The short answer is it should be a flat fee that includes trial if necessary. The average cost in San Diego, Chula Vista, El Cajon, or Vista Court should be anywhere from about $9,500 on the high end, to about $2,000 on the low end. Let me further preface that short answer by saying that I am talking about a lawyer with at least 10 years of experience in State DUI cases.
It is rare that our firm, San Diego Defenders, will quote a fee “up to trial” and “there is an additional fee if we go to trial.” Other lawyers will argue that most case don’t go to trial, and they don’t. But if there is a good trial issue, and the prosecutor knows that your attorney does not go to trial unless an additional fee is paid by the client, the lawyer generally will not get what he or she is trying to get for their client.
Because the Deputy District Attorney or Deputy City Attorney will know that most people will not pay the additional fee and that particular lawyer never goes to trial or files a motion, such as a motion to suppress evidence that could win a case.
For that reason, the California State Bar requires that a lawyer state the fee in the agreement is a flat fee that covers everything through trial. Not “up to trial” but a flat fee that includes motions to suppress and trial if it is necessary. That means it will help you, the client. And more and more, it is so important to try everything you can to keep your record clean especially if you are trying to get a job.
As for the range in fees from $9,500 to $2,000, it all comes down to your lawyers experience in determining how important keeping your record clean and how complicated your case may be in the particular court your case is in. Other factors include whether it will include the DMV hearing.
Perhaps the biggest factor is whether the your case will be handled by a lawyer in the law office you are negotiating with at the time. It is important to know that many “law firm websites” take calls with “case managers” who will give the case to the lawyer that will take the least. This happens a lot with the law firms that are out of county and “refer” the case to another lawyer in your county that may be practicing out of his or her trunk. Unfortunately, if you do not figure that out before you retain the firm, you will not find out until you actually try to contact your lawyer and it is hard to reach them.
So start with this easy to remember step when choosing a DUI lawyer. Find out the name of the supervising attorney
of the law firm you are talking to. If the person taking actual information about your case cannot tell you who that is – you are talking to a salesman with a nice website. The California State Bar requires that websites list who the supervising attorney is so that you know who is responsible for your case. If you find out who the supervising attorney is, get his or her full name and go to the California State Bar Attorney Search link and type in the name. That will tell you the following:
1. When they were admitted to the Bar (how long they have had a license to practice).
2. What is the address of their office. If it is not in your county, then expect to have a “contract lawyer” handling your case for a fraction of what you are paying.
3. Whether the attorney has had any formal complaints through the State Bar. Although, if you take the time to read the reviews of the particular lawyer, or law firm on Google reviews, Yelp, AVVO, Linkedin and various others, it will also help you to know the lawyer’s reputation.
A side note is that you should ask, and it should be on your retainer agreement, WHO IS YOUR ACTUAL ATTORNEY. Demand the name of who will be representing you in one of the most important events in your life.
So that is as short and concise as I can be with that question, please read our other blogs or watch our brief videos at www.DUIminute.com
Good Luck and call us with any questions.