Attorney Fees On DUI Cases – California

How much can I expect to be charged?

Fees vary depending on the experience and qualifications of the lawyer. It also depends on how much legal work your case will require. Unfortunately, there are a small number of unscrupulous lawyers who view DUI defense as an opportunity to earn fast money. Some lawyers make a living at hand holding clients through the plea process, but fail to offer any appreciable value to the case. In these cases, clients often get little more than what the client would have been able to secure on their own. Some lawyers will even plea to the standard terms in your case at the time of arraignment. Get the facts before you hire your lawyer.

Here is what you can expect in fees from most criminal defense lawyers. Fee estimates do not include aggravating circumstances such as additional allegations for driving on a suspended license, violating probation, speeding, causing injury, having a minor in your vehicle, causing property damage, resisting arrest, carrying a weapon, or having an open container in the vehicle. These and other aggravating circumstances often require additional work on behalf of the attorney.

The following fee ranges should include your lawyer attending the DMV hearing.

Customary Fees

1st Offense: $1,500 – $5,000
2nd Offense: $2,500 – $7,500
3rd Offense: $5,000 – $15,000 (could be charged as a felony)


Trial Charges

Many lawyers require a non-refundable, lump-sum fee for representing your case, including trial. Be very careful here. Less than 5% of all DUI arrests go to trial, which means you may be paying for legal services that you will never need.

It is usually better to insist that the trial retainer be separated and that the lawyer keep the trial retainer in a trust account. If the matter goes to trial, the lawyer can draw the fees from the trust account. If not, the trial fee should be returned to you without delay, once the criminal matter has been resolved. It is highly recommended that you request that your attorney track his time for all work performed on the case.

Trial Fees:

Most first offense DUI trials take on average three-court days to complete and the average range of attorney fees for trial is between $1,000 to $3,000 a day.

Non-Refundable Fees:

There is controversy surrounding this issue. Most fee disputes can be resolved by your local bar association. Most fee arbitrators do not favor “non-refundable” attorney fees. That’s because such fee arrangements can result in a windfall for the lawyer at the expense of the client. This is especially true if the lawyer pleads your case out early in the court process, without having to make many court appearances or perform motion work. Most bar associations will resolve the fee dispute equitably, based on the experience of the lawyer and how much actual attorney time was spent on your case.

Questions to be asked before you sign the agreement

  • Will you represent me on my DMV Hearing?
  • Will you work on an hourly fee basis and put my money in your trust account?
  • Will you subpoena the chemical test results and/or calibration records?
  • Will you make a motion to strike my prior convictions?
  • Will you make a PC 1538.5 motion if you determine the police acted illegally?
  • How many DUI trials have you had in the past five years? What is your win record?
  • In the past twelve months how many cases have you personally tried to verdict?
  • Will the lawyer you hire be the one trying the case and handling the appearances?

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