If you're facing a DWI in Texas, you've undoubtedly asked your friends and family for a good attorney. Everyone has a friend who knows someone. You've probably also searched online for the best DWI attorneys in your city. But even with personal recommendations and your research, how do you know who the right attorney for you is? How do you tell the difference between an average DWI attorney, a good DWI attorney, and a great DWI attorney?
Is the Attorney a DWI Specialist?
Probably the most important question you can ask while researching DWI attorneys is whether or not the attorney is a DWI specialist. While attorneys who are jack-of-all-trades are great for some matters, you don't want an attorney who spends half of their days on family law or estate planning matters handling your DWI. You need someone who spends their days defending criminal matters, specifically defending DWI matters and teaching others lawyers how to successfully do the same.
Only attorneys who are Board Certified in DWI defense by the National College for DUI Defense can call themselves DWI experts in Texas. The National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) is a nonprofit, professional corporation with a mission to strengthen the DUI defense bar nationwide and they handle board certification for attorneys. It is the only organization accredited by the American Bar Association to certify attorneys in DWI defense and is also recognized by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
Attorneys applying for board certification must complete a lengthy application process before NCDD permits them to sit for a written exam. Applicant attorneys must then prepare and argue a brief before a three-judge panel. It is one of the most rigorous board-certification programs in the country. As a result, you can be sure that an attorney board certified in DWI defense is an expert in the field, able to handle complex legal arguments at trial. Attorney Doug Murphy is Board Certified in DWI defense expert and has undergone this rigorous vetting and examination process.
How Experienced is the Attorney?
Some good lawyers are new attorneys. But there is no substitute for experience when it comes to DWI defense. A seasoned DWI defense attorney will have encountered both complex and simple DWI cases, those with aggravating circumstances, and felony trials. You want to be sure that the attorney you hire has been specializing in DWI defense long enough to be seasoned arguing in the courtroom successfully persuading judges and jurors or legal briefs and negotiating with prosecutors. A lawyer with a significant reputation earned in the courtroom can hopefully help you avoid having to resolve your case successfully due to their reputation and recognition as an expert.
What Education Does the Attorney Have?
Of course, any attorney you interview will have attended law school, and many have graduated with honors. But book learning doesn't necessarily translate to the practical matters of the courtroom. Has the attorney continued their legal education? Have they taken advanced courses and seminars in DWI defense, criminal procedure, and evidence? Has the attorney taken the time to learn about the technical and scientific issues involved in measuring blood alcohol levels? Above all, are they lecturing at continuing education seminars that teach others lawyers these skills? Lawyers who are invited to share their experiences are clearly head and shoulders above most other attorneys. All of these things are part of essential continuing legal education for an effective DWI defense attorney.
Does the Attorney Have the Respect of Their Peers?
What do the attorney's peers have to say about their professionalism, ethics, and effectiveness in the courtroom? Are they involved in professional organizations related to criminal and DWI defense? If an attorney's peers select them as a leader, it signals that they've earned the legal community's respect.
Attorney Doug Murphy has earned his peer's respect. Best Lawyers in America recently named him the "Lawyer of the Year" for 2021 DWI defense. Doug earned this prestigious award based solely on the review of his peers in the Houston criminal defense community. He currently serves as Dean on the Board of Regents for the National College for DUI Defense. Doug is also a past President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, the largest local criminal defense bar in the United States. Doug previously served two consecutive terms on the Board of Directors with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Doug Murphy's Houston-area peers also respect him as an expert in DWI defense.
What Professional or Legal Certifications and Training Does the Attorney Have?
You also want an attorney who continues to hold themselves to the highest standards, seeking additional training and certifications in DWI and criminal defense. You need an attorney who considers themselves a life-long learner. When you research Houston-area attorneys, be sure to note their professional legal certifications related to criminal defense.
In addition to being Board Certified in DWI defense, Doug Murphy is also a Board Certified expert in criminal defense law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Only attorneys who have gone through this rigorous process can hold themselves out as experts in Texas criminal defense law. To gain this certification, an attorney must demonstrate a deep well of experience in criminal law, including handling at least three of the four of the following as lead counsel:
- Five state felony jury trials;
- Ten misdemeanor jury trials;
- Five federal jury trials or substantial involvement in ten federal cases; and
- Any combination of five state or federal appeals.
The Texas Board of Legal Specialization also holds its Board Certified attorneys to the highest ethical standards. Not only is Doug an expert in criminal defense and DWI defense, but he is also a highly sought expert in the field, educating and teaching attorneys about DWI defense nationwide. Doug has spoken as an expert at more than 120 Continuing Legal Education seminars across the country and Texas. These seminars are aimed at helping criminal defense attorneys hone their knowledge and skill in the areas of DWI defense, blood alcohol technology, and criminal procedure.
Does the Attorney Have Community Recognition and Respect?
Is the attorney known in the community? If an attorney is well-known in the community, they're more likely to know others in Houston's legal profession, such as prosecutors and judges who will try your case and hear your arguments. Do they volunteer in the community? Do they care about their neighbors?
Doug Murphy currently serves as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense conducted at Harvard Law School. He is previous past President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association. Doug Murphy is passionate about DWI law and the people in the Houston community. He received the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association's Sharon Levine Unsung Hero Award for his work with others to expose flaws in the Houston Police Department's breath alcohol testing van. Their work led to the police department decommissioning the breath testing vans.
How is the Attorney's Customer Service?
While we may not think about it right away, how an attorney and their law firm staff treat you while you're interviewing attorneys will indicate how they'll treat you later on in the process. Do they return calls right away? Is the staff pleasant and helpful on the phone? When you walk into the office, are people friendly and ready to help? You don't want to end up with an attorney who won't return your calls in the middle of the case or with law firm staff that you aren't entirely sure will make sure your attorney gets your message.
Also, take a look at the attorney's marketing materials and website. Don't be fooled by slick graphics and professionally produced videos. Look for an attorney who isn't trying to sell you, but one who wants to educate you and help you make the best decision for your case. What does their background show about experience in the courtroom, and their reputation at large in the legal community?
Can the Attorney Handle Complex DWI Cases?
Finally, consider whether you think the attorney can handle complex DWI cases. Will they be rushing you to plead guilty? Will they be able to tell a simple case from a complex case? Will they hand you off to a less-experienced associate who may not have the skill to handle complex evidentiary issues that arise at trial?
You want an attorney who understands the ins and outs of blood alcohol tests and how to challenge their results in court. You need an attorney who is well-versed in examining witnesses and methodically revealing the weaknesses in the state's case against you. Your attorney must know when to negotiate a plea or when to fight and take the case to court. You want an attorney who will passionately protect your rights at every step of your DWI case.
Facing a DWI charge isn't the end of the world, and it doesn't mean that a court will convict. You are innocent until proven guilty, and you need a lawyer who appreciates and remembers that fact. Hiring an attorney who is an expert in DWI defense is your best option for a robust defense.
Attorney Doug Murphy is Board Certified in both DWI and criminal defense law. But Doug isn't just passionate about defending his clients. He's a noted expert in DWI defense law and teaches attorneys across Texas and the nation to be better DWI defense lawyers. When you face a DWI, you need the best advice you can get, and Doug Murphy can help. See what Houston's "Lawyer of the Year" in DWI defense can do for you.