If you're facing a “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) charge in Houston, Harris County, Texas, you may already be overwhelmed, trying to process what has happened. Handcuffs, police stations, booking photos—those are things that belong in cop TV shows and movies, not in your reality. Now, you have to find a lawyer, and fast.
You may have never even met a criminal defense attorney, but you know that the selecting the best lawyer could mean everything for your future.
You may think you know the facts, but you do not know what is relevant in the court of the law. You may think you understand basics of the court process, but you don't know all the ins-and-outs of litigation, the criminal justice system, updates on case law interpreting statutes, the proceedings and know how to implement specific legal strategies in--what has become a highly specialized area of law--DWI defense.
But all of that and more—that is exactly what an experienced and specialized DWI attorney has mastered. And mastery matters. It can be the difference between a conviction and an acquittal, a probation versus a prison sentence.
So what do you look for? How do you know who is the right person for the job, and who is the right person for you?
Knowing how crucial the right defense attorney can be, we've put together some key questions for you to ask when interviewing lawyers:
What sets you apart from other defense attorneys who can represent me?
All attorneys are not the same, so start by asking attorneys about their professional ratings and credentials. Many lawyers claim to focus on DWI cases, but are they truly a DWI Specialist? Only 5 lawyers in Texas can claim they are a DWI Specialist. Very few lawyers qualify to sit for the National College for DUI Defense DWI Specialization Exam based upon their lack of proven experience and results. The NCDD DWI Board Certification is the only DWI Certification accredited by the American Bar Association and also recognized by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. A candidate after qualifying to sit for the NCDD DWI board certification exam, then must pass the most rigorous written board certification examination in the United States and also argue before a 3 judge panel to argue, persuade and demonstrate to the panel that the candidate has the requisite level of knowledge and expertise in the area of DWI defense before Board Certification in DWI Defense will be granted. There are less than 100 DWI Specialists in the United States.
Further, has the attorney also demonstrated expertise in the courtroom by becoming Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. In order to become board certified in Criminal Law, attorneys are required to demonstrate a number of years experience specifically handling and trying criminal cases to a verdict. They must also demonstrate a substantial portion of their work is also devoted to specifically to criminal practice. There is also a crucial peer-review process by judges and opposing counsel of their reputation and skill set. These specialists must continue to have extensive additional education in criminal law, and they must be recertified every five years.
Doug Murphy is one of only two attorneys in the entire State of Texas who holds both DWI Board Certification and Criminal Law Certification.
What is your reputation in the legal community?
Reputation and relationships are important in a courthouse. Prosecutors and judges may start informally assessing the merits of a defendant's case, simply based on the attorney's reputation. Similarly, the well-known attorney also knows well what charges a prosecutor is likely to bring and which arguments a jury or judge will find persuasive, based on previous litigation.
In order to assess professional reputation, has the attorney been named the 2021 Lawyer of the Year in Houston for his work in DWI Defense by Best Lawyers in America published in U.S. News & World Report. Further, Doug Murphy has also been voted by his peers and named to prestigious honor of Texas SuperLawyers published in Texas Monthly magazine and The Best Lawyers in America published in U.S. News & World Report magazine, which use peer reviews to determine the best attorneys.
Also ask attorneys if they have any leadership positions within the legal community or in academia. For example, Doug Murphy has been recognized by both Texas SuperLawyers and Best Lawyers every year since 2013.
Doug Murphy currently serves as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, conducted at Harvard Law School. Doug Murphy is a past President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA). Doug has also served as co-chair of the DWI Committee with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and received Presidents Award every year from TCDLA since 2007. Doug Murphy was also awarded HCCLA's “Sharon Levine Unsung Hero Award.”
Doug Murphy frequently lectures on successfully handling all aspects of DWI litigation throughout the nation and has volunteered his time to teach other lawyers how to successful handle DWI cases at over 120 continuing legal education seminars.
What benefits will a seasoned, successful DWI Specialist attorney bring to my case?
Any attorney will analyze the relevant facts and law at issue; they can represent you in written filings and in-person court proceedings. But an experienced DWI Specialist attorney is able to anticipate the issues that confront their clients. They more effectively challenge evidentiary arguments: They know what are the common issues with alcohol tests and witness reports.
They also know how to employ the law and various procedures to a client's advantage. For example, most people believe that they will automatically lose their driver's license if they refuse a breathalyzer test. However, an experienced DWI attorney knows to request an administrative hearing to review the suspension. the vast majority of Doug Murphy Law Firm clients win at these ALR hearings and their driver's license are not suspended.
Can you tell me what options I have with my DWI case?
During an initial consultation, you may discuss some of the factual issues at hand. Prepare for the meeting: Bring relevant documents. Make a list of questions. While attorneys will not able to give you a full recitation of the law or promise any specific outcomes, most attorneys may be able to give you a general idea of options available to you, and some of the likely issues and proceedings that are ahead. For instance, they may discuss:
• The likelihood of entering pursuing a plea agreement
• The pros and cons of going to trial in your specific case
• The unique factors in your case that work for and against you
• The impact of types of pleas, sentencing, and other outcomes
They can also explain what you can expect in the weeks ahead in terms of the types of proceedings there will be, other legal issues that you will need to address.
Are you going to handle my case? If not, who will?
It may seem silly to ask the lawyer you are meeting with, considering hiring, is actually going to be working on your case; however, in a large firm that handles a wide range of cases, you are likely to meet with a senior partner, but more junior staff, with much less expertise, will do most of the actual work product. If you're stressed and anxious about your DWI, realize that going with a large firm may mean you have less one-on-one time with your lawyers. In such a firm, it's possible that you may never even meet an attorney who wrote a motion for your case.
By contrast, smaller firms with a narrower field of practice will give you more personal attention. The Doug Murphy Law Firm, for example, has two attorneys who have focused their entire careers on criminal law. They know the stakes that you face as being accused as a criminal defendant, so they not only meet the legal needs of their clients, but, more than that, they treat their clients with the same care they would give their own families.
What can you tell me about the cost of your services?
It's important to ask about the fee structures that your prospective attorney offers. For example, they might offer a flat fee for all DWI-related services. They may also bill hourly. Make sure that you find out, during the first consultation, what your attorney will include in their fee. If there are any extra services, find out what those are—as well as their associated costs. Remember to keep these fees in perspective.
Are you looking for an affordable lawyer or the best lawyer? Some people evaluate attorneys by their billable rates. But what you should be basing your calculation on is the cost of a DWI conviction—from potential loss of a driver's license to professional licenses to yes, jail time—and which attorneys are best equipped to minimize that impact.
Evaluate the answers: What to ask yourself, after the meetings….
Once you complete your interviews, you need to take a moment to consider each candidate you spoke with. Helpful questions to ask yourself after you've talked to several lawyers include:
• Of the attorneys I spoke with, which had the most practical experience? Which one had the background most relevant to my DWI case?
• Can I trust this attorney to present my story to a jury?
• Did any of the attorneys give me advice that I found helpful?
• Which attorney made me feel the most comfortable?
• Did the attorney explain things in a way I understand, and welcome my questions and concerns?
At the end of the day, you need to trust your lawyer. You need to trust that they have your best interests at heart. You need to be able to confide in them. You need to be able to trust in their abilities.
Remember that, even if it feels like it, a DWI charge is not a DWI conviction.
And a great lawyer can make all difference in that result.
But to do that, your lawyer needs to have superlative credentials, be a proven expert in the fields, and be respected in the DWI and criminal law communities. Your lawyer needs to listen and address your concerns (of which, we know you have many), learn the facts, and formulate a strategy to get you the best possible outcome.
Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. office today for a free initial consultation. Talk to him about his specialized credentials, his reputation, his track record, and then see for yourself how he works with his clients. To learn more about his experience, to tell him about your experience, and find out how he can help.