Handcufss and Car Key and a Glass of Wine


Justin M. Crozier Oct. 18, 2017

Well, here we are with another installment of “what is my attorney worth?”  This time, I’m going to discuss DWI/DUI’s, at least around here locally.

To begin with, I want to explain that there isn’t any one “correct” amount to pay your attorney, for the most part you are going to get what you pay for.  That said, you should know what it IS you are paying for.  Also, most of this pertains to a first time DWI/DUI, the costs and results change with each one after the first.

Let me take a brief second and discuss the DWI/DUI difference, I discuss it in another blog, but I think I should mention it again.  In Missouri, a DWI is probably the charge you are looking for.  That means you were Driving While Intoxicated, you were over the legal limit of blood alcohol level while driving.  You could get a DUI as well, because you were high on… whatever you were high on.  There are other differences, in Kansas it isn’t the same.  But here in Missouri, that is basically what we are looking at.

Okay, now that we are done with that, let’s talk about cost.  You could call 5 different attorneys and you would get 5 different prices on a DWI.  The thing is ALL of those prices MIGHT be correct.  Confused yet?  Well, you should be, because a DWI is one of the more complicated kinds of cases you can get in the misdemeanor range of criminal charges.

For the TL;DR crowd here are the ranges of prices:

Quick, Dirty, Cheap:                                                        $1,000 - $2,500

I’m not going to trial, but I don’t want a DWI:            $2,500 - $5,000 

I’m going to trial, roll the dice baby!:                            $8,000 - $10,000+

First, lets consider what you are actually paying for and what an attorney can do for you.  There are two basic issues you are looking at with a DWI, you have your driver’s license and you have your criminal charge.  A good attorney helps you deal with both.  You only have a few weeks to protect your diver’s license, so you have to act pretty quickly.  The criminal charges are going to take you a little bit longer and don’t require the same urgency… though the sooner you act the better your results will likely be.

I’m now going to describe for you, in rough terms, the three ways that I see DWI’s get resolved and the value each one holds for you.  Looking at that value can help guide you in how much you want to spend and what kind of result you might get, obviously no promises.


This is what a lot of lawyers will offer, especially those who don’t have (1) a lot of experience with DWI’s and (2) that are not really looking to do the work to get you the best possible result.  For what it’s worth, this is going to be a fine result for a lot of people.

This result is probably going to require you to take some classes, it is going to mean you are going to, possibly, lose your license for 30-60 days, you are probably going to be paying a fine, and you will be on probation for about 2 years.  The good news here is that, if you complete your probation, you are not going to have the DWI on your record.  That is great, and for most people this is likely all you need from your attorney.

Of course, there are a lot of shades of gray in here, involving communication from your attorney, them getting a slightly better deal, or a few other things.  It will make you feel better, it will mean your attorney is working harder on your case, but the result is going to be kind of similar.  I would expect you would be paying somewhere between $1,000 and $2,500 for one of these on a first time DWI.  If it was me, I would be a little worried about the $1,000 attorney, because they might be over working themselves and might not pay attention to your case.


This is kind of a middle road method.  This might get your DWI reduced to a lesser charge, it could get your DWI dismissed, and it could get you a much better deal than the “quick and dirty” method.

The results on this are pretty variable, honestly it may not get you a better result than the quick and dirty.  However, this gives you the chance to get a much better result.  It WILL take a lot more work from your attorney, and they will do that work.  When they do it, you will see a difference.  You will have an attorney that is going to answer your questions, help you understand what your problems are, and will walk you through every possible result that could happen.  For some people, this is exactly what they want and need, without the stress of trial.

So, what is the work your attorney will do here?  Well, typically it will be a few different motions.  (1) Motion to suppress – this might toss the officer’s findings, it might get rid of the BAC finding, it might remove pieces of evidence that “prove” that you were over the limit.  (2) Getting an expert – here the attorney is getting an expert to review your case, to look at IF you actually were over the legal limit, they review what you drank, when you drank it, and when the police actually got your BAC.  This is a very powerful tool, and can certainly dismiss a case if it is in your favor. (3) Motion to change judge/change venue/etc. -  these motion are used to give a slight improvement in your case.  It doesn’t guarantee that you will get a better result, but there are bad courts and bad judges.  If you get a bad one, your attorney should help you figure out where to go and should be willing to file the change to get you a better result.

This is the price range of the “DWI Attorney.”  Not just a criminal defense guy, but someone who specializes in these cases and has done several of them.  I would expect to pay between $2,500 and $5,000  to manage your case like this.  It is more expensive, but for many people this can be worth it.  You have a very good chance to get a good result, without the risk of trial.


So, this is the most expensive, most work, and (in some ways) most risky way to go about dealing with your DWI.

You have decided to go to trial.  The good news here is that, unlike many other kinds of criminal cases, DWI cases are VERY WINNABLE.  You don’t have many cases like that in criminal defense.  The cases are usually well researched, with lots of evidence, and are challenging to convince anyone that there was a problem.

DWI’s have a lot of technical requirements, which means that they are great for trial.  If the field sobriety test was bad, you could win.  If the breathalyzer wasn’t perfectly calibrated, you could win.  If they made you wait too long to take the breathalyzer, you could win.  If they didn’t have probable cause to pull you over, you could win.  If you refused the breathalyzer and they have no evidence, you could win.

This is going to include everything in the above case (motions, experts, etc.).  It will also include getting an expert to testify, getting a lot of evidence, cross examining the officer, potentially getting a deposition before trial to lock in testimony, and many more factors.

The best thing about this is it could just toss the entire charge off your record.  No class, no lost license, no probation, no class.  You just get to go back to living your life.

The risk here is that you could be looking at jail time if you lose.

I would not take this option without talking long and hard with your attorney.  Make sure you have a good case for trial.  If not, you need to make a deal.  Don’t take this to trial and lose.  You will hate yourself, and you will have a much worse life as a result.

I would expect a DWI Trial case to cost NO LESS THAN $8,000.  I would really expect you would be paying somewhere closer to $10,000.  For a Class A Misdemeanor, that is a lot of scratch, especially when you can get this thing tossed for less.  Or just take a few classes and be done.

Make sure you know what you are paying for and what you are going to get from your lawyer when you do this.

Ultimately, you can pay a variety of rates for a DWI.  It could be relatively cheap… but you are not going to get anything special.  You could also spend an incredible amount of money and have a much better result.  The question is, how much are you willing to throw down and what are you going to get out of it?

I would caution anyone from the low ranges on these costs, the $1,000 DWI is not likely to be good for you.  And you will never hear from that attorney.  Spend $1,500 or $2,000 and get someone who will meet with you and take your call at a MINIMUM.

I think the best value is in that middle range.  You get a better deal, your case may get tossed, and you know that your attorney is doing a good job for you.  It is more expensive, but worth it for many people.

I would recommend not going to trial on these.  That is, unless you have money to burn, are willing to risk it for a great result, and are not interested in doing any kind of probation.  If so, then you are paying the right price for the kind of attorney you want.

Thanks for reading!

Good luck out there.