This page is dedicated to helping you sift through and sort out the important characteristics to look for in determining which Colorado DUI lawyer is best for you. Here are the questions to ask an attorney during your initial consultation, and how to spot “red flags” during the research and vetting process.
Be sure to ask these questions and carefully consider the answers when choosing who to hire to defend you against your Colorado DUI charge:
- What percentage of your practice is dedicated to DUI defense? Do you handle other areas of law such as family law, bankruptcy, personal injury, or other criminal defense matters like theft, assault, or domestic violence cases?
There is significant value in dedicating your profession to one area of practice. It makes one a specialist instead of a general practitioner. The best in their respective service professions are often those who concentrate on one area exclusively instead of trying to get as many clients in the door as possible.
- Have ANY of the attorneys in the firm or that you contract with been suspended, disbarred, or had discipline imposed by the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation or any other state bar licensing authority? Ask for a list of firm attorneys and bar numbers and check their disciplinary history yourself. With either of these pieces of information, you can easily search attorney discipline history, and how long the attorney has been licensed.
It is basic due diligence to run a background check on an employee or anyone with whom you place your trust. If an attorney has any disciplinary history, the service you receive and how that attorney’s credibility may be regarded by other members of the legal system could be suspect.
- How much did you pay for the recognition, “awards,” and/or logos that appear on your website? If you don’t pay, does the recognition go away?
Like fake reviews, one of the biggest scams that some lawyers partake in are purchasing or subscribing to bogus recognition’s, awards, and endorsements. We frequently get solicited by local and national organizations to have a local media celebrity endorse us for $500 a month or to be listed in a “Top 10” or “Top 100” list in order to use the award logo on our website in exchange for an annual licensing fee. By paying that fee, a lawyer can claim he or she is a “top 10” attorney, or that they have achieved some legitimate recognition in the legal field. Many law firm websites are littered with these meaningless icons and badges.
We don’t tarnish our reputation in the community by partaking in these phony achievements. The only recognition’s we accept and/or publish are legitimate, peer-reviewed recognition’s that only members of the Colorado legal community (i.e., the folks who see our work every day) can influence.
- How many DUI trials has your firm won in the past year?
While the decision to go to trial is always the defendant’s, there are very few attorneys in Colorado that regularly go to and have success in DUI trials. There are, however, dozens of lawyers that claim they are the “best.” Ethical attorneys will not provide you with the record of dismissal or specific case information due to attorney/client privilege. However, you can learn a lot about any attorney’s experience and skill set based on their willingness to take cases to trial and their success at trial. Also, prosecutors generally give these attorneys the best deals, quicker, because they know that the attorneys are good in trial and will go to trial. There are a lot of so called “DUI experts” in Colorado that avoid trials, rarely go to trial, or haven’t won a DUI trial in years (if ever). Make sure the attorney you hire has experience in trial and has had recent DUI trial success.
- Have you been asked to present to a formal bar association on the topic of DUI law? If so, which ones and when was the last time you presented?
The top attorneys in their field are frequently asked to teach and present to local, statewide, and national defense bars. For example, Jay Tiftickjian is frequently asked to lecture locally and nationally based on our reputation and experience in this niche field of law.
- What involvement do you have in the legal community, other than being a member of a bar association?
Attorneys who are passionate about what they do often volunteer time to policy issues, mentoring other attorneys, and working to improve the rights of the accused by being an active member of their local and state bar associations.
For example, Jay Tiftickjian is the current president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, has been asked to represent its interest at the legislature and in the media, and is a faculty member and/or provided training for the Colorado Bar Association, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, Colorado Public Defender’s Office, Colorado Alternative Defense Counsel, Alaska Bar Association, New Mexico Criminal Defense Bar, Oklahoma Criminal Defense Bar, and other local and national legal organizations.
- What experience does your firm have with the Colorado Department of Revenue Division of Motor Vehicles?
DMV hearings are notoriously difficult to win, but in some circumstances, they are still winnable. In addition, license revocations and reinstatements are one of the most complicated and frustrating parts of the process. Unfortunately, some lawyers just tell you to call the DMV or look at the DMV’s website and handle this aspect of your case on your own. Success at DMV hearings can be a good indicator of your attorney’s litigation skills and understanding of administrative law. If you consult with an attorney who doesn’t handle DMV hearings or recommends you forego the DMV Hearing, move on; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain (like your driving privilege) by contesting a revocation action. Also, helpful information can be obtained through strategic cross-examination at the DMV Hearing, which could result in a dismissal or much better outcome in the court case. Any attorney who recommends you save the money and concede the license revocation is doing you a disservice.
- Are you hiring a legitimate law firm, or an attorney with a mobile phone, virtual office and website?
Make sure your attorney has an actual office and isn’t renting a virtual office (or four in different locations) just to meet with clients and potential clients, or market to different localities. You wouldn’t hire a financial advisor who works out of his basement, so why would you hire an attorney who does? Similarly, would you feel secure with a financial advisor who conducts all their business over the phone? At the end of the day, hiring an attorney is an investment; to that end, you should make sure your attorney has a quality staff that can assist him or her to meet the needs of their clients. Attorneys are humans too, and they cannot do everything. Having quality staff that can handle and assist in the voluminous administrative filings, day-to-day operations, and general case management is critical to allowing the attorney the time they need to properly work your case. Everyone wants a bargain, but solid legal representation is only found through diligent work and investment in client’s cases. When you’re facing criminal charges, the loss of your license, jail or prison time, the loss of employment, and a permanent criminal history, it is not the time to get a cheap, bargain-bin attorney that cuts corners instead of investing in you.
- How are your fees structured?
Most DUI attorneys in Colorado will offer flat fees. Flat fees are often advantageous to the client, as getting your case over with quickly does not usually go together with obtaining the best result. You do not want to accept a less than desirable plea offer because of fear that additional court appearances will cost you more money. With that said, you also don’t want an attorney who offers cheap rates or who spends 20 minutes telling you why they are the best in town and then quotes $2,000 for representation. If you don’t invest in yourself and your future, who will? Quality representation and experience comes with a higher price; like many things in life, you get what you pay for. You wouldn’t go to the cheapest surgeon to operate on you, nor would you buy the cheapest parachute. Don’t go cheap on your DUI defense.
- Do you own a copy of Mr. Tiftickjian’s book, Colorado DUI Defense: The Law and Practice?
Most everyone who practices even a little DUI defense in Colorado has read Jay’s book and uses it frequently as reference. Ask them if they own it, look at its reviews, and while it’s not a book written for clients or written for marketing to potential clients, feel free to read the book yourself.