Choosing a DUI / DWI Defense Lawyer
"A lawyer who is a certified specialist has been recognized by an independent professional certifying organization as having an enhanced level of skill and expertise, as well as substantial involvement in an established legal specialty."
— The American Bar Association
Q. How should I choose a lawyer?
A. Very carefully. Choose a Board Certified Specialist. A glance at the Yellow Pages or the Web will quickly show you that every lawyer wants you to believe that he is a DWI specialist. Regardless of how convincing or sincere the ad may seem, he is not a DWI specialist. To legally be a specialist a lawyer must meet the rigid requirements of the American Bar Association. Edward L. Fiandach and Peter Gerstenzang are the only attorneys in New York to have met these requirements and be Board Certified as a DWI specialist by the ABA approved National College for DUI Defense Board Certification process. If you are convicted of DWI, not only may you go to jail, but at a minimum you will carry a criminal record for the rest of your life. If you ever change jobs, you will have to answer "yes" to the question, "have you ever been convicted of a crime." Your entire life will be impacted by who you choose. You need a Board Certified Specialist.
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If you have been arrested for Driving While Intoxicated, selecting a lawyer is the most important decision you will make. It can be made much easier if you follow some simple do's and don'ts.
- DO ask about the lawyer's Martindale-HubbleTM rating! For over 100 years, this has been the exclusive standard for attorney rating. To check a lawyer's Martindale-HubbleTM rating, click this link, enter the lawyer's name, then click 'search.' Edward L. Fiandach is rated AV, which Martindale-HubbleTM describes as "the height of professional excellence." This is the highest rating any attorney can receive. This puts him in the top 5 percent of all American lawyers.
- DON'T hire a "one man band"! While it may sound good to hear an attorney say that he and he alone will handle your case, in practice these schemes turn out to be a disaster. Let's face it, regardless of what they tell you, to meet the same fixed expenses as larger firms, solo practitioners must take every case they possibly can. The end result is that they cannot possibly make all appearances, prepare all pleadings and try all the cases while giving your case the time and attention it deserves. Further, District Attorneys quickly learn who has the time to try all their cases. Fiandach & Fiandach is one of the nation's largest DWI defense firms. We have the brains, the time, the talent and the manpower to treat you like you're our only client.
- BEWARE of "Bait and Switch"! Some firms like to artificially inflate a firm's credentials by adding family members who are lawyers, former judges and/or have prosecutorial experience. In reality the "big name" may merely have lent his or her name to the firm and spends very little, if any, time at what is actually a small and understaffed operation. He or she may even have a separate practice! If you are contemplating such a firm, don't meet with the junior associate! Ask to see "the big name." If you're told he or she is unavailable, be suspicious. At Fiandach & Fiandach, we deplore this deceptive and misleading practice. At Fiandach & Fiandach, you will always meet with our lead attorney, Board Certified Specialist, Edward L. Fiandach.
- DO ask "how experienced are your associates." It stands to reason, if a firm has associates, they will be working on your case. Ask, how long have they been admitted? How many DWI trials have they handled? How many felony trials have they handled? At Fiandach & Fiandach, we have four associates, including 4 former felony District Attorneys who have handled hundreds of cases and trials. Our experience level is unsurpassed in the field.
- Do ask "how many DWI homicide trials have you handled?" The reason for this is obvious. Only the best handle these extremely difficult cases.
- DO ask "how large is your support staff?" A support staff that is too small is an invitation for disaster. At Fiandach & Fiandach we have three paralegals including a former court clerk. Our support staff alone has over 50 years of experience.
- Don't rely solely upon the "Yellow Pages." Every city has yellow pages filled with lawyers who say they "do DWI." The Yellow Pages serve a purpose, but remember that the company that prints the yellow pages does no investigation of the advertisements or claims that lawyers choose to make. Since New York has no process to certify experts or specialists in a particular field, any lawyer can claim that he or she is proficient in any area he or she wishes.
- Do ask "how many reported decisions do you have?" Reported decisions are important cases that become precedent. Mr. Fiandach has more than 30 in State and Federal courts as well as an appeal and a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.
- DO check credentials. All lawyers like to say they're the best. Be wary of a lawyer that touts being a "leading" lawyer or a "leading firm". Ask him or her just who made that determination. At Fiandach & Fiandach, we will be happy to review our credentials with you. As a prospective client, you have every right to know.
- DO ask yourself "Is this lawyer nationally recognized?" While this may sound self-serving, given Mr. Fiandach's national reputation, it is a fact you must not ignore. Look at it like this, if you had cancer, which doctor would you go to, a young upstart, yet to prove him or herself, or a doctor nationally recognized by other doctors as one of the leading experts in the field? Don't be someone's guinea pig, you have a choice, use it wisely.
- Do closely examine results. If the lawyer publishes claimed results, check them closely. Did the defendant simply plead guilty? Check the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content). If the BAC was under .08 and the plea was to DWAI, the client simply pled guilty to the charge! You don't even need a lawyer to do that. Was the claimed result a plea bargain? If the BAC was .08 - .10, in most counties the District Attorney will plea bargain these cases to DWAI. Any lawyer can do that. If your test is higher than .10, you don't need a plea bargainer, you need a trial lawyer that has the skill to win your case at trial.
- DO investigate performance figures. At Fiandach & Fiandach, our exceptional performance percentages were calculated by The Democrat & Chronicle as part of an examination of issues relating to DWI. If an attorney touts figures, ask him or her who came up with the numbers that he or she claims.
- DON'T shop for price. While we recognize that what you can afford is a legitimate consideration, it should not be your only consideration. Frequently a price that is "too good to be true" is just that. In criminal law, perhaps more than any other area of law, the old adage "you get what you paid for," rings true.
- DO recognize the value of a successful defense. While $3,500 to $10,000 may at first seem like a lot, it is a paltry sum if it avoids a criminal conviction and loss of a license. Being branded with a criminal conviction, particularly for "DWI," will severely limit future employment possibilities. Employers don't like workers who have been shown to have "a drinking problem." Even if you feel secure in your job, recognize that rapid shifts in the economy can lead to "downsizing" in even the best companies or industries.
- DON'T think that all lawyers are created equal. The 90's have seen the practice of law, like medicine in the '60's, as becoming increasingly specialized. The lawyer who did your divorce, house closing or grandfather's estate may have been fine for that purpose but you cannot expect him or her to have kept abreast of the drastic changes in "DWI."
- DO be wary of the lawyer that practices in many areas. Lawyers who do divorces one day, personal injury cases the next and DWI on yet a third may not have the time or experience to make the substantial commitment that specialization requires.
- DO ask a lawyer, a police officer or a judge "who is the best". Our reputation is a matter of public record. We're confident that you'll get just one answer, "Fiandach & Fiandach."
- DO ask if the lawyer has lectured or been published. Has the lawyer you're considering authored any works? Has he or she lectured on "DWI"? Has he or she taken any special courses? Recognize that regardless of what the lawyer tells you about the number of cases that he or she handles, writing and lecturing subjects the lawyer to review by his or her peers. In a word, lawyers who lack the necessary knowledge or skills are not asked to write and lecture.
- DO research seminars. Many lawyers advertise that they have attended various seminars on DWI. Ask him or her who was lecturing at the seminar or check Mr. Fiandach's credentials. Chances are Ed Fiandach was the lead instructor at the program.
- DON'T be afraid to discuss fees. Before hiring a lawyer, you have a right to know what it is going to cost. At Fiandach & Fiandach, we will tell you at your first meeting exactly what our fee will be. Further, we guarantee that fee in writing.