According to the statistics, 29% of all motor vehicle-related deaths across the United States were due to drunk driving.
Driving while intoxicated is a dangerous affair, but that doesn’t stop many motorists from taking the risk. Due to stiffer consequences related to drunk driving, an exceptional lawyer is critical when you need to deal with a DUI charge.
Keep reading for some vital questions you should ask DUI lawyers when you’re looking to hire an attorney.
What’s a DUI?
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is where a person drives a motor vehicle in a public place with the alcohol in their bloodstream exceeding the legal limit.
The allowable federal blood alcohol content (BAC) level is 0.08%. In Texas, the legal BAC limit is 0.08%.
DUI is many times thought of differently as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). A DWI occurs when a driver is operating a vehicle in a public place while impaired by drugs. These can either be recreational or prescribed drugs.
The law on DUIs and DWIs varies from state to state. In Texas, both a DWI and DUI refer to a person driving a vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. As such, they are unable to exercise regular physical or mental capacity due to the use of the drug or alcohol.
With that said, even though DWI is the legal definition of this crime in Texas, it’s most commonly referred to as a DUI, and the phrases are used interchangeably.
When the police determine you’re exhibiting dangerous behavior while driving, they will pull you over for a sobriety test. If you fail the field test, you may be arrested even if your BAC level is below the 0.08% limit.
Texas Zero Tolerance Policy
In Texas, anyone 21 years or older can be charged with a DUI when driving with more 0.08% BAC. However, the same doesn’t happen for those 21 years and under.
If anyone under 21 years has any alcohol in their system when pulled over, they will be charged with a DUI. That’s the only time DUI becomes an officially legal term in Texas law.
The state’s zero-tolerance policy dictates that a person under 21 years shouldn’t drive with any detectable alcohol in their blood. Thus, whether they are impaired or not at the time of arrest becomes irrelevant.
Additionally, if a person under 21 years is found to have a BAC exceeding the legal limit, they can still be charged with a DWI. The same goes for if they drive while under the influence of drugs.
Questions to Ask When Hiring DUI Lawyers in Texas
Even though both a DUI and a DWI are serious charges, A DWI is more grievous in Texas. As such, you need the help of an excellent lawyer to help you deal with the case.
Here are some questions to ask when hiring a Texas DUI attorney to find the right representation.
1. What Areas of Law Do You Practice?
Many lawyers will deal with DUI cases, but some devote their practice wholly (or almost exclusively) to DUIs.
An attorney who spends a majority of their time dealing with DUI issues is likely up to speed on the latest DUI law changes.
The more case mileage an attorney has, the more experience they gain on trial defense and plea bargaining tactics.
2. What Do Others Say About You?
While looking for a DUI attorney who has clocked many hours in that practice area is essential, it doesn’t guarantee you excellent service.
More often than not, the quality of work a lawyer will do for you is reflected in their reputation.
Find out what the lawyer sees as their public reputation and compare that to what your research digs up to uncover any inconsistencies.
3. What Local Knowledge Do You Have?
Each location has its unique dynamics when it comes to court and DMV office practices. Consequently, to successfully deal with a DUI in Texas, you need an attorney who is quite familiar with the local scene.
Such a lawyer has likely developed relationships with judges and prosecutors and knows how they approach cases. These hidden insights can be advantageous in delivering better results.
4. Who Will Handle My Case?
Are you planning to approach a law firm with several attorneys? You will need to ask for the lawyer that will be handling the day-to-day issues of your case and attending court with you. Ideally, you need the same attorney handling your case from start to finish.
5. How Much Will I Have to Pay?
Typically, DUI attorneys charge clients a flat fee for their services. However, you might work with a lawyer who bills you by the hour.
No matter the fee structure, you need to know how much you are paying and what that fee will cover before you hire an attorney.
Don’t assume that the cheapest lawyer is the best option. Ask about whether there will be other additional charges to foot. Often, if you do decide to take the trial route, a DUI attorney may charge you an extra trial fee.
6. How Do You Plan to Communicate?
Every lawyer handles communicating with clients differently, and you will need to voice your expectations. Ask the attorney how they plan to keep in touch with you throughout your case.
It could be that your communication will be regularly or whenever there’s a material development.
Beware that if you text, email, or call your lawyer constantly, they will bill you for it as part of their client time.
7. Are You a Member of the National College of DUI Defense?
A ‘generalist’ DUI will take your case, but the odds are high that they will opt for a plea deal. A DUI attorney that’s part of the National College of DUI Defense (NCDD) is better prepared to go the extra mile in dealing with your case.
For example, NCDD lawyers are trained to utilize scientific means to support their DUI defense strategy.
Get the Right Lawyer
A DUI charge is a serious offense that can trigger severe ripple effects if you don’t get a good lawyer to help you handle the case. Find out the best questions to ask several DUI lawyers to shortlist the best candidates and hire the attorney that can help you navigate the situation.
Andreea Ionescu is a highly knowledgeable criminal defense attorney with experience working at the District Attorney’s office. Reach out for legal representation in DUI cases that gets you results.