I Got a DUI! What Do I Do?
Getting arrested for a DUI can be a harrowing experience, especially if it’s your first time. The impact of getting arrested for a DUI can include losing your driver’s license, having a criminal record, loss of employment, loss of money on court case, and possibly jail time.
However, all these can be mitigated when you have a great lawyer to help you plead your case in court. The information below can help you navigate your (or your loved one’s) way through the maze of criminal defense.
What Is a DUI ?
You’re charged with a DUI when you’re arrested for driving under the influence of more alcohol or drugs than is legally allowed. DUI is also known as drunk driving or driving while intoxicated (DWI).
The DUI law for California addresses DUI cases or DWI cases under the Vehicle Code 23152 VC, which states that it’s illegal to drive under the influence of a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher in the standardized field sobriety tests.
What Are the Penalties and Fines for DUI?
A first time offence is usually ruled as a misdemeanor. The penalties for a first time DUI conviction in California are fines ranging from $390 to $1000 and jail time ranging from 48 hours to six months. Most times, first offenders don’t serve jail time. There’s also a probation period of up to three years, including alcohol education courses.
For a second DUI conviction, the fines are $390 to $1000, jail time of 96 hours to 1 year, a restriction of driving privileges and installation of an IID for at least 12 months. There’s also a probation period of 18 to 30 months including alcohol education courses.
For felony DUI charges, involving personal injury or fatalities, the justice system charges the defendant with a prison sentence ranging from 16 months to 15 years, a fine of between $390 to $1000 and revoking of driving privileges.
What Happens When I Get Arrested for DUI?
The process of getting charged with a DUI can happen in different ways. Firstly, the police can decide to pull you over when they observe signs of reckless driving or traffic violation. If an officer pulls you over, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be arrested.
The officer will then proceed to ask you for your license and registration, and in the process check to see whether you’re responding appropriately. An arrest only happens when the officer is convinced that you’re drunk and makes you take a series of tests known as the Field Sobriety Test (FST) and the Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) Test, also known as the breathalyzer test.
These are standardized field sobriety tests that are aimed at determining your cognitive ability and measure the amount of alcohol or drugs in your blood. If the alcohol in your blood is .08% or above, then you’ll be arrested and taken to the local jail.
The blood or breath samples for the sobriety tests are offered voluntarily, so you can decide not to offer yourself for testing. However, your refusal to be tested doesn’t mean you won’t be arrested as the officer can procure a warrant to test you. Your refusal might also be one of the aggravating factors in your case in court.
When you’re arrested, the police will take your driver’s license and issue you a temporary driving permit. They’ll also write up a police report. Your motor vehicle will be searched and towed to the local impound. You’ll need to pay for daily impound fees and other charges before your vehicle is released to you.
What Are My Options for DUI Defense?
You typically have three options for legal representation when charged with a DUI case. While you can opt for self representation, other options include using a public defender, or hiring the help of a private DUI attorney.
Representing yourself in court means that you occupy the positions of both lawyer and client. This may seem like an excellent option, since you don’t have to pay fees for a legal team.
However, you’re most likely not an attorney, nor have you gone to a law school. As a result, you don’t have sufficient knowledge about law to defend yourself adequately, and you might further complicate issues without a lawyer present.
Another option is to use a public defender. Public defenders are attorneys who are paid by the government to represent people who are unable to pay for private legal services.
You’ll enjoy free consultation from a public defender, however they usually have lots of cases on their hands so they may not be able to give you preferential treatment.
Public defenders are knowledgeable in DUI and DWI cases, so they can represent you well in criminal matters but won’t help you with your issues with the DMV.
The best option for you is to hire private criminal defense lawyers that are well versed in DUI and DWI cases. A criminal defense attorney is always available to conduct proper research for your DWI defense.
Not only will they provide aggressive representation for you, they’ll also guide you on navigating your issues with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
What Steps Should I Take to Hire the Best DUI Attorney?
Get a List of Potential Criminal Law Attorneys
The first thing to do before choosing a DUI lawyer is to compile a list of criminal defense lawyers that can help you. You can go through online reviews and personal recommendations from friends and family that you trust.
Also, you can search for attorneys in national trial lawyers associations such as the National association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACOL), or the bar associations in your state. When you put this list together, then you can contact them directly through a phone call or their website for more information.
Verify the Qualifications of the Attorney
Seeing as your court case is something that has a huge impact on your life, ensure you pick out the best DUI lawyer. Therefore, it’s crucial to check the attorney’s educational and professional history to verify whether the attorney is qualified to represent you.
First, check whether they’re licensed to practice law in your state through your state’s bar website. Next, be certain that they have maintained a clean ethical record throughout their years of practicing law.
Don’t hire an attorney that has gotten a strike from the state in the past as it may negatively affect your case. Also verify whether the attorney is an experienced DUI lawyer.
Set Up a Meeting at the Law Office
At this point, you’re ready for your initial consultation with your DUI lawyer. Some attorneys offer free consultations while others require payment. There are different ways the law firm serves clients.
Ensure to go with every document and information that pertains to your case, including the bail papers, police report, DUI charges, names of victims or witnesses associated with your DUI case.
The attorney will ask you some questions regarding your case during the confidential consultation. Ensure to be truthful about the details of the car accident as well as any prior alcohol or drug offenses to help your DUI lawyer build effective defense strategies to help you.
While you answer the DUI lawyer’s questions, also prepare questions of your own to verify the attorney’s ability to handle such cases. Consider asking the following questions:
- How often do you represent clients for criminal cases?
- What’s your opinion on my DUI charge?
- Is there any way my DUI penalties can be reduced?
These are only a few of the questions to ask the attorney regarding your DUI criminal case.
A DUI charge might seem overwhelming, but with the right directions, you can navigate this hurdle and end up with a favorable outcome.
We’ve taken you through a step-by-step guide answering some of the FAQs that you may have. We have discussed the process for getting charged with a DUI, your options for DUI defense and the steps to take to hire the best criminal justice lawyer.
If you follow these steps, you’ll get the best lawyer to help you put up the best DWI defense and either get your sentence reduced or entirely removed.