Thursday, October 22, 2009

What should a DUI defense cost you?

Just how much should a DUI defense cost you?

Let's say you get stopped for speeding or a taillight out or any other traffic violation, and the officer decides that you are intoxicated and arrests you for DUI.

What should your defense cost you?

Let's also say that you first had a public defender, who didn't represent you very well (like, didn't show up in court for a pre-trial conference). The judge replaced that P/D with a second public defender. And that one also didn't represent you well, and so the judge appointed a third P/D - one who didn't want to talk to you and wasn't really interested in defending you, telling you, "Just plead guilty."

And then you borrowed some money and hired an attorney in private practice.

The attorney presented you with a Contract - an "employment agreement". (First question: do you "employ" an attorney? Or, rather, do you "retain" an attorney?) If you "employ", do you have to get a W-2 and I-9 from him, confirm he is eligible to work in the U.S., withhold federal and state income taxes and Social Security taxes, and match the Social Security contribution?

A contract offered by an attorney ("Here, sign there") is obviously a unilateral contract. Think it protects your interests? Should you have a different attorney look at it, before you sign it?

As a retainer, you cough up a $5,000 flat fee and you read (or don't read) that "this flat fee is the same regardless of whether the case goes to trial, is dismissed, or results in a negotiated plea".

And then the employment agreement states that the hourly fee is $250.00. Do you ask what that means? Or do you leave your attorney's office, believing that the total charge will be $5,000 for the case?

Among other charges before the trial, the attorney bills 1.3 hours ($325.00) for each of four pre-trial appearances in court.

On the days before your jury trial, your lawyer charges you

Two days before trial: 12 hours (12 x $250=$3,000) (to get ready).
One day before trial: 8 hours (8 x $250 = $2,000) (to get readier).

First day of trial (jury selection): 7 hours (7 x $250 = $1,750), plus second lawyer, 8 hours (8 x $250 = $2,000)

Second day - the trial: 2 hours ($250 x 2 = $500) for the first lawyer PLUS 5 hours (5 x $250 = $1,250) for Lawyer No. 2, who actually handled the trial.

The next day you get a call from the attorney that the jury found you "Not Guilty" of all charges and that you don't even have to go to court.

And then your attorney sends you a bill for $13,050! Taking out your $5,000 retainer, now you owe an additional $8,050.

Should your attorney have informed you in advance that charges would like run well over your retainer? And, after he'd blown through your retainer, should he have informed you of that and alerted you to expect to pay more?

And then you get a bill from the courthouse for $510.93 for "fines and court costs" and they won't return your driver's license without payment! When you call the courthouse, you find out that they are billing you for the third public defender!

OK, you've been waiting, I know, to learn where this happened. In Illinois, but not in McHenry County.


Another Lawyer said...

A guy really got the PD when he had $5,000. Now that's a crime.

Gus said...

No, he never had the $5,000. He borrowed it from a relative who had just received it. And the relative doesn't have the other $8,000 to pay the balance, and wouldn't. Yet the crafty lawyer had the lender sign as Guarantor on the contract.

The first lawyer took the case without advising that he'd turn it over to Lawyer No. 2 in his office, who apparently had to put in 20 hours of prep time for a "standard" DUI defense.

Twenty hours of learning should be amortized over the next ten cases, not charged to the first client who comes through the door.

Seems like I wrote recently that people sometimes need lawyers to protect them from their lawyers.

Whitmore2 said...

I know what $250/hr means. I would not leave the office expecting $5000 to cover the entire cost, especially if the case goes to trial (versus taking a plea deal). Therefore, I would expect the cost of my defense to exceed my retainer. I should be receiving billing statements from my attorney stating billable hours and cost. Sounds to me like the defendant wasn't too smart.

Another Lawyer said...

Let me restate ... you mean the guy could easily borrow $5K and got the public defender???

Another Lawyer said...

Oh, and another thing. Your "standard DUI defense" is just plain crazy. There simply is no such thing. Every case turns on its unique facts. The law is very complicated, and twisted mostly due to "help" from groups like MADD.

You realize that you don't have to be driving to get a DUI, the law is expansive and very unpopular with juries.

Really, this whole line of it's easy to be a lawyer, really means nothing coming from somebody who has never done it.

Gus said...

No, not easily.

After the defendant got to the third public defender, the person who became the lender received a settlement from an accident and then agreed to loan it for a private attorney.