To Lawyer or Not to Lawyer

The day after my arrest, I contacted a friend of mine in LA who I knew had a DUI. I wanted to know if she used a lawyer. She said that she had, but she didn’t think the lawyer was any good. She went with “someone random in the Valley” and was hoping to get her charge reduced to a “wet reckless.” (It wasn’t.) A “wet reckless” is still a DUI, but with fewer/lighter penalties. The most notable being a 12-hour alcohol education program (SB 1176) rather than 30 hours, and there is no ignition interlock device requirement.

The next day, I called a friend of mine who practices law in the Bay Area. She had spent some time in the District Attorney’s office prosecuting DUIs when she first got out of law school and she encouraged me to get a lawyer. She said the charge was worth fighting if for no other reason than, “It’s a pain in the ass to have on your record.” She asked around for recommendations in LA for me and sent me over a list of lawyers.

I narrowed the list down to two law firms because both were located in the South Bay, which is the area of LA County where I was arrested. Although it was a Saturday, I called and left messages at both firms. On Monday, one firm had called me back and I made an appointment for the next day. I never heard back from the other firm.

I don't know if my lawyer knows the judge, but he has been practicing in the South Bay for over 30 years. Photo Credit: Brian McLane
I don’t know if my lawyer knows the judge, but he has been practicing in the South Bay for 25 years. Photo Credit: Brian McLane

The firm I hired is a husband and wife team, though I’ve only met the husband. He asked me how I had found them since they don’t do much advertising and don’t solicit business. I said it was from a friend of a friend. He said that I would probably start receiving solicitations from lawyers who buy lists of DUI arrestees from police departments. (I only received one, and it was just a few days after my arrest.)

Since my BAC was 0.19%, there was likely no possibility that I could argue for a “wet reckless.” The lawyer cautioned me that he wouldn’t be able to know anything for sure until he obtained my arrest report and breathalyzer results. He made no promises, but said that likely the best course would be to try to argue for lighter penalties based on my clean record before the DUI. (My only other vices in the last 10 years were a speeding ticket that I went to traffic school for, and three parking tickets.)

I decided that he seemed trustworthy enough, so I hired him. His fee was $3,500, which seemed on the low side to me. I wondered if this was because my case was too simple. (Low side is my own assessment. I’m sure there are other lawyers that charge $99* or similar.)

* Plus X fee and Y fee and Z fee, etc.

My lawyer has made three court/DMV appearances for me, and we’ve met in-person five times, most of which were brief meetings. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s put about 5 hours into my case. It’s been worth it to me to have a lawyer, though. Because I’m not paying him by the hour. I’m paying him for his 30 years of expertise. Also, with everything else I need to do, I was glad to not have to make appearances at my court/DMV dates. He also plea bargained for me to only have the 30-hour alcohol education program requirement, rather than 90 hours. Perhaps I could have argued for that myself, but maybe I would’ve said something wrong or sneezed or done who knows what, so I think it’s better that I left the task to my lawyer.

When I’m done with my probation, which ends 1/20/18 if I don’t have any violations, my lawyer will petition for the DUI to be expunged from my record. He won’t charge me an extra fee for the expungement.