Introduction to DUI Attorney Ethics and Professionalism
All attorneys must be licensed to practice law. Typically, each state licenses all lawyers who practice in that state. There are some exceptions, most of which are not relevant to DUI charges. This is because most driving under the influence cases are brought under state statutes in state, county or city courts (as opposed to in federal court).
In order the become an admitted attorney, the applicant to any state bar must first pass an ethics background check. This is to assure that certain classes of convicts, and people with other suspect behavior in their pasts can not practice law. The reason for the scrutiny is that lawyers wield a huge amount of power over our society, and especially over their clients.
Once the new lawyer passes the admittance requirement and is sworn into the bar, the state bar maintains continuing jurisdiction over their professional conduct. Each state has its own rules of professional conduct, which are more or less based on the American Bar Association’s Model Rules.
It is imperative that lawyers respect and abide by the ethical rules. While many of the rules outline duties owed by the attorney to the client, others set forth the requirements for how a lawyer must act towards the court and other lawyers.
At the outset of representation, the potential DUI client should understand where the attorney stands ethically. It is easy to check with most state bar associations to determine whether the lawyer has a history of discipline by the bar. If the lawyer has been sanctioned, it is perfectly acceptable to ask the lawyer the reasons for the sanction. Some forms of censure by a state bar have no bearing on a lawyer’s ability to do an excellent job for your case, while others should raise red flags.
Despite all of the lawyer jokes, most attorneys are ethical, and take seriously their duty of candor to the court. Therefore, do not expect a lawyer to lie for you or bend the rules.
On this website you will find the text of the ABA Model Rules, as well as the ethics rules for various states. You will also find listings for State Bar Associations and other legal professionals’ organizations.
You should feel comfortable discussing anything with your attorney. Good attorneys will appear comfortable with discussions regarding ethics, and welcome your questions.