You can expect to be quoted around $4000 for a first time DUI and closer to $5000 for a second or third DUI. The quote will vary based on past criminal history and whether you are facing multiple criminal charges. The flat fee should include the entirety of legal fees with the exception of trial fees, which can accrue daily if your case went to trial. Trial fees are unlikely on DUIs since fewer than 5% of cases go to trial but you should ask about the expense in the event you want to go to trial.
Ask detailed questions about the flat fee
It is important that you ask the lawyer if he or she could possibly charge more than the original retainer (other than trial fees) because we have heard of out of town firms using the flat fee more like a retainer and billing against it. Later, the law firm notifies the client that he needs to start paying hourly midway through the case. This is not how “flat fee” billing works for most criminal defense attorneys. We were surprised to hear firms were doing this but it is possible if it is in the fee agreement.
Do not overpay. You need that money for DOL, Evaluations, & Other Tasks
If you’re quoted more than $4000 for a first time DUI, that is very unusual for Kitsap County. The higher flat fee is likely due to travel expenses for an out of town lawyer or a law firm with large overhead due to advertising. Most law firms in large metro areas spend more than $10,000 a month just on Google Ads alone so that expense needs to be passed along to clients.
While the legal fee will likely be your largest expense, you will still have other costs. So, be wary of overspending on a lawyer who has large overhead (and passing that onto you) if you want to have funds to pay for the Evaluation, the DOL hearing, fines/fees, the Victim Impact Panel, possible treatment and other random expenses.
Look “micro local” for your attorney
Wherever you are charged with a crime, we always recommend choosing a micro-local attorney who focuses on criminal defense. Criminal law is the same everywhere but the procedures and local rules are unique. Your attorney should be very familiar with the local judge, prosecutor, and required procedures in that courtroom. If not, that can be extremely detrimental to the defendant’s case.
We have seen out of town lawyers come to Kitsap and mess up the forms multiple times. When they don’t understand or forget to have a client sign a speedy trial waiver, the judges will frequently set the case for trial. That can be terrible for the client because you’ve now put the Prosecutor on notice to prepare for trial (when you did not intend to do this).
So, whenever possible, really look at the local DUI or criminal defense attorneys. If you are charged in a very rural area, such as Pacific County, you might need to call defense firms in the closest metro area and get their opinions. Many won’t travel that far but they will likely give you an opinion about your best defense options.
Will Your Out Of Town Lawyer Always Show For Court?
For some reason, we see more “no shows” in Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island Courts. Our assumption (and excuses we have heard) is that the out of town or “big city” lawyers feel that Kitsap is small town and not important. They give priority to their King or Pierce county cases. It is also possible that, since the bulk of their cases are in those counties, they simply do not take the few Kitsap cases (and their reputation here) that seriously. Regardless, be sure to ask what recourse you have if the attorney does not show. Will they refund your money?
Your case might seem “small town” but you are facing big consequences
Finally, keep that in mind that, while an out of town attorney might not care about their local reputation, they should care about YOUR CASE. Being disrespectful to the court and prosecutor does not work in your favor.
Ryan saw a gentleman “stood up” by his lawyer in Poulsbo multiple months in a row. The Seattle attorney just would not show because he had court elsewhere. The defendant seemed to really like his attorney and wasn’t too mad. Unfortunately, the client did not appear to fully understood the ramifications of his attorney’s lackadaisical attitude. Don’t stand for being stood up!
So, before hiring someone from out of the area, be sure to ask about their attendance in court! Are they prepared to catch a ferry or drive two hours to get to court? Don’t get stuck making excuses for your expensive attorney. No one in the court room will appreciate that kind of disrespect.