Our Criminal Retainer for Your Review
The overwhelming majority of our Charlotte DWI clients have never been in any trouble or had to consider hiring a lawyer before. They are totally new to the process and understandably have lots of questions. One of the most frequent concerns is how do DUI lawyers get paid and what will they be asked to sign to get their case started. As a result, we thought it would be helpful to show you our firm’s retainer agreement and explain what the various provisions mean. We have also printed below the actual Retainer Agreement our firm uses for you to engage our professional legal services. Periodically, we may make minor changes to the format, but the essential elements will always remain the same. We appreciate this is all new to you, and we want to put you at ease as much as possible. We will further explain the individual provisions after you have had an opportunity to review what you will sign if you hire our firm to represent you in your Charlotte DWI case. For now, here is our Retainer Agreement:
CRIMINAL RETAINER AGREEMENT
This is a Criminal Retainer Agreement to engage professional legal services between Aaron Lee (Attorneys) and ___________________________________________________(Client) for the following criminal charges:
State of North Carolina, County of __________________
I affirm that I have made my attorney aware of ALL known charges pending against me, and ONLY the charges listed above are covered by this Agreement. Any other or subsequent criminal charges will require a new and separate Retainer Agreement with additional legal fees. No guarantees of any kind have been made to client regarding outcome of case.
I agree to pay a flat rate, advance Attorney Fee of $_____________. This fee is earned upon receipt, but a pro rata portion will be returned if the client ends the representation prior to plea or trial. This fee covers ALL legal services rendered for the above charges through either: (a) one (1) District Court bench trial, or (b) a negotiated plea after consultation. Additional legal services, including appeals to Superior Court, will require a separate Retainer Agreement and additional legal fees. Any resulting fines and/or Court costs are the sole responsibility of Client and are NOT included in the Attorney Fee.
This Agreement does NOT cover any licensing issues with the NC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) other than assisting Client to obtain a Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege.
For Clients with payment plans, regular payments must be made towards the retainer. Attorneys reserve the right to withdraw from representation if an account becomes delinquent. If this Agreement is ended prior to full payment, Client agrees that any monies paid will be applied toward those services rendered to date.
DATED this _________ day of ___________________________, 201_____.
Client Aaron Lee
Explanation of Contract Provisions
The first section outlines the parties to this contract. Aaron Lee PLLC is a “professional corporation.” Charlotte DWI attorney Aaron Lee is the only member of the firm licensed to practice law in the State of North Carolina and will be in charge of your DUI case.
Full Disclosure of Charges | No Guarantee of Ultimate Outcome
Although we practice almost exclusively in Mecklenburg County, we specify which county you are charged with DWI to be clear. Next, we identify by citation number and criminal charge those matters you want us to defend. Most clients retain us to defend all pending charges, but some prefer to simply pay the fine for smaller infractions and have us defend the DUI charge. Again, clarity is important in defining our attorney-client relationship. Also, some clients may incur subsequent criminal charges which would necessarily require a different retainer and additional legal fees.
The retainer agreement then confirms in writing that we make no guarantees about any potential outcome of your case. Of course we cannot make any promises other than to pledge our best effort and hard work on your behalf. Also, at this point in the representation, we will have only seen the charges and heard your side of the arrest. There is always another side, and frankly, only the State’s side really matters in most cases as they have the entire burden of proof. If the State cannot prove its case against you, your version will never come into play.
Even after we have an opportunity to evaluate all of the State’s evidence, DWI lawyers can never guarantee any particular outcome. There are simply too many factors and uncertainties involved to make predictions. You can never fully know what a judge, or certainly a jury, will do. At trial, there are many nuances that may require us to adjust our strategy and even change our position. For example, if the jury turns out to be terrible for your case, we may have to reconsider whether to go forward with trial. We also look at which judge is selected to hear your case as some judges will refuse to sign a post-trial limited driving privilege or even order time in jail if convicted. This is where our years of experience will benefit you. We pledge to give you our best efforts and considered opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of your case. We develop individual strategies as each case is different and turns on individual circumstances. However, our thorough and comprehensive approach remains the same in every case.
Flat Rate Attorney Fees
The next section addresses attorney fees. It is described in the Retainer Agreement as a “flat rate, advance” fee. This simply means you will be charged a designated sum that will not change later. Whatever amount is listed will remain the same throughout the representation. No changes. No surprises. The “advance” language means the fee is earned immediately. Of course, should a client become dissatisfied for any reason during the course of representation, they may be entitled to a return of a portion of the retainer fee. The appropriate amount will be largely a function of when someone seeks to terminate the relationship and how much work has been done and how many court appearances have been made by the DUI attorney. Of course, we do not anticipate being fired by clients and will do our best on your behalf and to resolve any concerns that may arise. But, no attorney or firm is universally adored, and from time to time, clients or lawyers will seek to go their separate ways. All we ask is that you sit down with us first if you feel your case is not being handled to your satisfaction.
Court Costs and Fines
The next part addresses any resulting court costs or fines. The attorney fee is separate and is paid to the firm regardless of ultimate outcome. We are paid to fully review the evidence and give you advice on options. The decision of whether to plead guilty or proceed to trial is always the client’s. We advise. You decide. If you decide to plea or lose at trial in District Court (judge only), you have the option to go further and have you case tried anew before a jury of your peers in Superior Court. This initial retainer agreement only covers representation in District Court. Appeals and trials in Superior Court will require a new retainer agreement and additional legal fees. The attorney fee for a Superior Court jury trial is usually higher than District Court. The reason is a jury trial will take between one and one and a half days to complete. Jury selection alone will often take half a day. Depending on video evidence, witnesses, and jury deliberations, some Charlotte DWI trials can last even longer. We are strong believers in jury trials as a group can carefully consider different parts of the evidence and provide clients with an impartial verdict. We also appreciate the human side of a jury of citizens who have not been legally trained to disregard the emotional aspects attendant with any DWI arrest.
Limited Driving Privilege | DMV Issues
Next, there is the DMV aspect of a DUI charge. As we explain to our clients, there are actually two different parts to a DWI arrest: the criminal side and the DMV side. In the criminal case, you have rights and defenses. In the DMV side, you have privileges (the ability to drive) and defenses. The first concern in almost every case is “when will I be able to legally drive again?” As part of our representation, we assist our clients with obtaining a Limited Driving Privilege (LDP). We guide you through the process and appear in front of a District Court Judge to present your petition for signature. We then file same with the court and pay your required fee to the State of North Carolina. We then put the LDP in your hand so that you can get back to work or school. At the end of the thirty (30) day period, we go to the courthouse again, pay the second required fee, and retrieve your original license. In cases where a client “refused” breath testing, we can appear and present your case before the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, usually for an additional legal fee and a separate retainer agreement. It is critical to decide quickly if you want to challenge a suspension for “willful refusal” as there is only a ten (10) day period during which to file a notice with the State.
Legal Fee Payment Plans Available
And finally, we offer payment plans for our clients. We realize that several thousand dollars in unexpected legal fees can be difficult. As a result, we are happy to work with our clients with a scheduled payment arrangement. Too many firms require payment “up front” making it impossible for many individuals to hire private counsel. We honor your choice to retain our law firm and will work with you on a payment schedule to fit your budget. However, we do expect to be paid and will seek to withdraw from representation if necessary. We certainly do not intend to be harsh, but this is how we make a living. In certain cases, we have lowered our usual attorney fee in order to help someone who we believe has a defensible case but may not be in a position to afford our representation. But in most cases, our clients understand and appreciate that more experienced lawyers charge higher fees. They know the familiar phrase “you get what you pay for in life.” It is the same in law.
Charlotte DWI Lawyers | Aaron Lee PLLC
For those considering hiring a Charlotte DWI lawyer, we hope this presentation and review of a Criminal Retainer Agreement is helpful. At a minimum, having an opportunity to preview what you will sign may diminish some of your anxiety and answer some basic questions about what to expect. For a more detailed discussion, we encourage you to call our office to schedule a time to sit down and personally review your case. For more immediate answers, you can reach Mr. Lee on his mobile phone at 704.222.7525 or email him at email@example.com. We look forward to speaking with you. Call now and let’s get started.