Criminal DUI means driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Many people arrested for this offense wonder about the best way to defend themselves without hiring a defense attorney. This is never wise, as unrepresented DUI defendants regularly receive avoidable convictions and overly harsh penalties.
If you are currently facing a DUI charge or arrest, you should never go it alone. Instead, speak with a knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer in your area as soon as possible after your arrest. Representing yourself in any criminal case almost guarantees you will receive an unfavorable result not to mention an unreasonably high or unfair penalty.
In addition to representing you at court hearings, your lawyer can advocate for you from the beginning of the process until the end. First, your lawyer can be with you and safeguard your legal and constitutional rights during police questioning. Your lawyer can also plan a strong legal defense on your behalf and negotiate plea deals with the state prosecutor. If you ultimately sustain a conviction for your DUI charge, your lawyer can represent you at the sentencing hearing before a judge and advocate for a reasonable penalty.
Generally speaking, the earlier you retain a lawyer to represent you in your criminal DUI case, the better off you will be. However, a lawyer must have ample time to investigate your case, develop a solid legal defense, and prepare for trial. If you wait too long to contact a lawyer for representation, the lawyer may not have sufficient time to prepare your case and clear their schedule for your trial.
If you show up to court without a lawyer present, the judge may assume that you are waiving your right to legal counsel. You do not want this to happen.
As soon as you sustain a criminal DUI arrest or charge, you should reach out to an experienced DUI defense lawyer in your jurisdiction. Your lawyer can begin advocating for you right away and will represent your legal interests throughout the entire criminal case.
Legal Standards for DUI Across the Country
The legal standards for DUI vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction across the United States. In most areas, a police officer will use a combination of visual observations, field sobriety tests, and Breathalyzer tests to determine if an individual is intoxicated.
In most jurisdictions, a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more is legally intoxicated. Even if the driver has a lower BAC, a police officer may determine that the driver’s alcohol impairment prevents them from operating their vehicle safely.
Most jurisdictions establish stricter DUI standards for commercial vehicle drivers and minors under 21. Commercial vehicle drivers, including tractor-trailer and big rig operators, may not have a BAC greater than 0.04 percent. Otherwise, a police officer can arrest them for DUI. Moreover, a zero-tolerance policy usually applies to drivers under 21 years old. If a police officer finds any alcohol in their system, they can be subject to arrest.
If a police officer recently arrested you on suspected DUI, you must speak with a knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer in your area as soon as possible. In some instances, field sobriety and Breathalyzer test results are faulty.
When that is the case, a DUI lawyer can file a motion with the court to suppress that evidence and exclude it from the trial. Your lawyer can determine which defenses you might be eligible to assert at your criminal trial and will advocate for your legal interests at all stages of the proceedings.
Asking for a Lawyer After Your DUI Arrest
You should always retain experienced legal counsel to represent you in your DUI case as early on in the process as possible. This is especially true if a police officer starts asking you questions after your arrest. When that happens, you should immediately assert your right to legal counsel during questioning.
You do not have to answer any questions against your will without a lawyer present, not in person or on the phone. If you assert your right to counsel and the police officer continues questioning you, anything you say in response may be subject to suppression at a criminal DUI trial. This is especially true if the officer asks whether you were drinking or how much you had to drink.
If you have a lawyer present with you during questioning, they can object to certain questions if there is a basis or instruct you not to answer them. Police officers and investigators will often ask questions post-arrest to see if they can catch the arrestee off guard and get them to say something incriminating. The chances of that happening decrease significantly if you have legal counsel present with you during police questioning.
Potential Penalties for a DUI Conviction
For you to incur criminal penalties following a DUI arrest, the prosecutor handling your case must satisfy their legal burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high standard to overcome, and if the prosecutor fails to establish that you operated a vehicle while intoxicated, the court can ultimately dismiss your case.
The individual facing the DUI charge or the defendant does not need to prove anything in the case or even testify in court. Sometimes, it may be beneficial for you not to testify at trial.
If the state prosecutor ultimately obtains a conviction against you, a sentencing judge will determine what penalties to impose. Judges must fix DUI penalties according to minimums and maximums that the state legislature sets. The penalties that a DUI offender will receive typically depend upon the amount of alcohol in their system and the presence or absence of various enhancing factors.
Potential penalties upon conviction for DUI typically include:
- Court-imposed community service hours
- Monetary fines
In some jurisdictions, even first-time offenders can receive a jail sentence, while in other regions, only repeat offenders may serve jail time.
Judges will also consider various enhancing factors present under state statutes. These factors increase an offender’s penalty or penalties following their DUI conviction. For example, a judge may increase the penalty if an individual is a repeat offender. Under state statute, penalties usually increase based upon the number of times an individual sustains a DUI conviction.
In some jurisdictions, judges can increase the penalties when a DUI arrest occurs within a certain distance from a church or school. Also, the offender may receive a higher penalty if the DUI resulted in a car accident that led to injuries or fatalities.
In addition to high fines and jail time, judges may order that a DUI offender participates in a state-wide ignition interlock device program. When a driver has an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, they must first blow into the device to start their vehicle. If the device detects any alcohol on their breath, the vehicle will not start. In addition to paying an initial installation fee, individuals with ignition interlock devices must take their devices in for regular maintenance and must pay all routine maintenance costs.
Also, upon conviction for DUI, a judge may require an individual to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation classes. The purpose of these classes is to ensure that individuals do not become repeat DUI offenders and that they come to realize the dangers associated with drinking and driving.
Finally, convicted DUI offenders may incur various administrative penalties. For example, the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) can suspend or revoke the offender's driving privileges. Once this period expires, the offender may be eligible to move for reinstatement. In other instances, the driver may need to retake their driver's test to be eligible for license reinstatement.
A knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer in your jurisdiction can raise a strong legal defense on your behalf to help you avoid a conviction altogether. If you ultimately sustain a DUI conviction, your lawyer can advocate for you at the sentencing hearing and work to minimize the penalties that a judge imposes.
Collateral Consequences Associated With a DUI Conviction
In addition to potentially serious legal penalties, a convicted DUI offender may also have to deal with various collateral consequences. These potential consequences include difficulty getting a job, finding a place to live, or getting into a school of their choice.
Many employers, landlords, and educational institutions perform criminal background checks on applicants. If they find a DUI arrest or conviction on an applicant's record, that can hurt their decision-making. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer in your area can advocate for you at all criminal court hearings and work to minimize the collateral consequences of your DUI arrest or conviction.
Potential Defenses to a DUI Charge
The best way to avoid a criminal DUI conviction is for your lawyer to raise a strong legal defense on your behalf. In many instances, police officers and others make mistakes during the arrest process. When that happens, a good lawyer might convince the court to suppress certain evidence at your criminal court trial, resulting in a complete dismissal of your case.
Some of the most common defenses that DUI offenders can raise at trial include:
- Improper traffic stop - Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, individuals may not be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures. Consequently, police officers cannot engage in random traffic stops. If an officer does not have sufficient probable cause to pull your vehicle over, the court may suppress o exclude any evidence obtained after that including evidence of DUI.
- Improper interrogation tactics - Many times after a DUI arrest, police officers and investigators will ask the arrestee questions to see if they can trip the arrestee up and get them to say something incriminating. However, under the Fifth Amendment, individuals have a legal right against self-incrimination. Moreover, according to Miranda v. Arizona, they can request that legal counsel be present with them during any police questioning. If you assert your right to counsel, but police officers do not immediately cease questioning, anything you say after that may be subject to suppression. Never answer questions about whether you had anything to drink or how much you had to drink before driving.
- Faulty Breathalyzer equipment - Breathalyzer equipment sometimes malfunctions and gives inaccurate readings. If an investigation reveals that the Breathalyzer evidence is inaccurate, a judge may exclude it from evidence at trial.
- Preexisting medical conditions that affect field sobriety test results - Some individuals have preexisting health conditions that affect their balance and other faculties, impacting their performance on a field sobriety test. If an individual can demonstrate that poor performance on a field sobriety test resulted from a preexisting illness or medical condition rather than from alcohol intoxication a court may exclude the test results from evidence at trial.
Your lawyer can review the circumstances of your DUI arrest with you and determine if you’re eligible to raise any of these legal defenses in court. If you are, your lawyer will zealously advocate for your interests and help you pursue a complete dismissal of your criminal DUI case.
Call a DUI Defense Lawyer in Your Area Today
If you face criminal DUI charges, acquire skilled legal representation immediately.
These individuals are the most likely to have good working relationships with state prosecutors and criminal court judges. This may translate into a more favorable plea deal from a prosecutor or a lighter sentence from a judge.
You also want a good criminal defense lawyer on your side with a strong track record of success when it comes to trying criminal DUI cases in court. Your lawyer will advocate for you every step of the way and guide you throughout the process, helping you obtain the best possible result in your circumstances.