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Reporter Exposes California DUI Lawyer Practices

The good, the bad, and the ugly among DUI Lawyers...

2009 | Sep 14

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 14 -- An investigative reporter for California Lawyer magazine, a professional publication for all members of the California State Bar, has recently delved into the practices of California DUI attorneys. In the magazine's cover article, titled "The DUI Defense Bar," reporter Tom McNichol took a hard and long-overdue look at the good, the bad and the ugly among DUI lawyers:

At one end of the spectrum are the specialists who've spent much of their professional lives mastering arcane technical issues such as blood and breath partition ratios, microbial contamination in urinalysis, and the perils of retrograde extrapolation in chemical tests. These attorneys typically charge anywhere from $3,500 to $10,000 to defend a first offender, not including the expert witness fees or lab tests that may be required. Top expert witnesses with national reputations can easily push the total cost closer to $20,000.

At the other end of the spectrum are cut-rate practitioners with no particular expertise, who charge as little as $1,000 per case. These include "dump truck" lawyers, who sign up as many clients as possible and then dump them all on the guilty-plea docket; and "escort" lawyers, who escort clients up to the judge like a high-paid call girl, plead them guilty, and then disappear with the money.

These DUI mills typically offer a lowball rate to clients, and they tend to give commensurate service. One California attorney who advertises his "cheap DUI defense" widely on the Internet pitches prospective clients: "We do the same thing over and over again. There is simply no reason to spend thousands of dollars on your defense. We charge about half of the going rate."...

McNichol then took a look at the other end of the professional scale, focusing on Los Angeles DUI lawyer Lawrence Taylor, known nationally as the "Dean of DUI Attorneys" and author of the standard text on the subject, Drunk Driving Defense :

By punching enough holes in the prosecution's case, a good DUI lawyer can, if not exonerate a client, then at least knock the charge down to what's known in the trade as a "wet reckless"--an alcohol-related reckless driving offense.

This is where defendants often get from their lawyers what they pay for. At the Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor, Inc.--where attorneys devoted exclusively to DUI cases charge top dollar--blood and urine samples are routinely reanalyzed; breathalyzer maintenance, calibration, and administration are investigated; and sometimes the scene of an arrest is revisited. Taylor's firm also boasts a support staff that includes a forensic toxicologist who once did DUI testing for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's crime lab, a former hearing officer for the DMV, and a former police officer who was on the Santa Ana department's DUI task force. That's a far cry from the firms where lawyers, by their own admission, "do the same thing over and over again."

The California Lawyer reporter concluded:

Still, at a time when general practitioners are finding it much harder to make ends meet, it's a good bet that more of them will take on DUI cases, whether or not they know what they're doing. Tough times are also likely to drive more drunks onto the road, leading to more DUI cases--and even more lawyers chasing them.

For more information, visit the law firm's website at http://losangeles.duicentral.com/ . Inquiries may be directed to the firm's main Los Angeles office: 562.989.4774.

Daniel Stanton

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor have an average experience of 18 years; the firm has specialized only in DUI defense since 1979. More information about Mr. Taylor's firm can be found at their homepage, www.duicentral.com.