Career Description of a DUI-DWI Lawyer or Attorney
Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) are considered criminal offenses. When a person’s blood alcohol content exceeds the legal level between 0.05% and 0.08%, depending on the jurisdiction, a person can be convicted. An aggravated category of the offense may exist in particular jurisdictions when the blood alcohol content exceeds 0.12%.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in 2010, over 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. A DUI lawyer represents a person arrested and charged with a DUI or DWI. The court process can be quite lengthy for this type of conviction. Typically, there are several hearings, the first being at the Department of Motor Vehicles with the final hearing ending at the County or State Court.
Educational Requirements for a DUI Lawyer
In order to obtain the profession of DUI lawyer, one must have a bachelor’s degree, a law degree (a Juris Doctorate) and have passed the BAR exam in the practicing state. During law school, it is advisable to perform an internship or clerkship with law firms specializing in DUI cases.
Continuing education is mandatory. DUI lawyers must remain up-to-date with the advancements and changes in the laws pertaining to DUI cases. Additionally, continuing education allows DUI lawyers to maintain their licenses and keep their skills sharpened and current as well.
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Job Description & Skills Required
A DUI lawyer is a criminal defense attorney with a specialization in handling DUI/DWI cases. Often, a majority of a public defender’s case load involves DUI cases. A DUI lawyer is an expert in the specific DUI laws pertaining to the state in which he practices. His primary role is to explain the charges to his client, recommend the best course of action to take, and represent his client in court. He also handles all the administrative details involved.
A client can plead guilty to the charges but often a skilled DUI lawyer will attempt to get many of these charges dropped or lessened early in the process. These negotiations occur during the pre-trial conference. A DUI lawyer may recommend entering into a plea bargain or sentence bargain. He may file a motion to overthrow his client’s statements if arrested. In addition, he can schedule an evidentiary hearing for the purpose of uncovering the evidence the persecution holds against his client.
During trial, the lawyer assists in the jury selection. He gathers expert witnesses and investigators on his client’s behalf. He will also endeavor to expose any discrepancies in the charges or police procedures that were used to determine them.
A DUI lawyer must have a thorough understanding of his state’s DUI laws. He must have strong communication skills to assist him in negotiating with prosecution and informing his clients of their rights and options. In addition, he must be highly organized as there are many evidentiary details to sort and have capable critical thinking skills to enable him to best assess all options on his client’s behalf.
Salary & Career Outlook
As of 2012, the average salary for a DUI/DWI lawyer is $56,000. However, DUI salaries can vary depending on job location, employer, education and experience.
With the growing number of DUI/DWI charges and arrests, there is an increasing demand for DUI lawyers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 13% growth in lawyer occupations, including DUI lawyers, by the year 2018. Although job prospects are good, competition in the law field is high. Applicants with the best academic records and work experience will augment their chances of securing employment.