Charged With a DUI? What to Do Before You Start Calling DUI Lawyers
In one of my previous posts I had discussed several factors which you will need to consider before hiring a DUI lawyer. In this specific article I’ll discuss several matters which you will need to take care of in order to prepare yourself for interviewing DUI Lawyers. There is an old saying that “knowledge is power” and this is certainly accurate. You need to have some basic background information in order to assess what the lawyers will tell, you before you call DUI Lawyers.
Info About Dui Lawyers Can Be Categorized into 2 parts
- Information about the DUI Attorney
- Info about DUI Laws in your own state.
Before calling any DUI Attorney you will need to learn about them through search engines such as Google. Please visit their private website if possible. Please find out if they normally handle other kinds of cases. You will need to be aware if they’re experienced in handling DUI cases. Clearly, you just need to speak with an Attorney who handles many DUI cases. This is the only way to make sure that the attorney is well versed in DUI laws. Additionally, try and discover the kind of training they’ve had. Was the attorney a Prosecutor before moving to defense work? (Former Prosecutors have a tendency to get plenty of experience and classroom training as the government always trains them well). Is the attorney a member of any organization or is he dedicated to DUI Defense? A number of these organizations provide their members with training. Don’t forget that, you don’t want to be represented by a civil lawyer who is picking up a DUI defense case for the first time.
Before calling DUI Lawyers, it is also wise to study the DUI Law in your own state. Utilize those internet resources which make it possible for you to discover the DUI statutes in your state. You ought to attempt to discover several matters when reviewing the DUI statutes of your state. The crucial among them are
- Are you currently facing the chances of a mandatory jail term?
- Are you facing a mandatory driver’s license suspension? If yes, then for how long?
- Above all, does your state provide a pretrial diversionary program?
It is an application which will let a first-time offender to serve some probation rather than facing jail time. These plans quite often carry lesser, or no, permit suspension. Most of these applications will lead to your DUI charges being dismissed and expunged. This means that you would NOT HAVE ANY criminal record as a result of this.
It is when you have all this info that you ought to speak with a DUI Lawyer. Subsequently, as an example, if a lawyer doesn’t mention the pretrial diversionary plan then you will be able to question his advice. If a lawyer motivates you to defend the charges rather than choose this program (because they charge more money for a trial), then you will need to question minutely as to their reasoning for this particular advice. Never forget to ask any Attorney about the number of years of DUI defense practice that they have done.
DUI Tip # 1. Play it safe, if you go out to Drink Alcohol, have a Designated Driver, or a safe way to get home. It sounds very simple: Don’t Drink & Drive. Yet every day, hundreds of people around the State do just that. If you have never been convicted of a DUI, you can’t fully understand the consequences of a DUI conviction on your record. Not only will it have an impact on your license, and possibly your livelihood, but there are thousands of dollars in fines and fees, numerous counseling sessions, the requirement for an Ignition Interlock Device, potential for probation, and jail time. These are all mandatory requirements for anyone convicted of a DUI, and these are the minimums for a 1st Time Regular Misdemeanor DUI conviction. If you have a higher blood alcohol content, or it is not your first time, or you are charged with a Felony, everything gets much, much more serious and difficult. It is not illegal to drink alcohol, then get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. That type of clear cut rule would not fill the coffers of the cities, counties, and state of Arizona. However, knowing the potential consequences of a DUI conviction can put you in the position to plan ahead if you decide to go out and drink. Have a designated driver, arrange for a cab, do your drinking at home, or if you are going to go to a bar or restaurant to drink, leave the car at home. Unlike most criminal offenses, people don’t intend to drive drunk. It just kinda happens. One of the consequences of drinking alcohol to excess is that your inhibitions and reasoning go out the window. Even police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and doctors get DUIs, and these are the people who you would think would know better. Plan ahead, it is the best, safest way to have your fun, without potentially suffering the consequences.
DUI Tip # 2. If you get pulled over, don’t be your own worst enemy. There is a fine line between being cooperative and protecting yourself. When an officer stops you, especially if it is late at night or early in the morning, chances are the officer believes that you are driving drunk. The officer will approach your vehicle and may ask you some questions. The officer may tell you that they stopped you for something (didn’t use turn signal, made a wide turn, have a crack in your windshield, etc.) but it is really just an excuse to see you, and talk to you, and determine if there are any signs that you are driving under the influence. There are certain things the officer may notice that you just can’t help. Bloodshot and Watery Eyes, Flushed Face, Slurred Speech, Odor of Alcohol, these are all things that tend to show up in a police report, and are things a person does not have control over. However, Bloodshot and Watery Eyes, Flushed Face, and Slurred Speech can be caused by numerous things. Odor of Alcohol can be due to recent consumption rather than quantity consumed. The problems really pile up when that nice, friendly officer starts asking questions. With only the above information, all the “signs and symptoms of alcohol impairment” that the officer will point to can potentially be explained away. Not so much when the officer asks if you have been drinking, and you answer “Yes, 7 beers.” And when the officer asks if you feel impaired by alcohol, and you say “Yes, absolutely.” With those admissions, the case becomes worse. Without those admissions, the case is easier to argue before a jury. This isn’t to say that you should lie to the officer. The fact of the matter is, you have a Constitutional Right to Remain Silent, and not incriminate yourself. Utilize it.
DUI Tip # 3. Don’t do Field Sobriety Tests (Walk & Turn, 1 Leg Stand, Finger-to-Nose Test, Watch-the-Pen Test, etc.) or the Portable Breath Test (small handheld device often used on the scene of the stop). While you have to give the officer your license, registration, and proof of insurance upon request, you DO NOT need to do any of those Field Sobriety Tests that the officer requests, nor blow into the Portable Breath Test device. Do you really think the officer is going to put a gun to your head and force you to do these things. The ONLY reason the officer wants you to do those test is so the officer can mark down everything you did wrong, in order to prove at trial, if necessary, that you truly were impaired by alcohol. I have seen, very very rarely, people do fantastic on those tests, yet they were still arrested, the same as everyone else, and were still charged with DUI. The officer’s can’t force you to do these tests; it only gives the officer evidence to use against you; just don’t do it. The officer may tell you that they just want to make sure you are OK to drive. It is a trick. Don’t do it. You may still get arrested, but 99.9% chance you were going to get arrested anyway. At least now, there is a definite lack of evidence to use against you if charges are ultimately brought.
The DUI Legal Process
First, it is important to note that in many states, you may be charged with both driving under the influence and having a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit (often called a “DUI per se”), although one charge is often dismissed if you plead guilty or proceed to trial.
Regardless, the first step after a typical DUI charge is usually an arraignment, a hearing during which a defendant is formally charged with a crime before the judge. You will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty, but you can change your plea later; for this reason, you may not yet need a DUI attorney. You can simply plead not guilty, and you may have the option to request a jury trial at this point as well.
If the charge is a misdemeanor and you haven’t already posted bail, you will likely be released on your own recognizance, which means you are trusted to come back to court for your next legal proceeding.
Options for Dealing with a DUI Charge
After your arraignment, you should start thinking about hiring a DUI lawyer or having one appointed for you if you cannot afford one. Remember, again, that DUI laws vary greatly by state, so be sure your DUI attorney specializes in your jurisdiction.
With your attorney, you can decide how you would like to approach the DUI charge. The general options are as follows:
- Plead guilty
- Try to plea bargain down to a lesser charge
- Request a trial before a judge
- Request a jury trial
Plea bargaining, or reaching an agreement between the defense and prosecution, often involves agreeing to a conviction for reckless driving, called a “wet reckless” because it involves drinking and driving. In exchange for the plea, the defendant receives a lesser sentence than would have been available for the more serious offense. Note that “wet reckless” pleas are prohibited by law in some states.
10 Things You Should Know About Facing DUI or DWI or OUI Charges:
- Whether the charges are referred to as DWI, DUI, or OUI depends on the state.
- You will now be a “high-risk driver,” so car insurance rates and life insurance rates will likely increase. Your current insurance company may even drop your coverage.
- DWIs, DUIs, and OUIs are not strictly reserved for alcohol consumption. The charges can also be applied when operating a vehicle under the influence of other substances (including both illegal and legal drugs that leave the driver impaired).
- Most first offense DWIs, DUIs, or OUIs are not felonies; they are generally misdemeanors. Exceptions may occur for extreme circumstances.
- A plea bargain can sometimes allow you to reduce your charge to something like reckless driving; especially if it is a first offense.
- Generally speaking, being charged with a DWI, DUI, or OUI means your driver’s license will be suspended.
- If you are convicted of the charges, the court will often require that you complete a treatment program before you are eligible to get your license back. You’ll probably also need to request an SR-22 form from your insurance provider to prove that you carry liability insurance. This form is required in most states when attempting to get your driver’s license back.
- The judge may impound your vehicle for a certain period or even order you to forfeit the car (get rid of it). These are extreme measures that only occur in rare circumstances. Most judges will now turn to Ignition Interlock Devices (IDDs) that keep drivers from starting their ignition if their BAC is too high.
- Don’t be surprised if sentencing also includes fines, jail time, probation, or a court-ordered SCRAM bracelet that monitors alcohol in the sweat.
- If convicted, the charges remain on your record and show up in background checks for approximately five years (actual time depends on the state).
Do I Need a Lawyer for a DUI?
Without doubt, anyone facing DUI charges should consult with a DUI lawyer in their court location. The average citizen thinks that drunk driving is not that big of a deal, but that is because they have never investigated the DUI penalties and DUI consequences that follow a conviction.
Since every state in the USA and the District of Columbia have different DUI-DWI laws, no common rule can be followed on issues like expungement, diversion, deferral programs, ignition interlock programs, or first offender alternatives. So, speaking to a good DUI attorney is imperative.
Luckily, most DUI attorneys offer free consultations. Some may limit this to short phone conversations, but the best DUI lawyers in most jurisdictions gladly speak to a potential client who is seeking private legal counsel in person. Our DUI law firm encourages it, because our perspective is that you would not want to hire a surgeon for a serious medical problem without meeting with him or her.
Plus, a lot can be gleaned from visiting a DUI lawyer’s office, and meeting his staff. Many drunk driving defense cases take months or years to resolve, so it is good to know if you the DUI defense lawyer has a great team.
Public defenders are free DUI attorneys, that the Government pays, for those who are indigent. The guidelines for establishing indigent status varies. But, if you are basically going from month-to-month, barely covering your bills, and have no savings beyond a few thousand dollars of emergency funds, then applying — at your criminal court — for an appointed lawyer is the first step.
Most courts charge you to apply, since the court clerk will undertake a background check on you, to confirm your indigent status. Most courts are about $50. Plus, when you apply ask what the requirement is, for paying back the Government, if you are not acquitted of the charges. Most states, due to austerity plans, tend to make the indigent offender pay back the appointed lawyer’s cost, if you lose or plead guilty.