Almost every day of my life, I talk to people who’ve been accused of crimes and are trying to avoid conviction. In many cases, the person ends up hiring me, because I’m good at what I do. Every once in a while, however, following my free, initial consultation, I’ll get a call back from someone saying something along the lines of: My uncle has a friend who’s an attorney, and I think he’s going to help me out as a favor to the family. This is a terrible idea.
Two Good Reasons
The number one reason why you shouldn’t use a family friend to handle your DUI / OVWI case is that the easiest answer is rarely the best. It’s overwhelming to be facing criminal charges and trying to decide who to hire as counsel, and you might save yourself some anxiety up front by making the easy choice and hiring a family friend to represent you.
This anxiety, however, is likely to return later on in the process when your attorney is unfamiliar with the formalities and expectations of a DUI / OVWI case. All of the panic you were trying to avoid is bound to come rushing back when you and your attorney are both blindsided by new and increasingly more difficult problems, the least of which is a license suspension.
The number two reason why you shouldn’t use a family friend to handle your DUI / OVWI case is that you don’t want a lawyer working outside their primary area of practice. I, Marc Lopez, am a former DUI / OVWI prosecutor and current criminal defense attorney.
I don’t draft wills, I don’t handle non-profit business plans, and I try not to get involved in anyone’s divorce. Criminal defense with an emphasis on DUI / OVWI is what I do. Your uncle’s friend might be the premier podiatry malpractice attorney in the state, but if he isn’t familiar with DUI / OVWI law, do you really want him handling your case?
Your Best Option
If you’re facing DUI / OVWI charges, the best option is to hire a DUI / OVWI criminal defense attorney. Most lawyers aren’t aware of this, but every DUI / OVWI case can be thought of as having three distinct (but interrelated) components.
The first concerns your license status immediately following the criminal court filing, the second concerns the disposition of the criminal charges, and the third concerns your license status following the case’s resolution. Each issue is connected to the others, and almost every procedural misstep is bound to interfere with your ability to drive.
Your current license status might feel like the most important consideration up front, especially if you’re someone who needs to keep driving in order to keep their job. The attorneys at the Marc Lopez Law Firm have years of collective experience with DUI / OVWI law, and we know which judges are likely (or unlikely) to allow you to continue driving while your case is pending.
An outsider attorney would be similarly unprepared for your actual criminal defense. Does your uncle’s friend have the experience to contest the State’s chemical test results, and is he prepared to fight tooth-and-nail over ethanol levels and extrapolation evidence?
It’s also important to be able to troubleshoot once the case is over. What are you supposed to do when the court says you’re no longer suspended, but the BMV says you are? In this scenario, the Marc Lopez Law Firm knows what it takes to get both sides on the same page. Can you say the same for your uncle’s friend? An attorney without DUI / OVWI experience can’t possibly know how to untangle the administrative knots that frequently follow a criminal case.
The Final and Most Compelling Reason
The third and final reason why you shouldn’t use a family friend to handle your DUI / OVWI case is that it’ll almost certainly cost you more in the long run. There are a number of ways this might play out, but most of the costly mistakes will come down to lack of experience.
A tax attorney probably won’t know to tell you where and when to go for an alcohol evaluation. An immigration attorney might not know all the ins and outs of alternative misdemeanor sentencing. Going back and fixing something always costs more than doing it right the first time.
When you future’s on the line, you owe it to yourself to consider your options. Attorneys aren’t interchangeable, and it’s important to find one that suits your specific needs. If you or someone you know has been charged with DUI / OVWI, call the Marc Lopez Law Firm at 317-632-3642, and remember—always plead the 5th!