How to Choose the Right Virginia DUI Attorney

By Andrew Flusche, Esq.

How to Choose the Right Virginia DUI AttorneyBy now you hopefully have a solid grasp of DUI / DWI law, potential defenses, practical aspects of appearing in court, and how to deal with the aftermath of a DUI conviction. Thanks for reading this far!

You should hire an attorney for your DUI. If you’ve read all this, you know that.

But how do you know who to hire? You want an attorney who is properly equipped to get a great result in your unique case. Let’s look at several questions you should ask ANY attorney when you interview them for your DUI case.

Who will be defending me in the courtroom?

When you buy a car, you look for the precise vehicle that best fits your needs. When you take delivery, you ensure that it’s exactly the vehicle you paid for.

Hiring an attorney should be the same way. You spend considerable time reading up on the law, checking into attorneys, talking to them, and then you hire someone.

But when crunch time comes, who will be standing there with you in court? That’s the precise moment you’re concerned about.

You may be surprised to learn that lots of firms pass files to more junior associates or “of counsel” attorneys. You might read one attorney’s writing on the website, talk to another attorney on the phone, and be standing next to an attorney you’ve never heard of when you get to court.

When you hire me, you get me. I’m the only attorney in my office, and I’ll be the person defending you in court. Clients hire me because they want my experience and knowledge put to use in their case. I wouldn’t think of passing a client off to anyone else.

If someone calls for a county that I don’t handle or a case that cannot fit into my calendar, I decline the case. Instead of taking your money and shuffling you off to someone else, I do my best to connect you with a trusted colleague who you can hire to defend the ticket.

Do you EVER pass your clients off to other attorneys?

This question relates to the previous one, but it’s an even more serious concern, in my opinion.

Some attorneys spread themselves thin and take on cases that conflict with already-scheduled court dates. Instead of carefully managing their calendar to ensure they can personally handle every case, some attorneys ask colleagues to “stand in” for a case in court.

I know. I’ve been asked by several of my competitors to stand in for them. Usually, the “stand in” attorney gets contacted a few days before trial and asked to add a case to their calendar. The attorney YOU paid to defend your case might fax a copy of the file to the “stand in” guy, or he might not. Then a random attorney who isn’t even associated with your attorney appears in court for your case.

Again, if you hire me, I handle your case in court. I’ve NEVER had someone else appear in court for a client, and I don’t plan to ever do that.

Where are you located?

DUI defense varies based on the local court, judges, prosecutors, officers, etc. I always recommend looking for a local attorney who regularly handles DUI cases in the court where your charge is pending.

Be sure to ask the attorney where his PRIMARY office is located. Quite a few lawyers have “satellite offices” located around the Commonwealth. This can make it look like they’re local to the court you need, when in reality, they are from another area altogether.

My office is located in Spotsylvania County, off Exit 126 on Interstate 95. I live in Spotsylvania County as well. ANDREW FLUSCHE 44 Spotsylvania County is right next door to the City of Fredericksburg and Stafford County. The Fredericksburg / Stafford / Spotsylvania area is essentially a mini-metropolitan area.

Here are the distances from my office to the nearby courts:

  • Spotsylvania General District: 6.7 miles
  • Fredericksburg General District: 4.7 miles
  • Stafford General District: 13.6 miles

 
I also defend cases in King George, Caroline, and Orange, but I am primarily in the above courts.

What percentage of your practice is devoted to traffic and misdemeanor defense?

If you’re getting brain surgery done, you want a brain surgeon. If you’re getting advice from an attorney, you want to be talking to somebody who handles a lot of DUI / DWI cases.

One trend among law firms these days relies on having separate websites for each area of law they handle. You might come across a website that talks solely about reckless driving defense and think that the attorney handles nothing else. That’s their goal. But if you Google the attorney’s name, you might find that they have, for example, a family law website or a personal injury website as well.

It’s difficult to dabble in any area of the law, since there can be many traps for the unwary. Finding an attorney who focuses on exactly your need helps to ensure he has the experience and tools to get the best result possible. Remember the old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

My ENTIRE practice is devoted to traffic and misdemeanor defense. I do nothing else. Period. You won’t find me handling family law cases or doing bankruptcies. I don’t do civil appeals or personal injury claims. I’m routinely asked to handle lots of different matters, and I decline that business.

I have focused my practice like a laser beam so I can hone my craft and serve my traffic and misdemeanor defense clients to the best of my abilities.

How often do you handle DUI cases in this court?

Just being located near the court you need isn’t sufficient. Neither is focusing on traffic defense. I recommend talking to an attorney who regularly handles DUI cases in the court where your case is pending.

It’s all about specific experience in the right courtroom. I’ve mentioned several times that these cases differ greatly based on the court. Even if someone handles ten DUI cases every week in Richmond or Fairfax, they may not have the first clue about what the judge will do in your case in Spotsylvania. The judges, officers, prosecutors, and local procedures all vary between courts. You should seek out someone who knows the court where your case will be heard.

I regularly defend DUI charges in Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Fredericksburg. I defend drivers in the local courts four or five days a week.

I get calls from potential clients for cases all over Virginia, but I don’t take on those clients. You deserve an attorney who knows the local court, and I focus on the areas that I know.

Do you know the arresting officer?

Having a working relationship with the arresting officer can be helpful in DUI defense. The officer’s discretion can hurt or help your case. When at all possible, it makes sense to hire an attorney who is familiar with the officers in the court where your case is pending.

I have worked hard to develop professional, working relationships with the traffic officers, deputies, and troopers in my local area. I can’t say that I know everyone, but I hope that everyone knows my reputation as a man of integrity, an attorney who gets results, and a nice guy.

Which judge will be hearing my case?

This is one of those details like the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s involvement: it can be important for preparing the case, and it shows if the attorney is familiar with the court. Of course, knowing the name of the judge isn’t enough to know what might happen with your case. However, NOT knowing the possible judges can show a lack of familiarity.

No one can guarantee what judge will be on the bench for your DUI charge. However, I know all of the regular local General District Court judges. When we talk about your case, I’ll tell you which judge would normally be hearing your trial.

When I get to court to handle cases, I confirm which judge is actually on the bench. If it’s an unexpected judge or a substitute, I re-examine my case strategy to see what might need to change to get the best result possible.

Are you familiar with the judge’s habits with similar cases?

Once you know which judge is likely to hear your case, you should question what that judge does with cases like yours. Every case is unique and depends upon the specific facts, but attorneys can have a general feel for the judge based on past experience.

These differences can dramatically impact the approach to your case. Thus, it’s critical for your attorney to know the judge’s normal policies.

The only real way to know what the judge may do in your specific case is to regularly handle cases in front of him / her. By focusing my practice narrowly on traffic and misdemeanor cases in a small geographic area, I’m able to be well acquainted with the judge’s normal habits and tendencies.

Do you know the clerks?

Some attorneys practically ignore the clerks at the courthouse. I think that’s wrong. They’re people too. And they also have the power to make your case a little smoother.

For example, if your license gets suspended due to your DUI, you may need to apply for a restricted license. Preparing the license can take the clerks a few business days, which means you wouldn’t be able to drive at all for a while. But sometimes the clerks can speed that process up to get you back on the road more quickly.

I’ve tried to get to know all the local traffic / criminal General District Court clerks. Simply learning people’s names and greeting them when I appear in court goes a long way. Developing a professional relationship with people like the clerks helps to ensure a smooth court experience.

Do you have testimonials from previous clients that I can read?

If you’re looking to hire any professional, you should ask for references or examples of past work. It’s a little bit tricky for attorneys to provide information like that due to client confidentiality. However, Virginia attorneys are definitely allowed to provide testimonials and reviews from prior clients (subject to certain rules by the state regulators).

Testimonials certainly shouldn’t be used as the sole way to evaluate an attorney. But if an attorney doesn’t have any testimonials from satisfied clients, that may be a red flag. I’d also be concerned if an attorney was simply reluctant to answer this question or tried to side-step it.