Today I was called by someone who has court tomorrow morning. In fact, the caller tried to call four times between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. I returned the call around 8:00 a.m. As expected, the caller did not have their voicemail setup. Hours later, she called back by looking at her caller I.D. not knowing who she was calling. After telling her I was the lawyer she called four times earlier in the morning, I asked a perfectly understandable question: "Why did [she] wait until the day before court to call a lawyer?" She promptly hung up the phone, because apparently she didn't want to answer the question any reasonable person would ask. Why would person facing a serious legal problem wait until the day before to call a lawyer?
I didn't ask the question to lecture her or make her feel bad. There are very legitimate reasons an attorney would ask someone why they waited to speak to counsel. As a lawyer, I need to assess whether a person wants to be helped, or can be helped. One morning, while exercising at 6:00 a.m., someone called me on the day of their trial. It was simply impossible to help that person. Whether a Georgia DUI Attorney wants a case or even needs to earn a legal fee, it is impossible to do a competent job without preparation.
When a person calls the day before court, an attorney will immediately assume the person has not taken their situation seriously. 99% of the time that is an accurate judgement. Why would a person expect an attorney to take their situation seriously when they do not take it seriously themselves? Failure to answer the question confirms the attorney's reasonable assumption. If you want a lawyer's help, take steps to get the lawyer invested in helping you with your situation.
So when should a person call a Georgia DUI Lawyer after they have been arrested?
The best answer is immediately after a person is arrested, so long as the person is thinking rationally. People who call quickly instantly convey to their lawyer that they take the matter seriously and want help. Interestedly, many people cannot immediately afford counsel, but when they call right away, I am far more likely to agree to a payment plan when a person calls immediately after their arrest.
More important than the issue of payments is case and client preparation. It should surprise no one that neither can be done instantly. Attorneys need time to review the evidence, and clients need time to understand and evaluate their attorneys advice. Ultimately, a client cannot make an informed decision without time to consider their options.
In a DUI Case, you only have 30 days to appeal the automatic suspension of your driver's license. Without the ALS Appeal, your license can be suspended for up to 12 months. It can also take the prosecution weeks to provide copies of the arrest report and video or the arrest. Without the evidence, your attorney cannot be prepared to move forward.
What are the other factors that cause a lawyer to decide whether a prospective client takes his or her situation seriously?
- Have your voicemail setup. If I cannot leave a voicemail, that immediately tells me that you are not serious. When someone calls me back and says, "someone just called me from this number" I almost never consider that person a prospect.
- Have your paperwork with you when you call. I need to know your charges, the court date, and other information on the citations.
- Have some idea of your financial ability to pay for an attorney. I am more than willing to discuss payment plans and even give referrals to less expensive law firms when a person knows what they can afford to pay.
- If you are a young person whose parents want to be involved in the conversation or who will be paying the legal fees, have them on the phone.
- Do not text questions to the attorney after you speak with him. He is likely on the phone with someone else, driving, or in court. If you have another question, call back. Text messaging is great for personal communication, but a lousy way to get actual advice.
Keep in mind, we want to help, but can only assist a limited number of people.