If you were recently arrested and charged with driving under the influence, or DUI, for the first time you are probably extremely worried about the outcome of your case. Along with the judicial penalties the court might impose on you if you are convicted, there are a number of non-judicial consequences that could also have a significant impact on your life. At this point, the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your future is to retain the services of an experienced Nebraska DUI lawyer. If you have never had to hire a criminal defense attorney before, however, you may have a number of questions and concerns about that process as well. Specifically, you may want to know how Omaha DUI lawyers charge for a case.
Attorney Fee Structures
When it comes to attorney fees, there are three basic methods by which attorneys can charge or bill clients, including:
- Contingency fees – when an attorney charges using a contingency fee arrangement it means that the attorney will receive a percentage of the funds the attorney collects on behalf of the client as a result of a settlement or award at trial. If the attorney does not obtain a settlement or award for the client, the attorney receives nothing. This type of fee arrangement is most commonly used for cases such as personal injury, Social Security, or unemployment benefits. In these cases, the attorney is usually able to evaluate from the beginning whether or not a settlement/award is likely and, therefore, is willing to work for a contingency fee. The attorney might, for instance, negotiate a settlement on behalf of the client for $150,000. Pursuant to the contract signed with the client, the attorney might receive a contingency fee of one-third, or $50,000 as his/her fee for representation. Most states prohibit the use of contingency fees in criminal cases.
- Hourly fees – as the name implies, an hourly fee arrangement is one in which the attorney keeps track of the time spent on a case and bills the client for that time at a set rate. Typically, the client must pay a retainer fee up front against which the attorney will bill the client until the retainer runs out at which point the client will need to replenish the retainer. This fee structure is usually used for civil matters. Although this type of fee arrangement is sometimes used by criminal lawyers, it is not the most common type of fee arrangement used.
- Fixed or Set fees – a fixed fee, also referred to as a “set fee” or “flat fee” is one in which the attorney charges the client a predetermined amount without regard to how many hours the attorney spends on the case nor the outcome of the case. Set fees are frequently used for routine legal matters such as an uncontested divorce, creating a Last Will and Testament, or petitioning for guardianship. This type of fee arrangement is also commonly used by criminal attorneys because they usually have a fairly good idea of what will be involved in the representation of the client and, consequently, how much time they will spend on the case. For example, although no two DUI cases are ever exactly the same, the basic steps in the prosecution of all first-time DUI cases are essentially the same. Because of this, an attorney who handles DUI cases on a regular basis will have a pretty good idea of how much time will be spent on a new DUI case. Charging a flat fee is also attractive to clients because they know ahead of time how much they will need to pay the attorney. In criminal cases, attorney sometimes use a variation of the set fee arrangement by charging one set fee if a case is resolved without going to trial and an increased set fee if the case does actually go to trial.
Ultimately, the best way to find out what your Omaha DUI attorney will charge you, and how you will be expected to pay that fee, is to consult with the attorney in person about the matter.