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What should a DUI defense cost you?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

What should a DUI defense cost you?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
October 22, 2009

Just how much should a DUI defense cost you?

Let's say you get stopped for speeding or a taillight out or any other traffic violation, and the officer decides that you are intoxicated and arrests you for DUI.

What should your defense cost you?

Let's also say that you first had a public defender, who didn't represent you very well (like, didn't show up in court for a pre-trial conference). The judge replaced that P/D with a second public defender. And that one also didn't represent you well, and so the judge appointed a third P/D - one who didn't want to talk to you and wasn't really interested in defending you, telling you, "Just plead guilty."

And then you borrowed some money and hired an attorney in private practice.

The attorney presented you with a Contract - an "employment agreement". (First question: do you "employ" an attorney? Or, rather, do you "retain" an attorney?) If you "employ", do you have to get a W-2 and I-9 from him, confirm he is eligible to work in the U.S., withhold federal and state income taxes and Social Security taxes, and match the Social Security contribution?

A contract offered by an attorney ("Here, sign there") is obviously a unilateral contract. Think it protects your interests? Should you have a different attorney look at it, before you sign it?

As a retainer, you cough up a $5,000 flat fee and you read (or don't read) that "this flat fee is the same regardless of whether the case goes to trial, is dismissed, or results in a negotiated plea".

And then the employment agreement states that the hourly fee is $250.00. Do you ask what that means? Or do you leave your attorney's office, believing that the total charge will be $5,000 for the case?

Among other charges before the trial, the attorney bills 1.3 hours ($325.00) for each of four pre-trial appearances in court.

On the days before your jury trial, your lawyer charges you

Two days before trial: 12 hours (12 x $250=$3,000) (to get ready).

One day before trial: 8 hours (8 x $250 = $2,000) (to get readier).

First day of trial (jury selection): 7 hours (7 x $250 = $1,750), plus second lawyer, 8 hours (8 x $250 = $2,000)

Second day - the trial: 2 hours ($250 x 2 = $500) for the first lawyer PLUS 5 hours (5 x $250 = $1,250) for Lawyer No. 2, who actually handled the trial.

The next day you get a call from the attorney that the jury found you "Not Guilty" of all charges and that you don't even have to go to court.

And then your attorney sends you a bill for $13,050! Taking out your $5,000 retainer, now you owe an additional $8,050.

Should your attorney have informed you in advance that charges would like run well over your retainer? And, after he'd blown through your retainer, should he have informed you of that and alerted you to expect to pay more?

And then you get a bill from the courthouse for $510.93 for "fines and court costs" and they won't return your driver's license without payment! When you call the courthouse, you find out that they are billing you for the third public defender!

OK, you've been waiting, I know, to learn where this happened. In Illinois, but not in McHenry County.

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