3 Questions to ask before you hire your attorney

1- Does your fee include challenging the license revocation in court? That means an implied consent case started with a Petition for Judicial Review.

My Response: Yes, I will challenge it. Your license revocation can be used for purposes of higher insurance costs, motor vehicle forfeitures and increased future penalties. You have a thirty day time limit to have your lawyer challenge the revocation. It is important to act promptly in hiring a lawyer. Don’t wait a month or more or until your first court date to contact an attorney.

2 – Will you bill me more if you have to do “extra” work; i.e., researching legal issues, writing legal memoranda, arguing motions, rejecting unacceptable offers from prosecutors and judges and making additional court appearances, or even trying the case in a jury trial.

My Response: No, my fee is the same whether the case is settled to your satisfaction or whether we have to fight through a trial for anything we can get. I’m available to give proper legal representation, even through a jury trial. I don’t stop working in the trial courts until my client tells me to stop. Appeals to Court of Appeals and Supreme Courts and later probation violations are not included in my fee.

3 – Do you refer me to an independent alcohol assessment?

My Response: Yes, right away. At the end of your case (unless it is dismissed or you’re found Not Guilty on all charges), the judge is required by state law to send you into the probation department to determine if you have a drinking or drug problem. I send my clients into that meeting prepared. There are two good reasons to be prepared:

First, if you have a problem, find out right away and start addressing it. This will help to avoid a “surprise” in the probation office. Moreover, if you take the initiative it is less likely that you will end up in a program that you dislike. The program that you choose is more likely to be compatible with you rather than a program the court chooses for you. Finally, persons who successfully address their problems usually get better results in court than those who wait to be forced into the program of the court’s choice. One should not find it surprising that those who take responsibility for their actions by seeking treatment will benefit over those who are less responsible.

Second, if you do not believe that you have a problem, get assessed before going to court and arrive at court prepared with documentation of the absence of a problem. Generally, most first-time offenders and even many second-time offenders are not required to go to treatment. If the assessment finds a problem and you disagree with the assessment, you can call me back and tell me what a “bad assessment” it is and tell me to rip it up. I’ll probably have a little heart-to-heart talk with you first, but in the end I am ethically required not to disclose it. Now, compare that to going to court unprepared, getting assessed by the probation department and disagreeing with them, i.e., “Hey judge, who is this jerk you sent me to, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about – I don’t have a problem (or I’ll lose my job if I have to go to inpatient treatment . . .) – Judge just rip up that assessment.” Good luck! So much for self-representation in a DWI case.

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Paul Ahern - Attorney

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