Saturday, March 7, 2009

Times Maybe Hard, but Now is Not the Time to Go Cheap

Earlier this week I was in the Bridgeview courthouse waiting for a client to arrive. I overheard a public defender talking to a young man facing a very serious felony DUI charge. He was looking at enhanced sentencing if he pled guilty or was found guilty of his DUI. It was clear that he was very surprised when the public defender told him he could face up to 6 years in prison for this offense.

She suggested to him that because he had posted a bond that would potentially be refunded (less the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County's 10% administrative fee for letting him post the bond), he should be able to find "somebody" to represent him on this very serious felony DUI. He seemed concerned that his bond would be inadequate to get a knowledgeable DUI lawyer. The public defender tried to reassure him that times were hard and some private lawyer would gladly take his money. Of course there was no discussion of the the non-trivial risk and length of time associated with collecting on the defendant's promise to pay via the bond refund.

She forgot to tell him to make sure he had a knowledgeable DUI lawyer who could aggressively defend him. The consequences are way too high for this young man to pick a lawyer who may be unfamiliar with DUI law, including the many and complex recent changes. When I'm hired to defend a second or third DUI, I am often shocked by the lack of work done by the prior attorneys. Examples? How about pleading people out on the first court date without having received Discovery, and pleading out defendants with an underblow?

Any defendant facing the very serious penalties of a DUI needs to make sure that the attorney they choose has the necessary skill and experience. Attorneys aren't immune to the economic slowdown, and more than a few may be looking to get into new areas of law. Defendants need to ask the right questions to ensure that they aren't paying for their lawyer's education in DUI defense.

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Comments are welcome but please do not leave personal information or specific legal questions in the comment field. If you need legal assistance, the best way to get in touch with me is to call my office at 312.944.3973