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Law Offices of Aaron Bortel

Whether a person is in Marin County or any other county in the Bay Area, the first thing they should look for in a DUI defense lawyer is experience, which includes how long they have been practicing, what type of law they focus on, and their reputation in the community.

It is also important to pay attention to how responsive the attorney’s office is to inquiries, and whether or not it is possible to speak directly to the attorney rather than an intake assistant. From the beginning, the attorney should be asking the questions. This is important, because at the beginning of the case, the client’s memory of the event will be fresh.

The attorney should focus solely or primarily on DUI defense, which means an automatic elimination of most attorneys in Marin County. There are advertisements all over the internet for “DUI” attorneys in Marin County, San Rafael, Mill Valley, and other cities, but it is important to determine what percentage of the attorney’s caseload is actually comprised of DUI cases. There are general criminal defense attorneys who handle DUI cases (since a DUI is indeed a crime in California), but they don’t focus on DUI cases.

It is very difficult to find an attorney in the Bay Area who focuses solely or primarily on DUI cases; most attorneys in this area, including San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, San Mateo, and the East Bay only occasionally handle DUI cases.

A DUI attorney in Marin County should be very familiar with the Marin County court system, including the judges and Assistant District Attorneys who handle DUI prosecutions. They should understand the differences between how CHP treats DUI cases, and how the local police departments treat DUI cases. In addition, they should have experience dealing with the DMV, because anyone who has been charged with a DUI in Marin County will need to attend an administrative per se hearing with the DMV.

These DMV hearings are held in San Francisco, so the DUI attorney should be familiar with the process there, and should know which hearing officers actually follow the Administrative law which governs Administrative Per Se Hearings. The right hearing officer will give us the best chance to save the license. There are a number of Hearing Officers at DMV who believe their job is to uphold suspensions and never rule in the driver’s favor in an APS Hearing. This is not acceptable. To determine whether an attorney is knowledgeable in this regard, individuals should ask whether they prefer to use certain hearing officers over others, and if so, how they go about getting one of those hearing officers assigned to the case. If the attorney says that their staff requests the hearings, that’s a red flag; the attorney should have a working relationship with the DMV staff, and should always schedule the DMV hearings themselves to increase our odds that the right hearing officer is assigned to the case. This is very important, because for the client, it can mean the difference between keeping and losing their driver’s license.

It is also important to consider the qualifications of the attorney, such as whether they have taken courses and seminars on standardized field sobriety tests, whether they understand the training received by drug recognition experts (this is particularly important in cases involving illegal drugs), and whether they have membership in any of the three main DUI defense organizations. Those organizations are the California DUI Lawyers Association, The National College for DUI Defense and the DUI Defense Lawyers Association.

Looking at online reviews can be tricky, and many people get fooled by them. If an attorney has hundreds of reviews, I can guarantee that they don’t focus only (or even mostly) on DUI defense. This is because on most review sites, it is impossible to leave an anonymous review, and not many people are going to want to publicly announce that they were arrested for DUI just to leave a review for their attorney. For this reason, many very experienced DUI lawyers don’t have a ton of reviews, but they should have at least a handful. Those with hundreds of reviews are usually traffic infraction lawyers dealing with speeding tickets.

Over time, a lot of reviews tend to accumulate on sites like AVVO and Yelp. It is important to look at the reviews themselves, and realize that there are always going to be a few people who leave negative reviews. When negative reviews are identified, people should pay attention to how the attorney responds to those reviews. Unfortunately, some attorneys will violate their oath, as well as the rules of professional responsibility, by allowing fake reviews to be posted. Attorneys deal with people’s constitutional rights, freedoms, futures, and families, and as such, they should be ethical and reliable.

For most people, a top priority is to find an attorney who cares about them and their future, and who will not sugarcoat anything. People should not feel as though their attorney is rushing them off the phone, or is only interested in getting paid. Attorneys should be attentive, willing to answer any and all questions asked by a client, and realistic about what the client is up against. Often, it isn’t possible for an attorney to fully assess a case until they have obtained access to the police reports, video footage, and other forms of evidence, but a good attorney will still be able to gather a lot of information from the initial conversation with a client.

I’ve handled thousands of DUI cases over the last 28+ years, most of which were in Marin County, but many were in San Francisco, Sonoma, Napa, San Mateo, and the East Bay. By virtue of having grown up in Marin County, as well as currently living here, I understand the court system extremely well. This is yet another detail to look for in a DUI attorney: they should routinely handle DUI cases in the county where the DUI case will be handled. When looking through reviews of potential attorneys, people should pay attention to where the cases were handled.

Many people contact me after becoming dissatisfied with their current attorney for one reason or another. Often, it is because the attorney won’t return their calls or failed to follow through on their promises. While I don’t like to take cases that are already being handled by another attorney, I am happy to talk to people about their options. A lot of people can’t afford an attorney and end up with a public defender, not realizing that public defenders are extremely busy and have a lot of cases.

If a person can afford it, it is best to hire a private DUI attorney, because it’s so important to have the best representation possible; there is just too much at stake in these cases. We offer most clients a payment plan over a number of months.

People should watch out for something called “jail mail.” There are some companies, including one in Sacramento, that will sell lawyers the names and addresses of people who have been arrested for DUI in the Bay Area. Once the lawyer receives that information, they will send unsolicited letters to let those people know that they are available to represent them. Lawyers who do this generally don’t focus on DUI law and will charge very little for the work they do; some of them are good lawyers, but most of them are inexperienced and are just trying to get business. I believe that sending these unsolicited letters is an intrusive violation of privacy; any other individuals with whom the defendant lives could easily get the mail first and find out about the DUI charge, and I don’t think that’s right. In addition, sending these letters alerts the person’s letter carrier of the DUI. This can lead to ruined reputations, especially for professionals.

It is helpful to have a DUI attorney who knows how to defend refusal cases. When a DUI suspect refuses to take a chemical test (whether breath or blood), some officers will obtain a warrant from a judge allowing a forced blood draw. In these cases, small mistakes made by police officers can be pointed out during the administrative per se hearing, and an experienced DUI lawyer will be able to quickly identify them and hopefully use these errors to save a license or prevent a one year or longer “no-drive” suspension. Unfortunately, a refusal comes with a strict one-year driver’s license suspension, which means the defendant won’t even be able to drive to and from work (regardless of whether they have an ignition interlock device in their vehicle). The penalties could be even more severe for someone with prior DUIs and Refusal convictions or suspensions. Over the years, I have been able to save a lot of driver’s licenses because I have been able to identify the small errors that are commonly made in these types of cases.

There are so many areas within DUI law where experience is invaluable. It is essential to retain the right attorney, which is an attorney who understands the Marin County court system. All too often, defendants will get a public defender and not win their case, forever regretting not having hired an experienced DUI lawyer. While some public defenders are fantastic lawyers, using one who does not have the time to put into a case that an experienced, private DUI lawyer would have, can leave people wondering how their lives could have been different had they hired an experienced DUI lawyer in Marin County.

In my office, we are always happy to provide people with free consultations by phone, virtually or in person, so that we can discuss their case and answer any questions they may have. If we can’t talk to someone right away, we will contact them as soon as possible; even if we are swamped, we will take the time to touch base with them. If an attorney isn’t responsive in the beginning, then they won’t be responsive throughout the case.

For more information on Experienced DUI Defense Lawyer In Marin County, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (415) 886-6333 today.

Aaron Bortel

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Call Us 24/7: (415) 886-6333
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