By: James Novak, Arizona DUI & Criminal Defense Attorney
After the reality of a DUI arrest sets in, you are overwhelmed and realize you need an Arizona DUI Lawyer to defend you. And you wonder if you can afford a good DUI or Criminal defense lawyer. First, you should ask yourself can I afford “not” to have a good DU defense attorney. Arizona has some of toughest DUI laws and punishments in the Country. To go unrepresented by a good DUI lawyer, through the maze of the Arizona Criminal Justice system is the fastest route to a most certain DUI conviction. With that in mind, here are 5 facts you should know about the cost of retaining a DUI defense Attorney in Arizona:
1) No Arizona Attorney governing entities dictate how much a Criminal or DUI Attorney can charge. (Unless you are covered under and using a pre-paid legal program through your employer or pre-paid legal service). As a result you may get quotes all over the board for the same charges, just different attorneys. One may quote you $1000.00 and the other $8,000.00 to give you the same competent legal representation.
2) The more competition that exists in the jurisdiction or geographical area, the better your chance of finding a good, experienced DUI defense attorney who is affordable too. In order to gain an edge over their competitors, like any other service or product, a DUI or criminal attorney or law firm may reduce their prices.
3) Generally, an attorney’s fees are not reflection on their competence, experience or the effectiveness of their legal representation. This applies to both lower and higher fees. For example, generally a larger firm with many employees may need to charge higher fees than a sole practitioner or smaller Arizona criminal defense or DUI law firm, because their cost to operate is higher (generally, not always).
4) The Arizona State Bar prohibits Criminal & DUI attorneys from charging on a contingency basis (meaning the practice of charging pending the outcome of the case).
5) You will usually be responsible for any extra costs above the Attorney’s fees for services such as independent expert witness fees, reconstruction engineers, psychological assessments, and independent polygraph testing if they are needed for your defense. You should discuss such services and charges with your attorney before they are incurred.
6) Arizona Criminal & DUI defense lawyers must clearly provide the basis for which they are charging or the rate of the fees to their clients in writing. This is usually done upon retention of the attorney with what is known as a “fee agreement”. You will be required to sign at the time you retain that attorney. Be sure you understand it before you sign. And make sure you keep a copy for yourself before leaving the Attorney’s office.
7) Some law firms charge what may be called a “global fee” that covers everything including pre-trial and trial defense services. However, in Arizona only a small amount of DUI cases ever go to trial in Maricopa County Arizona. Somewhere between 2% to 5% meaning 95% to 98% of all DUI cases are either settled with a plea agreement, or dismissal before trial. You should understand that when you agree to a “global” fee, you are usually not entitled to a refund if your case is settled before a trial is needed. Alternatively, there are other DUI and criminal defense firms who charge a two tier stages. This fee structure is commonly broken into a flat-fee before the DUI case is set for trial and another fee if the DUI case gets set for trial. This way, if your case does not go to trial, you don’t pay it, and the law firm, does not keep money for a service that was not performed.
In sum, you have many choices of which attorney to hire. It boils down to what you are willing to pay, how much time and effort you put in to finding the criminal defense or DUI law firm you feel will get you the best outcome in your case for a fair price you both can agree upon. Generally, attorney fees are negotiable. If you find an attorney you want to hire, but their fees are out of your price range, it never hurts to ask if they are willing to agree upon a price that is more affordable for you.