A drunk driving conviction in New Jersey can have a devastating effect on your life. You can lose your job, go to jail, and be hit with crushing auto insurance premiums, as well as surcharges. This is no time to pick the lawyer with the best ad in the phone book, the slickest web site on the Internet, or the one that gets the most glowing praise by a friend.

You have to choose carefully and be sure that your lawyer knows what he or she is doing. Here are three key questions you should ask any lawyer. You should be thoroughly satisfied with his or her answers before you decide.

How many years have you been in practice?

Certainly this is an important question to ask, as experience is very important in this area. But it is more than the number of years he or she has handled New Jersey drunk driving cases. The deeper question is whether the attorney has the attorney handled enough cases:

  • to be familiar enough with the issues involved?
  • to have a good working knowledge of how the Alcotest breathalyzer machine functions (or more importantly, malfunctions)?
  • to know the judges and prosecutors in the various municipal courts well enough to know how they will react to certain issues or what penalties they should seek?

Most DUI cases in New Jersey resolve without trial, however, so how many cases the attorney has tried is not always indicative.

What are the key issues you see in my case?

The answer to this question will often give you a good answer to the previous one. Although only a full and thorough review of all of the state's proofs against you will reveal every issue and applicable defense, the attorney should be able to go over with you all possible defenses and issues and identify those that are applicable with the information at hand in the interview Issues such as:

  • Was there probable cause to stop you?
  • Can they prove you were driving?
  • Did they perform the field sobriety test correctly?

The depth and detail of their answer will reveal whether or not they know what they are doing. You may not know what is down the road in your case, but the attorney should be able to show you a good map to give you an idea of where you could end up.

What are the potential fees and costs for my case?

Different attorneys have different fee structures that include different things, so you need to be clear on what you would be paying if you hired him or her. In general, New Jersey attorneys charge a flat fee for DUI matters, but not all of them include the fee for a trial, since most DUI cases plead out.

The words that you definitely do not want to hear down the road in your case are, "Oh, that's extra!" So you need to ask:

  • How much for the pretrial work?
  • How much to try the case?
  • Is the cost of the discovery (evidence packet from the state) included or is it billed separately?
  • Are there any other fees or costs?

So What Should I Do?

If you have been charged with a DUI in New Jersey, you should get an attorney to represent you; the consequences are just too severe. But which attorney you choose, no matter the fees he or she charges, should be based on your satisfaction with the answers given to these questions.

If you received your ticket in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, or Cumberland counties, call my my office immediately at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment. DUI cases are processed quickly, so you need to make a decision soon! Feel free to ask me these questions when you come in!

If you are looking for more information on New Jersey's drunk driving law, then download my free book, How Much Trouble Am I In? A Guide to New Jersey Drunk Driving Law.

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.