Questions You Should Ask a DWI Lawyer

If I were facing DWI prosecution, I would hire the lawyer who would give me the best chance of getting out of the DWI – period. More specifically, I would hire a lawyer who is highly trained and dedicated, who takes pride in who he or she is and hates to lose. My lawyer would have to go to the extra mile for ME! If I have a tough case, I want the lawyer who is going to find a way to get me out of trouble, not throw in the towel or give me excuses. I want the lawyer with a proven record of winning, especially the difficult case. In essence, I would hire a lawyer who emulates how Joe Cannon represent our clients.

What to Look For in a DWI Attorney

Finding an aggressive DWI Trial Lawyer who knows how to get results should be your top priority; for in the end, results are what matter.

You should retain a lawyer who devotes the majority of their practice to defending DWI cases. No lawyer can give you a guarantee on the outcome of your case (if one does, beware!); however, retaining a lawyer who concentrates on DWI defense will maximize your chances of being found Not Guilty.

If you have never been through this before, you probably don’t know who to call, and it seems lawyers are a dime a dozen. If this is not your first time, and you are searching for a different lawyer, you know just how important it is to hire an experienced DWI lawyer. You need to understand that just because someone is an attorney does not mean he or she has the necessary DWI experience to defend you and your DWI case. Further, not knowing what to look for in a lawyer makes the challenge of finding the right one even more difficult. It is extremely important to find an experienced, competent DWI defense lawyer who knows how to investigate your case for factual and legal defenses, visit the scene with a camera for potential trial exhibits, interview witnesses, suppress evidence, compel discovery of offense reports and breath test maintenance records, negotiate for a dismissal or reduction in charges, obtain expert witnesses for trial, attempt to save your driving privileges, and knows how to win the “difficult” case. In essence, you need a lawyer who will fight for you and leave no stone unturned in defending you. Remember, a conviction on your record will be there forever!

Contrary to popular belief, local bar association referral services are not necessarily a good source of information since they do not screen for qualifications. You are simply given the next name on the list. Likewise, any lawyer can take out an ad in the Yellow Pages, regardless of experience or ability.

After your consultation with the defense attorney, the following should be evident:

  • the lawyer has extensive experience in litigating and trying DWIs;
  • the lawyer has a reputation for going to trial (not for pleading clients guilty);
  • the lawyer has won difficult cases (he or she is not all talk);
  • you feel comfortable with the manner in which the lawyer communicated with you (If you are not comfortable, do you think the jury would feel comfortable?);
  • the lawyer listened to you (or did he or she do all the talking?);
  • the lawyer was genuinely interested in you and your case;
  • the financial agreement was clearly defined; and
  • you have a strong sense of confidence in his or her ability to professionally and competently handle your case!

How much DWI experience does the attorney have?

DWI litigation is one of the most difficult areas of criminal law to navigate. Developing DWI expertise necessitates a thorough understanding of the law and procedure governing DWI litigation. Furthermore, there is no substitute for trial experience in a DWI case. Joe Cannon has tried hundreds of DWI cases in Texas successful. Any lawyer can take a fee and then plead a case, but a true DWI defense lawyer will have a track record of success.

What portion of their practice is focused on defending DWI cases?

Texas DWI laws and defense techniques are constantly evolving. What worked yesterday might not be the best strategy today. It is critical to find a lawyer who is up to date on current laws, trends, and what happens in courts on a daily basis. Is your lawyer getting continuing legal education (CLE) hours at general seminars, or is he or she focusing on DWI-specific seminars? The best DWI attorneys receive CLE credits from DWI-specific seminars and are members of the National College of DUI Defense.

How many DWI cases have they handled?

Experience is important, particularly trial experience! There is no set number of cases or trials that a lawyer must have to be qualified to defend you. A lawyer who does not devote the majority of his or her practice to DWI defense and instead handles the occasional DWI case is unlikely to have the necessary experience to successfully defend you.

How many of their cases pled guilty?

Far too many lawyers plead guilty on behalf of their clients without conducting any real investigation or litigating any pre-trial issues. In our cases, pleading guilty is a last resort rather than a first option, and it never occurs until a complete and thorough investigation and review of all evidence has taken place.

Furthermore, prosecutors do not respect lawyers who plead their clients guilty without conducting an investigation, but they do like them. Those attorneys make the prosecutor’s job a lot easier. Prosecutors frequently do not negotiate plea bargains with them because the lawyers usually accept the first offer. It is critical that the prosecutors understand that the lawyer representing you will fight for you and has a track record of success in court. Many cases have been dismissed on the day of trial while the jury is outside the courtroom and one of us is at the counsel table reviewing the jury list in preparation for trial.

Are they affiliated with the NCDD?

The National College for DUI Defense is a non-profit professional organization committed to disseminating information about drunk driving litigation and improving the quality of DWI defense attorneys. Its mission is to provide the best advanced legal training to DWI defense attorneys, ensuring greater success in defending people facing the consequences of a DWI conviction. The best DWI lawyers are active members of this organization.

Do they own a copy of  Drinking/Driving Litigation Criminal and Civil textbooks and Texas Drunk Driving Law

These textbooks are intended to educate lawyers on changes in DWI laws as well as to help them improve their trial skills and techniques. Many lawyers regard these two books as essential resources for DWI defense and agree that without them, an attorney cannot do a competent job of defending people accused of DWI. If your lawyer is serious about winning your DWI case, he or she should have copies of both.

Are they familiar with the Breath Test machine used in Texas?

A Breath Test above the legal limit means “plead guilty” from the start, even if they won’t tell you until after the fee has been paid. A true DWI defense lawyer believes that failing a breath test does not mean you are or will be found guilty.

The lawyer’s understanding of how the Breath Test machine performs, the philosophy behind Breath Testing, and how alcohol is absorbed and eliminated from the body is often the differential between a Guilty and Not Guilty verdict, especially in a case involving a failed Breath Test. If you are serious about being found Not Guilty, your lawyer must be well-versed in alcohol, the human body, and the impact on Breath Testing.

Is your lawyer familiar with the Texas Breath Alcohol Testing Regulations? Can your lawyer give you a list of the breathalyzer’s flaws off the top of his or her head? If the lawyer cannot answer these two questions affirmatively, you should consider looking elsewhere.

Are they aware of the proper administration of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests?

The results of “Field Sobriety Tests” have been the subject of scientific studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and police agencies who were aware that their work was being scrutinized in the majority of DWI prosecutions. The NHTSA has admitted that in order for these tests to be reliable, they must be administered in the “prescribed standardized manner” each and every time they are given. Any deviation from the prescribed standardized procedure reduces the accuracy and reliability of the test.

It is critical that your attorney understand which Field Sobriety Tests have been approved by the NHTSA and how to determine whether any deviation occurred when the tests were administered to you.

Your lawyer should also have a copy of the police officer’s Field Sobriety Testing student training manual. If he or she does not have one, you should consider looking elsewhere. Is it brand new or used if he or she does? That tells you a lot.

Will they handle my license suspension case in addition to the DWI charge?

When you are arrested for DWI, you actually have two different cases pending against you. One is the DWI and the other is the hearing on the suspension of your driver’s license (Administrative License Revocation hearing, commonly referred to as the “ALR” hearing). Many lawyers who do not aggressively defend DWIs do not conduct ALR hearings. If the lawyer does not personally handle both, you may want to look for a different lawyer.

Is there a proper way to handle the hearing on the suspension of my license?

Many lawyers take the easy route and either do not hold a hearing on the license suspension or conduct the ALR over the phone via conference call with the prosecutor and judge. When possible, the proper and most effective way to handle these hearings is in person, in the courtroom, and only after the arresting officer has been subpoenaed. This takes more time, but it allows the lawyer to look the officer in the eye, determine whether he or she would be a strong or weak witness for the prosecution in your DWI case, and obtain sworn testimony about the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest. This is the point at which your true defense begins.

What will a good DWI defense lawyer cost?

This is a difficult question to answer because each case is unique. The lower the fee, in general, the less experience the lawyer has, increasing your chances of being persuaded to plead guilty. Some lawyers charge low fees but provide poor service, whereas others provide skill, experience, and a proven track record of success. It is unusual to find both in the same lawyer.

Good lawyers aren’t cheap, and cheap lawyers aren’t good,” as the saying goes. A “cheaper” lawyer frequently ends up being more expensive! The lower the fee, the more accessible they are to the general public, and the more likely they will have more clients than they can effectively handle. This means they will have less time to represent you, and your chances of conviction will increase. Convictions are costly.

Make sure you understand the fee the lawyer will charge you, as well as the financial penalties for pleading guilty. Your financial obligation to the lawyer should be documented in writing as well.