Hiring an attorney after an accusation of driving under the influence sounds expensive. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s not a cost well worth facing.
Just how expensive is a DUI attorney, anyway? Unfortunately, we can’t answer that question with just one number. But what we can say is that hiring an experienced DUI attorney often costs less than you think, especially when compared to the costs you may face as a result of a DUI conviction.
How Attorneys Charge for DUI Cases
DUI attorneys generally charge for their services is one of two ways: a flat fee or an hourly rate. Each has benefits and drawbacks for both you and the attorney.
A flat fee is just what it sounds like: you pay the attorney, up-front, a fixed amount of money to handle your DUI case. You and the attorney agree ahead of time what his services will involve. For example, you agree whether the representation will only cover addressing the criminal aspect of your case, or if it will also involve administrative matters like DMV hearings.
Whether an attorney will even offer services for a flat fee for a case depends on the nature of the DUI case. A flat fee can make sense for both attorney and client when the case is more-or-less “cookie cutter,” because the the client knows exactly how much he’ll be out-of-pocket for the legal services. It is common for example, for attorneys to charge a flat fee to represent a client in a simple, first-time DUI case.
Flat fees make less sense for attorneys when the case is more complicated and unpredictable, such as, for example, when an attorney represents a DUI offender with multiple prior convictions who faces felony charges. Predicting the amount of work a complicated case will involve is simply too difficult and risky to charge it as a flat fee.
In an hourly billing scenario, the attorney and client agree on the attorney’s hourly rate, which he bills monthly. Typically, the attorney will request that the client pay a “retainer” up front, which the attorney keeps in an escrow account and that he draws against to pay his monthly bill.
The ultimate cost of a DUI attorney who bills by the hour depends will depend on how many hours the attorney must work on the case, obviously. The more complicated the case, the more hours the attorney will likely end up working.
Hourly billing is less certain for clients than flat fee billing. But, in some cases it can work to their advantage, such as if the case resolves quickly. To reduce some of the uncertainty of hourly billing, some attorneys will agree to cap their hourly billing at a fixed upper limit, which is something of a hybrid between flat fee billing and hourly billing. Attorneys may also agree to have less-expensive associates or paralegals perform some of the tasks involved in a case, to keep costs down.
The Costs of Using an Attorney Unfamiliar With Georgia DUI Cases
Come what may, hiring an experienced Georgia DUI attorney is a far better option, and costs you far less in the long run, than going with inexperienced or court-appointed legal counsel. You wouldn’t hire a foot doctor to perform your heart surgery, and you shouldn’t go choose just any attorney to handle your DUI, either. Going with an inexperienced lawyer, or overworked, underpaid court-appointed attorney, puts you at risk of a DUI conviction. And that could mean:
Fines and Fees
In Georgia, a first offense DUI can cost between $300 and $1,000. For your third offense, that amount increases to a maximum of $5,000. Not only that, if you lose your license due to your DUI, you may have to pay to have a new license issued when the penalty is over. If you have more serious crimes associated with your DUI, including child endangerment, you may face more serious financial penalties.
Jail or Prison Time
For a first offense DUI, you may spend up to between 10 days and 12 months in jail, depending on the severity of the offense. As you reach your third offense, you may spend as much as a year in jail for the crime. While in jail, you cannot continue with your current employment. Many employers will not hold a position open for you until your return, especially once they find out about your DUI. Not only does jail time restrict your activities during your sentence, it often creates difficulties once you are released.
Losing Your License
The cost of a lost license adds up quickly—and it’s not just the fees associated with reinstating your license. When you lose your license, you may have no transportation. Even if you can obtain a limited license that allows you to drive to work or school or to transport your children to school, you may not have the ability to do your grocery shopping, head out to leisure activities, or transport your children to places you enjoy. You may have to rely on public transportation or car services like Lyft or Uber, the cost of which can add up quickly.
Increased Insurance Premiums
With a DUI on your record, many insurance companies will charge much higher premiums for the same insurance coverage you received before the accident. Without a DUI, an average accident claim of $2,000 can cause your premiums to jump around 41 percent. A DUI, on the other hand, can cause your rates to jump far more: some drivers, after a DUI conviction, will see their premiums more than triple. Other insurance companies may refuse to take on drivers with DUI convictions at all, leaving you scrambling to get the insurance you need.
We could go on, but you get the idea. No, the cost of a DUI attorney isn’t welcome. But having a skilled DUI lawyer on your side gives you the best chance of avoiding or minimizing the far, far greater costs of a DUI conviction.
If you face Georgia DUI charges, contact an experienced DUI defense attorney right away.