How much does it cost to hire a DUI lawyer?
The range of prices to privately hire a DUI lawyer widely vary. As a quick answer, for first offenses misdemeanors, most DUI lawyers in California charge $3,000 to $5,000. If you live in a more expensive place, expect higher general prices.
If your case is a second or third DUI offense within the past 10 years, and/or there was a car accident, it becomes more complicated and, consequently, more expensive.
If your case involved serious injuries or this was your fourth offense within 10 years, then your case will be filed as a felony. You can expect most lawyers to start their rates between $7,000 and $10,000, possibly more.
Jury Trial Fees
When lawyers quote you their initial fee, they often do not include what it costs go to trial. While the vast majority of cases don't go to trial, it's important to know what it will cost you if you do. Lawyers need to be upfront with you from the beginning so that you're not caught off-guard.
For trials, lawyers do it different ways. For example, some will charge a simple daily trial rate (e.g., $1,000 per day of trial). Others charge per hour while in trial (e.g., $400/hr.). Some charge a simple flat rate (e.g., $4,000). And finally, some will do a a combo of one of the above.
Trials are rarely just one day long. Even a basic DUI case will typically last 3-5 days, sometimes longer. It's possible to complete it in two days, but I wouldn't count on it. So, as you can see, the costs can quickly add up.
Personally, I charge clients a simple daily rate of $750 for jury trials, but I cap my trial fee at $3,000 max. That way, even if the trial lasted more than 4 days, my client would not have to worry about an astronomical bill later on. This is a better way, in my opinion, to not deter clients from taking their chances at trial based on a fear of an unknown future bill.
There are other potential costs. The most notable one in a DUI case is whether your case would benefit from hiring a forensic toxicologist to testify as an expert witness. Hiring scientists for their time as witnesses isn't cheap. Their fees can sometimes surpass your lawyer's.
The good thing to know is that most cases do not require retaining an expert witness. But, if you're going to trial or fighting your DMV administrative hearing to save your driver's license, and it's clear that retaining an expert witness could make a big difference, then it's a worthy investment to give yourself the best chance at winning.
Most people do not have tons of expendable income. Even if you have the money, I always try to avoid unnecessary expenses for my clients and keep everyone in the loop before taking on additional costs. The majority of my cases do not end up costing my clients more than the original quoted fee.
Remember: Before hiring any DUI lawyer, make sure he or she makes it crystal clear what the expected fees and costs will be.