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How to Find a DUI Attorney in Florida

Selecting a defense attorney to address a DUI - driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs - charge should not be an impulse decision. In Florida, stiff penalties are associated with DUI, ranging from fines up to $500 for a first conviction to the permanent loss of driving privileges after subsequent convictions.

However, those facing such charges often choose DUI attorneys in panic mode. They may also be embarrassed to ask family or friends for a solid referral. In many cases, they might believe that any qualified lawyer will do.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. By finding a legal representative with a track record for beating such charges, a client stands a better chance in court. The best strategy is to take an organized approach and speak with several Florida DUI attorneys before making a decision.

Finding a DUI Attorney: The Basics

The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recorded more than 33,000 DUI convictions in 2011. A person so charged is by no means alone and should not be embarrassed to ask for legal help. Possible starting points include:

  • Prequalifying candidates by visiting local law firm websites
  • Asking for suggestions from a trusted source who has had experience with local DUI attorneys
  • Consulting a lawyer referral service

When contacting prospective DUI attorneys, asking the same interview questions of each is the best method for comparison. The questions should focus on:

  • The lawyer's experience defending DUI charges in Florida
  • His or her knowledge of the state's charges and penalties structure
  • The attorney's record of success
  • The law firm's case management practices

The Importance of Experience

Florida, like every other state, establishes its own DUI laws. Therefore, finding an attorney with experience practicing in Florida is critical to a positive outcome. For example, an attorney should be familiar with Florida zero tolerance DUI laws, which apply to drivers who are under the age of 21.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every state in the union has adopted some version of zero tolerance for underage drinking and driving. However, each state may administer its laws differently. Florida allows a limit of only 0.02 - the equivalent of a single drink - in drivers under 21. Those who test higher face a license suspension of 6 months. Finding a DUI attorney who knows what type of defense, if any, has the best chance of success in a zero tolerance DUI case is essential to the client.

Knowledge of the Consequences

Florida treats alcohol or drug-impaired drivers severely. With nearly 30 percent of its total driving fatalities in 2011 involving drunken motorists, the state enforces laws to designed prevent, if possible, impaired citizens from getting behind the wheel. When preventive measures fail, Florida institutes unequivocal penalties.

An individual facing an initial or subsequent DUI charge needs a lawyer who is able to speak candidly with the client about specific consequences. An attorney who speaks in vague terms and generalities may not have the expertise a client is looking for.

A Record of Success

Finding the best legal representation in a DUI case depends in large part on the lawyer's track record. Prospective clients should ask about it upfront. This not only includes the professional's ratio of acquittals to clients but also those cases in which he or she negotiated favorable plea bargains. Those attorneys who produce top results are happy to provide people with this information.

Asking for the professional's initial take on the specific situation helps people get an idea about how an attorney operates. Of course, the client cannot expect any attorney to offer an instant solution, but one who expresses an active interest in a case's legal implications is likely to mount a stronger defense.

Case Management

During attorney interviews, some of the questions should focus on practicalities. Each law office has its own case management practices, so clients should determine whether those meet his or her expectations.

The following questions focus on the office's case management approach:

  • Will the attorney personally handle all aspects of the case?
  • If not, who will be assisting and in what capacity?
  • Does the attorney act as the primary litigator in court?
  • What is the best way to get in touch with the lawyer?
  • Is the lawyer typically available to speak by phone?
  • How often will the office provide updates on the status of the case?
  • What is the cost of representation?

Finding the most effective DUI lawyer is essential in protecting driving privileges in the state of Florida. The right representation can help defendants avoid license suspension, large fines and even jail time. Individuals facing DUI charges should not hire a lawyer without first making a concerted effort to find the right representative for the situation.