TOP TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN HIRING AN ILLINOIS DUI ATTORNEY
There are many, many attorneys who wrongfully claim to be 'experts' in representing DUI clients. However, these claims are frequently untrue - they are merely 'experts' in pleading people guilty of DUI - or any other traffic offense for that matter. So how can a citizen separate these unimpressive lawyers from the truly great attorneys? In my opinion, asking these self-proclaimed DUI lawyers the below questions are a good start to that process:
1. WHAT BOOKS OR ARTICLES HAS THE ATTORNEY WRITTEN ON DUI LAW?
Generally, publishers seek out only those attorneys who are considered the best in their field. Additionally, attorneys who have books and articles published are recognized by judges for their knowledge and expertise in the field. At Ramsell & Associates, Donald Ramsell has authored the 'Illinois DUI Law and Practice Guidebook' and 'Understanding DUI Scientific Evidence', as well as dozens of other articles on Illinois DUI Law.
2. HOW MANY DUI JURY TRIALS HAS THE FIRM HANDLED AS DEFENSE ATTORNEYS IN THE PAST YEAR?
There are many attorneys who claim to be great DUI lawyers, but in reality they never actually go to jury trial and win for their clients. After being hired, they simply tell the person that their case is 'not winnable' and they plead the person guilty and take their money. A truly great DUI attorney should have several jury trials every year as defense attorneys (claiming that one has performed jury trials as a prosecutor does not prove they can successfully defend a client). At Ramsell & Associates, we have more jury trials (and more jury trial victories) every year than any other firm in DuPage County. In fact, every lawyer at Ramsell & Associates has jury trial experience defending DUI cases. We are not afraid of going to a hearing, bench trial, or jury trial in order to win a case. And the fear of a trial is one of the reasons that causes prosecutors to offer reductions and lighter sentences.
3. IS THE LAWYER SPECIALLY TRAINED IN DUI FIELD SOBRIETY TESTING?
It is quite likely that a person arrested for a DUI in Illinois was given field sobriety tests by the police. These sobriety tests may constitute the only reason that a person faces the loss of their driving privileges or jail time for a DUI. A great DUI attorney will have taken the police training course for Standardized Filed Sobriety Testing in accordance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Unfortunately, most attorneys have not, and so they will not know the tricks for defeating these tests. Every attorney at Ramsell & Associates has taken this 3 day police course, and Donald Ramsell is the only certified Instructor that is also a DUI defense attorney in the entire State of Illinois. In fact, Ramsell has qualified in court in DuPage and Kane counties as an expert in field sobriety testing, and has written extensively on this subject.
4. IS THE ATTORNEY A MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL COLLEGE FOR DUI DEFENSE?
The National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) is considered by myself to be the preeminent national organization for truly committed DUI defense attorneys. Only those attorneys who have been recommended by at least 2 other judges or lawyers may be accepted. The American Bar Association recognizes NCDD to be the only organization qualified to certify an attorney as a specialist in DUI Defense. Very few Illinois attorneys are members of this organization. In my opinion, if your attorney does not belong in this organization, that failure should be considered a red flag. All of the attorneys at Ramsell & Associates are active members of NCDD. Donald Ramsell is the only Illinois DUI attorney who is a Sustaining Member of NCDD.
5. DOES THE ATTORNEY LECTURE OR TEACH OTHER ATTORNEYS HOW TO PERFORM DUI DEFENSE?
Only the best DUI attorneys are requested by bar associations to teach DUI defense, in my opinion. This is true because bar associations know which lawyers are considered to be authoritative by the other lawyers in the association. Donald Ramsell has lectured and taught DUI defense over 50 times in many states across the country.
6. HOW MANY TIMES DOES THE LAWYER APPEAL DUI CASES IN ORDER TO GET DUI CONVICTIONS AND DUI SUSPENSIONS REVERSED?
Only the best dui attorneys have the skill and energy and know-how to successfully appeal Illinois DUI cases, in my opinion. Ask the attorney to provide a reference to an appeal decision that he or she has handled, including the year . A real DUI fighter will appeal many, many cases every year in order to win as many cases as possible. Other lawyers may simply come up with excuses. At Ramsell & Associates, every lawyer successfully writes and handles appeals for our clients every year. In fact, we appeared in front of the Illinois Supreme Court twice in 2009, whereas almost every other lawyer has never appeared even once in their entire careers!
7. HOW MANY ILLINOIS DUI CASES DOES THE FIRM HANDLE ON AN ANNUAL BASIS?
A great DUI law firm is in demand - therefore they will have more clients referred to them by previously represented clients. If the attorney does not handle many, many DUI cases on a daily basis, then that factor should also be considered. At Ramsell & Associates, the firm handles over 500 cases annually (10 new clients per week). Our lawyers are well-seasoned, well-trained professionals who have capably handled every possible situation that can occur. They are ready to find every loophole are mistake that may have occurred through the wealth of experience accumulated on a daily basis.
8. DOES THE LAWYER MEET YOU IN AN OFFICE OR ON THE PHONE?
Although phone consultations are convenient for out-of-state clients and for an preliminary interview before a full in-office consult, avoid lawyers who discourage you from seeing their office. Some lawyers do not spend the time or money to have a fully-staffed office, with furnishings and proper law libraries and equipment. These lawyers may actually be practicing out of a car, or out of a rented room. No one would hire a doctor who encouraged the patient to simply 'meet me at the hospital' for a surgery - the same should hold true for hiring a lawyer. At Ramsell & Associates, we have several paralegals and secretaries, as well as a well-appointed law office where we will meet you and perform a complete in-depth examination of your DUI case.
9. DOES THE LAWYER HAVE ANY CLIENT TESTIMONIALS OR APPRAISALS TO SHARE?
A great DUI lawyer will have been thanked many, many times over by previous clients. Ask the lawyer to provide some copies of 'so-called testimonials' to see how others have felt about that attorney's performance on their case(s). These types of testimonials can also be reviewed at on-line websites such as AVVO or http://www.avvo.com/. Each of the attorneys at Ramsell & Associates has received high appraisals by previous clients. In fact, our office lobby contains dozens of such appraisals.
10. DOES THE LAWYER GET ACCESS TO BREATH ALCOHOL MACHINE'S INTERNAL DOWNLOAD DATA OR 'SHIFT F5' RECORDS?
If the lawyer does not understand this question, then the lawyer is not fully trained on how to beat a DUI when the person has allegedly failed a breath test in Illinois. Breath alcohol machines have a computerized memory that stores the subject tests, accuracy checks, and other critical data regarding various machine malfunctions or breakdowns. This data cannot be accessed through any other procedure. If the lawyer cannot explain this concept, or does not understand what the concept is, or cannot tell you how to get this data, then the lawyer cannot find information that could beat the DUI. At Ramsell & Associates, we developed the specific technique for obtaining this information, and we routinely obtain this data to review a DUI case.
In conclusion, the above 10 questions will start to separate many of the so-called DUI attorneys from the highly-qualified DUI attorneys, in my opinion. When determining who to select when hiring a DUI attorney, don't be afraid to ask the hard questions before making a decision. Most defense attorneys were at one time or another a prosecutor. This fact alone is not a reason to hire a DUI defense lawyer, in my opinion. There are too many attorneys who are willing to take money under a claim that they are a "former prosecutor" or they are friends of so-and-so, but in reality they cannot or do not know how to defend and win a DUI case as a defense attorney. look for the real signs of a good DUI attorney by using the above 10 questions and you will not likely regret your final hiring decision. Of course, there are many, many other factors that might come onto play when hiring a lawyer, and there are many opinions on this subject besides mine. Having handled over 13,000 DUI cases since 1986, I offer this advice freely and openly.
Donald J. Ramsell
Illinois DUI Attorney