You or someone close to you has been arrested for drunk driving. Innocent or not, you know you're a lot better off with an experienced DUI lawyer. So how do you find one? The suggestions provided below will help you find competent and ethical representation while avoiding the opposite.
The best source for finding a good DUI lawyer is, of course, a referral -- a recommendation from someone you trust. This may be a family member or friend who has faced DUI charges before, or it may be your family or business lawyer who can make educated inquiries. Perhaps the best source of referral is to ask a police officer, or go to a courthouse and ask a bailiff of court clerk: Who is the best DUI lawyer you've seen? Who would you retain if you were arrested?
One excellent resource is the membership list on the website of the National College for DUI Defense or the California DUI Lawyers Association (CDLA). These are professional organizations of over 900 attorneys nationwide, in the case of the College, and 500 in the case of CDLA, all who emphasize drunk driving defense in their practices. Although membership is no guarantee of competence and/or ethics, it is usually a good indication the lawyer is serious about this field. Both organization emphasize the education through seminars.
Another possibility that may come to mind is a referral service of the local Bar Association. This is generally not a good idea, as you will usually be referred to the next attorney on a list of members; the only requirement for inclusion on the list is the request to be placed on it. In making the important decision of which attorney to have defend you, the following should be considered:
DUI defense is a technical and highly specialized field: Does the lawyer handle drinking and driving cases only - or does he accept other types of criminal or civil cases as well? (This would be like a family doctor attempting brain surgery, cancer research and heart transplants.) What percentage of the attorney's caseload consists of DUI cases?
Does the lawyer have access to technical expert witnesses in police procedures and blood/breath analysis?
Does the lawyer have the necessary training to handle blood as well as breath cases. How many hours of seminars to they attend each year? Most importantly, can they prove this attendance?
Does the attorney make promises as to the results he can get in the case? This is something no ethical attorney would do, as specific results are unpredictable.
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 license suspension hearing, expert testimony, blood reanalysis, trial, subpoena costs, etc?
Is the lawyer a member of the National College of DUI Defense? Is he/she a member of the California DUI Lawyers Association?
Have there been any State Bar complaints against the attorney? (Most State Bar Associations maintain disciplinary records online.)