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7 Questions You Need to Ask Your DWI Lawyer

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

Driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher is considered a DWI in Texas. The good news is that Texas had a 33% drop in DWI arrests in 2019, according to the CDC. The BAD news is that there are still thousands of DWI arrests in our state. People make mistakes and sometimes, law enforcement wrongly accuses someone of DWI.

First, it’s critical that NO ONE drives while impaired. NEVER. It’s a dangerous situation and drivers should always be sober when taking the wheel. However, mistakes happen and when they do, we can’t turn back the clock. But, there are ways to minimize the impact of a DWI on your life.

If you find yourself being arrested for DWI, you need to contact a lawyer immediately. The penalties for a DWI can be severe, and an attorney might be able to minimize the impact of the situation.

Here are the 7 questions to ask a DWI lawyer:

1. What’s Your Experience in DWI Defense?

You need an attorney who has previous experience defending people charged with DWI. Those lawyers know how to defend cases like yours. They’re also intimately familiar with the DWI laws in your state.

Ask about the number of DWI cases the lawyer has defended in the past and how long the lawyer has practiced in that area of law. Remember- ask about the number of cases the LAWYER has worked, not the number the firm has worked. Some big firms pool their numbers to make them sound more experienced. You want the experience of your individual lawyer, not the firm.

Do they have experience on both sides of the bench? Having a former prosecutor on your side can be extremely helpful since they have unique insight into the working of the court and the actual job of the prosecutor in your case.

You can also ask about past success in similar cases. Do they have experience going to trial, or are most of their cases settled out of court? How many cases have they had where they got the charges dropped or secured a lighter sentence or lesser charge?

If you have a complicated DWI case, such as a fatality, make sure the lawyer has experience in that type of case.

2. Who Will Be Handling My Case?

Most larger firms focus on volume of cases. That means they have a lot of staff to pay for and pass around cases to associates, paralegals, or others to handle. This is a common practice in larger firms with multiple law partners. So, it’s not unusual for the lawyer you initially meet to hand off your case to a paralegal who will then do most (if not all) the work on your case. You may never even speak to your lawyer again! It also means you won’t get a lot of personal attention to your case, since yours is just one of probably dozens they have going at any given time.

When it comes to law firms, bigger is NOT better. In fact, some of the best lawyers in the nation are individual practitioners who have a passion for the law and carefully select which cases they will work. These individuals are the diamonds among the rubble. They are the fighters who are doing it out of principle- not just profit.

So, it’s important to ask who will actually be handling your case. Will it be the lawyer you meet with or are they just a “closer” trying to get you to sign on with the firm? Are you just another case or do you sense they truly care (and know) about the law?

It comes down to personal preference. If you want personal attention to your case and know that it’s being handled from start to finish by the same person you hired, then you need to ask.

2. Do You Have An Established Network Of Experts?

DWI cases involve lots of details that could potentially help your case. If the traffic stop, field sobriety test, or chain of custody for blood tests isn’t handled properly, those technicalities could help your lawyer argue your case.

Experienced lawyers have a network of experts in the field who help look for loopholes and technicalities that can help your case. Private investigators, crime scene specialists, video analysts, former law enforcement officers, etc. Ask your lawyer if they have a good network of experts and if they may be necessary in your case.

3. What Are The Possible Outcomes?

Knowing the possible penalties for a DWI helps you prepare for what’s to come. In Texas, the penalties can include any combination of fines, jail time, license suspension, education programs, and ignition interlock devices.

If it’s your first DWI, the penalties are hefty, but they’re not as harsh as they are for repeat offenders. Your fine can be up to $2,000 and jail time can range from 3 to 180 days.

For your second DWI, the fine jumps to $4,000 and jail time could be 1 month to 1 year. Your third DWI can cost you up to $10,000 in fines and 2 to 10 years of state jail time.

If you have a child under the age of 15 with you, the fine can be up to $10,000 with up to 2 years of jail time.

Additional charges can add to the fines and jail time. If you cause an accident that results in a death, you could be charged with manslaughter, which carries additional penalties.

Your lawyer should be able to explain those possible consequences. While no lawyer can guarantee an outcome, they should be able to give you thoughts on your case and what you could be looking at for penalties.

4. Do You Have Experience in My Jurisdiction?

Local experience can be particularly helpful to your case. While the laws that govern DWI cases are the same throughout your state, the little nuances in each jurisdiction are different.

A local lawyer with experience in DWI cases will know how particular judges or prosecutors approach similar cases. They may have a good rapport with those people, which could work to your advantage. Your county may also have special programs you can participate in to lessen the severity of your punishment.

5. Can You Help Minimize the Impact of My DWI?

The jail time and fines are only part of the impact that a DWI has. You’ll likely lose your license, possibly for up to 2 years.

If your employer finds out about the charges, it could affect your employment. It could also affect your standing with schools, organizations, and other agencies.

In Texas, you may be eligible to have your DWI non-disclosed from your record. It can stop employers and agencies from seeing the conviction but certain criteria must be met.

An experienced DWI attorney may also be able to get you a lighter sentence, have the charges reduced, or dismissed completely.

Ask what steps they would take to minimize the overall impact of a DWI on your life.

6. How Do Your Fees Work?

You don’t want to run into surprises financially when using a DWI lawyer. The total cost can depend on how complicated your case is. You might not pay as much if you accept a plea bargain as you would if you went to trial, which requires a lot more preparation and time in court.

Even with the potential variables, an experienced lawyer should be able to explain clearly how the fees work.

Lawyers typically offer two different payment structures: flat fee and hourly. With a flat fee, the a lawyer quotes you a set amount for your case. It may sound like a lot at first, but in the long run, a flat fee usually saves you money.

How can a flat fee save you money? A flat fee gives your lawyer an incentive to resolve your case as quickly and efficiently as possible. An experienced DWI attorney with a strong track record of success and knowledge will likely be on the expensive side. Your paying for their expertise. They will also know, from their experience, what work and costs will likely be needed for your case. If they don’t, then you may want to question their experience.

An hourly approach means you pay a set rate per hour for the amount of work a lawyer does on your case. The downside of hourly rates means that the more hours you lawyer works, the more you pay and the more they make. It’s a reverse incentive for them to resolve your case quickly. Sadly, some unethical lawyers may drag out a case for long periods of time just to rack up more “billable hours” on your case. Since you’re charged for the actual amount of time the lawyer spends on your case, they have little monetary incentive to get your case handled.

Make sure you fully understand the fee structure and the payment expectations. You may have to pay the full amount upfront, or the lawyer may offer you a payment plan to spread out the costs. You may have to pay a retainer, which is essentially a deposit, when the lawyer accepts your case if they charge hourly rates.

In either case, nobody works for free and you will pay more for experienced representation. But, that doesn’t mean the most expensive is the best, so choose wisely and go with who you feel most comfortable and confident in handling your case.

7. What Can I Expect?

If this is your first DWI, you may not know what to expect. Ask your lawyer about the process, so you understand what’s going to happen.

It’s important to have a candid, open, and honest lawyer who will shoot straight with you. A DWI is serious and you don’t need someone selling you a fantasy outcome. Keep it real. It’s also important that you’re comfortable with them and their level of compassion for your case.

This question also helps you evaluate the lawyers demeanor. If they brush you off or give you a very brief explanation, consider how well the attorney communicates overall. You want someone who’ll be there for you and explain things honestly and clearly.

Questions to Ask Your DWI Lawyer

Knowing what questions to ask your DWI lawyer can help you pick the right representation for your case. Asking those questions helps you evaluate the lawyer’s qualifications and gives you more information on what to expect from the case.

If you’re accused of a DWI, contact us to get your defense started immediately.

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