San Fernando Valley Criminal & DUI Defense Lawyers

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Cost to Hire a Real DUI Lawyer in Los Angeles

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Lawyer for my DUI in Los Angeles?

Public defenders are paid by the county where they work.  Private defense lawyers set their own fees and are paid by their individual clients.  Most criminal defense lawyers in California charge a flat fee for their services.  This normally means, you pay one fee and the case settled.  An actual jury trial might cost more money, but most cases don’t go to trial.

How come the costs from one lawyer to the next differ so much?

How much a lawyer charges defends on many factors including:  The lawyer’s level of experience, the complexity of the case, the location of the case, whether or not the lawyer thinks the case is going to trial and more.

A while back a veteran defense lawyer told me he has trouble getting more than $500 as a fee for a DUI from local clients.  I was embarrassed for the lawyer, but simply told him that I understood the problems of running a small business.  The reality, however, is that I can’t even do a DMV hearing for $500.  I certainly would never take $500 as a fee on a DUI and here’s why:

When I get hired on a DUI, the first thing I have to do is talk to the client to get information about the facts of the case and about the client him or herself.  Next, I have to request a DMV hearing.  Soon comes the first of several court dates.  I have to read the police reports, review the other evidence, request additional discovery and convey the information and any potential settlement offers to my client.

Then I have to conduct the DMV hearing, go back to court and continue to discuss the case with my client.  There may be investigation to be conducted.  An expert witness may need to be consulted.  I may need to view a crime scene.  Heck, I may even have to do some legal research and writing to prepare any appropriate motions.

All of these things take time.  My time and experience are the things my clients are paying for.  My time is valuable.  According to the law in California, the reasonable value of my services is somewhere between $350 and $750 dollars an hour.  Let’s take the even number of $500 per hour for the value of my services.

The average DUI takes me at least 12 to 15 hours to resolve.  Some are faster and some are a lot slower.  If I take the low estimate of 12 hours, that means the time I put into a case should have a value of about $6,000.  Then, because I get paid up front, I discount the fee because I don’t have to chase my money after the case.  If I calculate a 30% discount for early payment, that means I should get paid at least $4,200 for any DUI I take.  Why so much?

The reason I need to charge several thousand dollars or more for any DUI, is so that I can allocate enough of my time to the case, to obtain the best results.  The $500 lawyer or even the $1,500 lawyer needs to resolve your case in under 2 to 6 hours to make it worth his while.  That’s not enough time to go to court twice, read a police report and properly interview a client.  If you throw in a DMV hearing, then it’s not even scratching the surface of being enough time to perform competent legal work. And this is before we talk about any significant investigation, expert testimony, trial or post-conviction appearances like restitution hearings and progress reports.

Trials normally occur in less than 3% of all misdemeanors in Los Angeles.  However, it is often the people who hire guys like me who need a trial more than others.  The people with the most to lose seem to be the most likely to go to trial.  I have represented doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, police officers, corporate executives, immigrants and many other people who had a lot on the line with the outcome of their cases.

When I talk to clients about trial, I either quote a daily fee for trial or a flat fee for the entire trial.  My daily rate for trial starts at $1,500.  The rate depends upon the location of the trial, the type of case and the amount of time I think I will have to dedicate to the trial.  Again, that may sound like a lot of money to you, but when we calculate the value based upon an hourly rate, it is truly a bargain.  As we discussed earlier, my hourly rate is valued at over $500 per hour.  If I am in trial from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. plus another 1 to 2 hours per day for drive time, plus another 1 to 3 hours per day for preparation, that’s at least an eight hour day for each day of trial.  If I billed hourly, that would be $4,000 for each day of trial.

Trials normally last from a minimum of 3 days to multiple weeks.  A DUI trial would normally last from 5 to 10 days depending upon the legal issues and witnesses to be called.  In addition to this, there is trial preparation, pre-trial motions, jury deliberations, and other miscellaneous delays that normally plague jury trials.

Going to trial can be an expensive undertaking.  Additionally, it can be very time consuming and nerve racking.  There is also a risk every time we go to trial.  Although I believe I am very good at my job, trials do not come with guarantees.  We go to trial when we have no other viable option or when we have so much to lose that any risk of loss is outweighed by the benefits of winning.

Be very cautious of any lawyer that wants to charge so much for a trial as to be cost prohibitive.  In this case, he is likely trying to scare you out of going to trial.  Likewise, be leery of any lawyer who is overly confident about his likelihood of success at trial.  Remember, most criminal trials are lost.  Almost all appeals are lost.  Trials are not to be entered into lightly.

If you or someone you care about is charged with a DUI or any other criminal offense, call an experienced defense attorney now.  The sooner you call, the sooner I can evaluate your case and plan the best defense for you.  I often hear from clients that once they hire me they feel as if a large weight has been lifted from their shoulders.

Attorney Jeffrey Vallens

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