cedar rapids / iowa city criminal defense

go all the way to trial. In other words, in the majority of cases, a three thousand dollar retainer is too much, if the assumption is also that resolution can be accomplished cheaper than three thousand dollars at an hourly rate in so many hours.


Although no one can estimate what a case will cost in the end, three thousand dollars seems steep to me for the resolution of a first time drunk driving case that results in a guilty plea.


By the way, I was offended when a public service ad began its “You Just Blew” campaign that included the tagline, “You just blew $10,000.” It was based in part on attorney fees so, in effect, the public service campaign was vilifying not just drunk driving but attorneys in general by inflating the fees required to defend a drunk driving case.” I don’t think the campaign was accurate.


But back to the flat f ee-- I do not charge a $3,000 retainer for a first time drunk driving case. I think it's too much to begin work on the case. On the other hand, a case may cost that much or more if it goes to trial. I prefer the pay as you go approach. I still require a retainer for first time drunk driving cases based on a review of the facts with a client but, as I believe is most appropriate under the rules, I bill out only at my hourly rate in six minute increments. If you or a loved one is arrested for OWI (DUI) in Iowa, please contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC for an initial consultation. 

1450 Boyson Road Suite C-2A Hiawatha, Iowa 52233     319-389-1889

Remember that you have a right to be an informed legal consumer. What is the hourly rate? How much is refundable if my OWI is quickly settled? 

The question is whether the three thousand dollar retainer (or higher) is set so high as to ensure that a law firm collects on the most time and labor intensive cases by effectively spreading the cost across all clientele for the majority cases that readily settle.

Is the fee different if I plead guilty versus if I go to trial?

This is a biggie. A fee must be partially refundable if it isn't already depleted. Therefore, a flat fee is subject to dispute if the case settles quickly with relatively little litigation. It’s a statistical fact that most criminal defendants reach a plea agreement with prosecutors in Iowa and across the country. Justice Anthony Kennedy of the Unites States Supreme Court acknowledged “the simple reality that 97 percent of federal convictions and 94 percent of state convictions are the result of guilty pleas.” Frye v. Missouri, 566 US _ (2012). Very few cases go to trial.

The question is whether the three thousand dollar retainer (or higher) is set so high as to ensure that a law firm collects on the most time and labor intensive cases by spreading the cost across all clientele for the majority of cases that readily settle. That's because it might not take $3,000 at an hourly rate set by an attorney to readily reach a disposition in most cases. If the three thousand dollar retainer is capped at (can go no higher than) three thousand dollars, costs for a trial can easily exceed that amount. If the three thousand dollar retainer includes expert witness fees and deposition transcripts, it is almost certain that clients who readily plead guilty share some of the cost of the case that is more labor intensive. Thus, for someone who is looking to resolve their OWI (DUI) in Iowa sooner rather than later, with as little costly litigation as possible, the three thousand dollar retainer is likely more than someone might charge on an hourly basis-- and it further subsidizes others who want to 

Is there an hour-by-hour or even minute-by-minute accounting of my fees?

A flat fee arrangement (note: David A. Cmelik Law PLC does not engage in flat fee arrangements but instead uses an hourly rate and invoicing system) usually works like this: one third of your fee is gone by arraignment, two thirds is gone by pretrial, and all of it is gone by disposition. That presupposes a definite chronology between initiation of the prosecution and disposition. What if you plead by arraignment and disposition occurs before your pretrial? Good question. With the services of David A. Cmelik Law PLC, you know what the firm is doing down to six minute increments because I invoice and bill in six minute increments. There is no 1/3 by six PM, 2/3 by midnight, and 3/3 by dawn.

Is a $3000 flat fee too much?


Other firms may charge a 'flat fee' but are they a bargain? Not necessarily. 


by David Cmelik


I’ve heard from enough clients and potential clients a similar report about a local attorney who requests a three thousand dollar retainer for any first time drunk driving case. If you’re looking for value, you should ask the following questions of any attorney you hire to represent you or a loved one in a first time drunk driving course.