1. Hire a Former Fairfax County Prosecutor That Also Has Significant Experience on the Defense Side
As a prosecutor in Fairfax, I handled thousands of Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, and criminal cases. Since leaving the prosecutor's office in 2008, I have handled over 4,000 cases on the defense side in Fairfax County. I understand how cases and prosecutions in FAIRFAX work from the inside out, and I have a good, working relationship with police officers, current prosecutors, and court personnel. These relationships are important in ensuring that your case is handled in the best possible manner.
As a former prosecutor in the Fairfax system, I experienced firsthand how Fairfax prosecutors and police are trained and how a case is prepared and tried to a judge or jury. I understand the internal pressures and decision making process that Fairfax prosecutors face and the analysis they go through in deciding what to do with a case.
My experience on both side of the system in Fairfax gives me knowledge and experience that cannot be gained by an attorney who has spent their entire career on only one side of the system. It is a perspective that has worked to the advantage of my former clients.
Attorneys Who Prosecuted in Places Other Than Fairfax Don't Offer You the Same Benefit
An attorney that was a prosecutor in a county other than Fairfax, or another state, doesn't have this same local experience. The advantage of having a former prosecutor on your case is largely lost when you hire someone who prosecuted in another Virginia county, or worse yet, another state where the laws, procedure, and system are entirely different.
Local unwritten procedure and customs vary greatly from county to county within Virginia. Moreover, a large part of what a lawyer brings to bear on behalf of his clients is the lawyer's good reputation and familiarity with the people in the system. Prosecutors spend years developing this reputation and these relationships. If a lawyer up and moves from the jurisdiction in which they were a prosecutor, they leave this all behind. The relationships they may have had in place with the court personnel and other players in the system are no longer an asset once they move to a new county to practice.
Not Every Attorney Who Claims To Be a "Former Prosecutor" Is Actually a Former Prosecutor
Always ask: (i) Were you a prosecutor or a "law clerk"? (ii) Where were you a prosecutor? (iii) Did you actually prosecute cases? (IV) What kind of cases did you prosecute? AND (v) How many of these kind of cases did you prosecute?
If the attorney did not prosecute in Fairfax County, OR the attorney did not prosecute your type of case (or any case), OR they did not prosecute a substantial number of those cases, you should be aware of that. I never begin my relationship with a client by misleading them as to my background or qualifications.
2. Avoid Hiring a Lawyer from OUTSIDE of Fairfax to Handle Your FAIRFAX Case
I can tell you this from having been on the other side of the equation as prosecutor, hiring a lawyer from neighboring counties or cities like Prince William/Manassas, Loudoun/Leesburg, Alexandria, or Arlington can be a major disadvantage. WHY? Much like the saying "all politics is local" the practice of law in this area is as well. There are 10 different judges in the Fairfax General District Court and over 30 prosecutors. Not personally knowing the players involved and the decisions they make puts your lawyer at a significant disadvantage.
Let me give you a few examples.
- Example 1 - There is at least one judge that believes that in a first offense DUI case where the person refused the breath test, approximately 30 days of active jail time is warranted (even with a completely clean record). My point is not that the judge is right or wrong, the judge has the absolute right to hold such positions and sentence accordingly. However, wouldn't you want your lawyer to know this if you were considering the option of going to trial before that judge?
- Example 2 - I recently represented a client in a high speed Reckless Driving case in Fairfax. The speed was so high that no prosecutor would agree to reduce it no matter what the client did. However, I took the time to do my work, which in part involved closely examining the officer's calibrations. I spotted a potential issue, but I knew from experience that not all judges would agree this was an issue that would keep the calibration out of evidence. However, I recognized that the judge assigned the day of court was one that would possibly rule in my favor on the issue. My knowledge of how various judges rule on specific issues, learned through having spent have spent many, many hours before the judges as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, allowed me to negotiate a favorable, non-reckless driving resolution of the case with the prosecutor.
A lawyer that divides his time between multiple jurisdictions, or "moonlights" in Fairfax will likely not be able to offer this to you. Make sure your lawyer has his office in Fairfax and virtually all of his Reckless Driving and DWI/DUI practice is exclusively in Fairfax. I focus on just on Fairfax and I am in the Fairfax County Courthouse 5 days a week dealing with the prosecutors and judges that will be handling your case.
3. Avoid Attorneys that Only "Dabble" in Criminal and Traffic Defense
The law has become increasingly complex and fluid. Lawyers who don't spend a significant portion of their time dealing with criminal cases are unable to stay current with, and fully understand, the changes in the law and the technical aspects of cases. Moreover, DUI, Reckless Driving, and non-traffic criminal cases are very intricate and can involve a significant number of issues. An attorney who only dabbles in this area is likely not qualified to handle your case. You may never know that there were flaws or defects in your case because your attorney will not have recognized and alerted you to them. If your attorney makes a mistake, you pay the consequences.
4. Know What Lawyer or Lawyers Will Be Appearing in Court on Your Behalf
Who will be coming to court on your behalf? Court is where all the major action occurs. Cases can't be resolved by phone or letter - ONLY in court. Some firms will tout the experience of a head lawyer and then send someone else to court to handle your case. You may like the lead attorney on the phone and feel comfortable with him or her. Then when you show up in court a different attorney is there to represent you before the judge and to negotiate with the prosecutor. Perhaps one with very little or no experience with your type of case. Make sure you are comfortable with all attorneys that will be working on your case. Read about a recent Craigslist Ad in Fairfax.
5. Look For Proof of Satisfied Clients
No attorney can win every case; however, a lawyer should have, as I have, produced results on behalf of a great number of former clients. I have a public track record. Moreover, many of my former clients were so happy with the legal service I provided that they offered written testimonials on my behalf. An attorney can tell you he or she will do a great job for you, but you should look for proof that they have produced great results in the past. When you look for this information it should be specific to the attorney that will be handling your case in court - not the attorney whose name is on the law firm.