How much does a DWI lawyer cost?
Hiring a lawyer is an obvious decision for most people unfortunate enough to be facing a DWI charge in San Antonio. The penalties are serious and you may end up with a criminal record for the rest of your life.
But what are the costs involved in hiring a DWI lawyer to defend you?
Aren’t lawyers expensive in Texas?
How can you afford a lawyer as a young person charged with DWI?
Let’s take a look at the factors that contribute to the costs of hiring a DWI lawyer, estimate how much an average case may cost, and consider the other costs involved in a DWI case.
DWI lawyer costs in San Antonio
The first thing you’ll notice when researching the costs of DWI lawyers in Texas is that they do vary, depending on experience, reputation, track record, location, and so on.
DWI lawyers generally charge in one of two main ways and you need to decide which one works best for you:
- An hourly rate
A fixed hourly rate payable for all the hours worked on the case – for instance, $150/hour.
Some cases are more involved than others. If they go to trial and no case dismissal or plea bargaining is possible, it will cost more.
With these arrangements, there may also be extra costs, such as extra fees and expenses for copying.
- A flat fee (“case billing”)
Case billing covers the entire process of defending you, from start to finish, whether it goes to trial or not.
This method of payment is sometimes considered more of a “gamble”. It is possible that, despite expecting your case to go to trial, it is quickly dismissed. A flat fee, in this case, might be much higher than paying an hourly rate.
One possible way to resolve this shortcoming with case billing is to negotiate an upfront payment that covers pretrial work and another fee payable if it goes to trial.
Another possible solution is to agree to an hourly rate up to a certain amount. After that agreed amount has been reached, any further work on your case is covered.
With this arrangement, you may get a refund if your case is settled quickly and a guarantee that you will not have to pay any more if it is not.
If your law firm is highly established and based in the center of San Antonio, you can expect to pay higher fees than a law firm that has just been established in the suburbs.
Location is important, like with most businesses.
As intimated already, complex cases will also cost more to defend.
If there are aggravating factors present in your DWI case (somebody was injured or you were measured at a BAC of 0.15 or over), it may be treated as a Class A misdemeanor or felony.
This almost certainly means that more work is involved than in simpler cases of Class B misdemeanors, where nobody was hurt and no property was damaged.
Going to trial almost always means increased costs, unless a flat fee has been negotiated upfront.
Experience and track record
Criminal law/DWI firms with a strong track record and years (or even decades) of experience naturally command higher fees than new firms.
You hire an attorney to win you the case, get it dismissed, or otherwise negotiate the best possible deal for your future.
Beware of low-fee attorneys who promise the earth but fail to deliver. It can seriously impact your future if they get it wrong. Check their track record.
Without the details, it is difficult to estimate how much a lawyer will cost to defend your DWI.
Very few cases cost under $1000 and, more typically, you will easily pay $5,000 even for a case that does not go to trial.
Anywhere north of $10,000 is a reasonable guideline if your case needs to go to trial.
The bottom line?
Just because a friend’s case cost X amount does not mean yours will also cost that. It does depend heavily on the factors mentioned.
Note that you will usually be expected to pay an upfront fee when you engage a DWI lawyer.
This applies whether they charge by the hour or by the case.
So, if your lawyer charges an hourly rate of $150, they may request that you pay for 20 hours ($3,000) upfront to start work on your case.
In such cases, you can request reports to break down the hours worked by the lawyer.
Other costs involved in a DWI
The total cost of a DWI conviction can easily mount up to well over $10,000.
In addition to the fees paid for a DWI lawyer to defend you (and depending on the nature of the charge), you may have to pay:
- Court fees (approximately $200-$1500)
- Punishment fines if convicted (minimum $2000)
- Costs of getting your license reinstated ($1000 a year minimum for 3 years)
- Alcohol education program fees ($70-$185)
- Probation fees ($60-$100 per month)
- Possible restitution charges (for damage to any property or injury to another person)
- Interlock system installation fees ($70-$100 per month)
- The cost of bail ($200-$1000 for first-time offenders, considerably more if there are aggravating factors)
- Towing fees ($250-$450)
- Impound lot fees (a daily charge of $5-$20)
In the future, you can expect to pay increased insurance rates and may find that your ability to earn an income is affected if you are convicted.
As you can see, the financial costs of a DWI charge and conviction are significant.
Are the costs of hiring a DWI lawyer worth it?
With severe penalties for a conviction, few people would argue that the costs of hiring a DWI lawyer are not worth it if your case is dismissed or you are acquitted at trial.
Remember, even a first DWI offense can include jail time, as well as a fine and loss of your driver’s license.
If there are aggravating circumstances like another person injured or killed, a child under 15 in the car, or your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) was measured at .15 or over, you can face stiffer penalties including longer prison time.
With all the other costs associated with a conviction, you may end up saving money (as well as keeping a clean record) if your lawyer can get your case dismissed.
A criminal record in Texas lasts indefinitely. So, hiring a DWI lawyer to give you the best chance of escaping one should be a priority.
Remember that all DWI lawyers in San Antonio are not created equal.
I’m an experienced DWI attorney with a track record of case dismissals. I aim to avoid costly trials and keep your record clean.
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San Antonio DUI Lawyer
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15
Driving facts involved failing to maintain a single lane and speeding. Client refused breath test and forced law enforcement to obtain search warrant for blood. Blood test result was not used after challenge from Defense, and State waived and abandoned charge.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client was a college student, worried about the collateral consequences of an alcohol offense. After negotiation and review of the traffic stop, the case was dismissed. Client received no criminal conviction. The charge was later expunged and deleted from client’s record.
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15+
Client was involved in minor accident. Client was at fault in accident. A young executive, client was concerned that a criminal conviction for DWI would result in termination. After review of the traffic stop, it was clear the officer lacked probable cause for arrest. State eventually dismissed DWI charge. Client received no criminal conviction.
Client, a military veteran, was facing up to one year in jail. State could not prove intoxication by alcohol, and was prepared to proceed on loss of use by marijuana. After challenging the State to prove that marijuana was ingested at or near time of driving, and that marijuana impaired client’s driving, the State dismissed the case on the day of trial.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Driving facts involved a false claim by police that taillight was out. After challenging the reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop, the State was forced to dismiss the case when video did not match police report. Client has since expunged arrest, and has no criminal record.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client is a public school teacher and faced immediate termination upon conviction. The facts of the case were bad. State was unwilling to budge in negotiation, and matter was set for trial – the last shot at avoiding a conviction and preserving client’s livelihood. State was forced to dismiss on day of trial. Client has no criminal record, and has since expunged the DWI arrest.
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