What constitutes “contesting” a case?

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What constitutes “contesting” a case?

My lawyer charged me $7500 up front to work my DUI case. He had me initial for extra charges of $5000 if the case had to be “contested”. Arrest date was 06/10 and court date is 12/08/10. He just called and told me that the prosecutor agreed to drop DUI to reckless, but I would have to pay him the additional $5000 because he had to “contest the case”. Is he pulling a bait-and-switch on me?

Asked on December 7, 2010 under Criminal Law, Georgia

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Your lawyer is retained by you.  That means that he is responsible to account to you for the fees that have been incurred on your case.  It is difficult to comment on the fees that have been charged in this type of forumbecause there is not enough information as to the charges and how may appearance the attorney made and what kind of negotiations had to be had to have the charges dropped.  But look at your retainer first and see if it has an hourly amount on it.  The attorney has to account for each hour that he charges you generally in increments of 6 minutes (1.0 being an hour).  I do have to say that the "contested fee" sends up a red flag as all matters are "contested".  That is why you are being charged but the prosecutor.  So ask and see where that gets you.  There are always other places that you can turn if something does not add up.  Good luck. 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You may wish to speak with either your state bar association and/or with the office of your state court system that regulates attorneys--something seems wrong here. By definition, if you are not simply accepting whatever the charges are, you are "contesting" the case, so if you hired the attorney to fight the charge or try to get it reduced, you hired him to contest it and therefore he was going to get the extra $5,000. The way your attorney structured the fee seems like it may have been disingenous--it's more common to have an extra fee if the case goes all the way to trial, which takes additional work. Also, even $7,500, let alone $5,000, seems high for a DUI case. Most of those cases, if they don't go to trial, will only take 4 - 8 hours total of attorney time--that means you're paying over $1,000 per hour. Even if it went to trial and took, say, 20 hours total (which  is on the high side for a simple trial), at $12,500 per hour, you'd be paying at a very premium, NYC corporate law rate of $600 per hour. So the rates may be unconscionably high for the amount of work, too.

(Let's put it this way: if an attorney could get $12.5k for a DUI, they'd do nothing but DUIs day in and day out!)


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