk to an expert or even consult with an attorney who specializes in drunk driving defense. You may end up incurring additional costs as the case ensues.
Does the attorney make promises regarding the results he/she can get in the case? This is something no ethical attorney would do, as specific results are unpredictable. It’s OK to hear about the probabilities or chances of prevailing on certain issues, but how many of you thought O. J. Simpson was guilty of the criminal charges? Or, how many times have you felt certain that your home town football team was a shoe-in to win a game? The law can be fickle and no reputable attorney should promise you a certain outcome!
Does the attorney talk to you in plain English or is “legalese” all you hear? Will the attorney keep you informed about all the developments in your case? Will you be kept informed of all significant issues? This means that you’ll routinely get copies of important correspondence, and that you will be consulted before crucial decisions are made.
It is extremely important to choose a lawyer who you feel will be able to achieve the results you need. Although there are no guarantees, the right lawyer can usually obtain a reduced sentence with lesser penalties. To find an attorney who can best represent your case, take the time to interview at least a few DUI attorneys.
While discussing your case, keep these questions in mind:
Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
If the attorney wants to immediately refer you to another law firm you should know that he/she is probably getting referral fees and has a lot to gain by overstating the qualifications and trial record of the lawyers he or she is referring cases to. Be careful because this is just a marketing technique and you are the bouncing ball! You are entitled to know if referral fees are being paid or if your legal retainer is being split between law firms.
Do you fully understand the attorney’s fees?
Are fees fully explained and set forth in a written contract? Is the fee simply an initial retainer, or is it all-inclusive? Do the fees cover such “extras” as the DMV license hearing, expert testimony, blood reanalysis, trial, subpoena costs, etc.? Make certain you understand every step and cost in the process of your defense.
DUI defense is a technical and highly specialized field!
Does the lawyer handle drinking and driving cases exclusively? Does the attorney belong to legal associations such as the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) or state specific organizations like the California DUI Lawyers Association (CDLA), that are dedicated to defending drunk driving cases? Does the attorney accept other types of criminal or civil cases as well? If I want to have a tooth extracted I’m not going to let the dental hygienist perform the surgery. Ask what percentage of the attorney’s caseload consists of DUI Cases and what kind of successes and achievements they’ve had “recently”?
Does your attorney ask the right question of you?
Remember that you know more about what happened that night than anyone and your assistance in making the best defense case needs to be fully exploited. If your prospective attorney isn’t interested in hearing from you, he or she won’t be able to fully and effectively represent your interests.
Will your case require expert witnesses?
Does your lawyer have access to technical experts and witnesses in police procedures and blood/breath analysis? Will blood samples be reanalyzed by a lab? In many cases the attorney can effectively use the prosecution witness to prove your case, but this isn’t always the best route. Once again, don’t fall for the bargain approach! A few extra dollars for the right expert can be the difference between winning and losing.
Does your attorney have a “clean” State Bar record?
Has there been any State Bar complaints against the attorney? Check with your local Bar Association or the State Bar Web site to find out if your attorney is without reprimands or suspensions for poor judgment or behavior that could affect your case.
Making the Final Decision
Don’t Jump on the Lowest Bid! After your initial consultation with each prospective lawyer, ask yourself these questions:
Did the lawyer listen to me?
Was I treated with concern?
Was the lawyer knowledgeable?
Did the lawyer give me a firm understanding of my alternative courses of action?
Do I understand the range of possible results associated with each course of action?
Am I clear about the lawyer’s fees?
Does the lawyer require a retainer? If so, how much?
How are extra costs dealt with? (for example: expert witness fees, serving papers, and photocopying)
Once you have answered these questions, you should be able to rank the lawyers and make an informed decision.