DUI stands for driving under the influence of alcohol, and this is a criminal offense because alcohol can significantly impair a driver’s ability to operate their vehicle safely.
First, alcohol can cause various physical symptoms, including blurred vision and impaired muscle coordination. A driver under the influence may also experience drowsiness, dizziness, an inability to concentrate, and delayed reaction time. Consequently, an intoxicated or impaired driver might not stop their vehicle in time to avoid a crash.
Because of the serious risks associated with alcohol intoxication, every jurisdiction in the country penalizes DUI. While legal standards vary from state to state, a DUI conviction can lead to severe penalties for guilty drivers. In addition to criminal penalties, convicted DUI drivers may incur administrative fees, license revocations, and various collateral consequences.
Given these potential consequences associated with a DUI charge and conviction, you must have legal representation in your corner at every stage of your case. As soon as possible after your charge or arrest, you should call a DUI defense lawyer in your area right away.
Your lawyer can meet with you to discuss the circumstances of your arrest and develop a plan for moving your case forward. In addition, your lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor handling your case and represent you at all legal proceedings including at trial.
Your lawyer can advocate for you and protect your constitutional and legal interests at every stage of the proceedings, helping you obtain the best possible result in your case.
Hire a DUI Defense Lawyer Immediately
Perhaps more important than understanding the nature of a DUI case is immediately hiring a lawyer with extensive experience handling DUI defense. DUI cases move fast, and if you do not seek the right defense help, you might have an unnecessary license suspension that a lawyer might successfully challenge. The best way to know about DUI charges and potential penalties is to consult with a defense law firm right away after your arrest.
What Is a DUI, and What are the Legal Standards?
In most jurisdictions, a police officer must determine that you are intoxicated to arrest you for DUI. The officer makes this determination by observing your speech and mannerisms and reviewing the results of field sobriety tests, Breathalyzer tests, or urine tests.
The standard for alcohol intoxication varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction throughout the United States. In most jurisdictions, the driver is legally intoxicated if a driver’s Breathalyzer test result shows a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. In some jurisdictions, police officers can arrest someone with a lower BAC if they determine that alcohol has impaired their ability to drive safely.
Most jurisdictions also establish stricter standards for commercial drivers and minors who are under the influence of alcohol. In most places, a commercial driver including a tractor-trailer operator cannot have a BAC of 0.04 percent or higher. Otherwise, they are legally intoxicated. Moreover, in most states, a zero-tolerance policy is in place for minors under 21. Therefore, if a Breathalyzer test reveals any amount of alcohol in their bloodstream, they are subject to arrest for DUI.
If you recently sustained an arrest for a DUI, you must speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer in your area as soon as possible. In some instances, Breathalyzer machines malfunction, and your lawyer can suppress the test results. When you meet with your lawyer, you can discuss the circumstances of your arrest with them, and your lawyer can determine if you are eligible to raise a viable legal defense against your charge.
What to do and not do after a DUI Arrest?
If a police officer arrests you for DUI, there are certain things that you should and should not do. First, you should be cooperative and polite with the police officer. For example, if the officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, you should do so. You should also provide basic intake information, such as your name, address, and contact information.
However, you should not answer any of the police officer's questions and insist upon legal counsel's presence during any questioning. If you assert your right to counsel, the police officer has to stop questioning you. If the officer continues to question you and you say something incriminating, the court might later suppress that statement. Never answer questions about whether you had anything to drink or how much you drank earlier in the day.
Having a lawyer present during police questioning is essential. Police officers and investigators will often ask arrestees questions to trip them up and see if they will say anything incriminating. This can significantly bolster the state's case against you. If a lawyer is present with you in person or on the phone, they can object to certain questions or instruct you not to answer them and protect your legal rights.
Who has the Burden of Proof in a Criminal DUI Case?
In a DUI case, the arrested individual or the defendant does not need to prove anything. Moreover, the defendant does not need to testify at trial or incriminate themselves. The sole legal burden of proof in the case rests with the state prosecutor.
Specifically, the prosecutor must demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the DUI offense and that they violated the law. If the prosecutor cannot establish their legal burden, your case can be subject to complete dismissal.
If your lawyer can raise a solid legal defense on your behalf, that may prevent the state prosecutor from establishing their legal burden. Therefore, the sooner you get an experienced criminal defense lawyer involved in your case, the better your chances of obtaining a favorable case result.
Potential Penalties for DUI
The potential penalties for a DUI conviction vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The state legislature codifies these penalties in a statute, and they become law for the jurisdiction. The exact penalties that a DUI offender will receive typically depend upon the amount of alcohol found in their system and the presence or absence of certain enhancing factors.
To be subject to DUI penalties, the prosecutor must first establish that you are guilty as charged, beyond a reasonable doubt. A sentencing judge will then determine your penalty or penalties. When a judge imposes penalties for DUI, they have to follow the state statute that's in place. Some statutes prescribe various minimums and maximums for DUI offenses.
The potential penalties that a DUI offender might sustain upon conviction include:
- Monetary fines
- Community service
- Jail time
Many state statutes have enhancing factors that come into play under various circumstances. For example, a judge can increase the penalties if the individual is a repeat DUI offender. Penalties typically increase with each subsequent DUI conviction. Judges may also increase penalties if the DUI offense occurred within a certain distance from a church or school. Finally, a judge may increase conviction penalties if the offense caused a traffic accident that led to injuries or fatalities.
Moreover, upon receiving a DUI conviction, a sentencing judge may require that the offender have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle. An IID prevents a driver from operating their vehicle if it detects any amount of alcohol on their breath. To start their vehicle, the driver must first blow into the device. If the device detects alcohol, the vehicle will not start. In addition to paying an initial installation fee, the offender must also pay to service the device regularly.
Many individuals who sustain DUI convictions must also attend court-ordered alcohol rehabilitation classes. These courses typically last for a certain number of weeks, and participants receive a certificate of completion once they finish the course. The course typically highlights the dangers of drunk driving and aims to prevent participants from becoming repeat offenders.
In addition to these legal penalties upon conviction, DUIs can also lead to administrative penalties. For example, the motor vehicle administration may automatically suspend the driver's license for weeks or months. Moreover, the MVA might permanently revoke the driver's license of a repeat DUI offender.
If you sustain a DUI conviction, your lawyer can represent you at your sentencing hearing and advocate for your legal interests while there. Specifically, your lawyer will highlight the strengths of your case and pursue a fair and reasonable penalty.
What are the Potential Collateral Consequences of a DUI Conviction?
In addition to incurring legal penalties, a convicted DUI offender may experience numerous collateral consequences. First, DUI offenders might have difficulty finding or keeping a job. Many employers perform regular background checks on their employees and prospective employees. If they discover a DUI arrest or conviction on a person’s record, that can impact an employment decision.
Moreover, convicted DUI offenders sometimes have difficulty finding a place to live or go to school. Many rental offices, landlords, and educational institutions also complete criminal checks on prospective tenants and students. If they find that an individual is a repeat DUI offender, that can negatively impact their decision.
An experienced DUI defense lawyer representing you throughout your case can help to lessen or eliminate these potential collateral consequences and work for a fair result on your behalf.
Potential Defenses to a DUI Charge
An individual who incurs a criminal DUI charge can raise several legal defenses. If the court believes one or more of these defenses, the case may be subject to dismissal in its entirety.
Common defenses to DUI charges include:
- Unlawful or random traffic stops that violate the Fourth Amendment
- Unlawful questioning after a suspect asserts their right to the presence of counsel.
- Inaccurate field sobriety tests, such as when the arrestee has other medical conditions that may prevent them from completing the test accurately.
- Breathalyzer machine malfunctions.
Moreover, in some instances, an arrestee might argue that they were not intoxicated at the time of their arrest even though a later Breathalyzer test later showed a positive result. This can happen because it takes time for alcohol to fully absorb into an individual's bloodstream.
If you are currently facing a criminal DUI charge, an experienced DUI defense lawyer can meet with you to discuss these potential defenses and their possibility of success in court. If you are eligible to raise one or more legal defenses to your DUI charge, your lawyer can advance them in court on your behalf.
Call a Knowledgeable DUI Defense Lawyer Today
If you are currently facing criminal DUI charges, you must speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer in your jurisdiction as soon as possible. To provide you with the best possible defense in your case, your lawyer needs to have ample time to speak with you, review the evidence, and prepare for trial. If you wait too long to retain a lawyer, they may not have sufficient time to prepare your case for trial.
Moreover, if you show up to court without a lawyer present, the judge may assume that you intend to represent yourself at trial and that you wish to waive your right to legal counsel’s presence. This is always a mistake and virtually guarantees that you will receive an unfavorable result at trial or sentencing.
A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer advocating for you can explore your eligibility for various legal defenses. If you can raise a defense in response to your DUI charge, your lawyer can do that for you at trial. Moreover, your lawyer can negotiate with the prosecuting attorney for a favorable plea deal.
Many defense lawyers handle DUI cases exclusively. As a result, they often have good working relationships with state prosecutors and criminal court judges, which can benefit you. If you ultimately sustain a conviction on your DUI charge, your lawyer can represent you at your sentencing hearing and ensure you receive a fair penalty.
Your DUI defense lawyer will be with you every step of the way, protecting your legal rights and advocating for your interests at all times.