Alcohol significantly slows down brain functioning and severely limits a person’s ability to operate their motor vehicle safely and carefully. Specifically, alcohol intoxication can lead to blurred vision and many other physical symptoms. It can also significantly delay a driver’s reaction time, slowing it down and making it harder for the driver to react to an emergency that arises on the roadway.
DUI is also an extremely serious crime and is a primary cause of motor vehicle collisions in the U.S. Statistically, each day, one person in the United States dies every 52 minutes in a drunk-driving-related car crash.
Consequently, the laws of most states treat DUI offenders very harshly.
A criminal conviction for DUI can lead to penalties that include fines, court-ordered community service, or probation. However, a second or subsequent DUI conviction can lead to harsher penalties, including lengthy jail time and a longer driver’s license suspension. In some instances, a court might even completely revoke your driver’s license and privileges if you incur a second or subsequent DUI conviction.
If you recently sustained a DUI conviction—regardless of how many priors you have—it is essential that you retain an experienced attorney to represent you in your case. In addition to protecting your legal rights while your criminal DUI case is pending, your attorney can help you secure a favorable plea deal from the prosecuting attorney or advance a strong legal defense to your charge in court. In general, the sooner you have legal representation in your criminal case, the better off you will be.
What Is a DUI, and What Are the Legal Standards?
DUI is an abbreviation for driving under the influence and refers to a driver operating their motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. In some jurisdictions throughout the county, a person can also sustain a DUI arrest if they are under the influence of a drug—including a prescription drug—while operating their motor vehicle.
Soon after arresting an impaired driver, many police officers will administer a breathalyzer test. If the officer determines that the arrestee has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher, in most instances, that person is legally intoxicated.
Many states impose stricter limits for certain classes of drivers. For example, drivers of commercial vehicles—including big rigs and tractor-trailers—may be legally intoxicated if they have a BAC of 0.04 percent or greater.
Minors, or individuals under 21 years of age for purposes of DUI, must not have any alcohol in their systems when operating a vehicle. Many jurisdictions have zero-tolerance policies for minors who drink and drive.
There are other instances when a police officer can arrest a person for a DUI, such as when the driver appears too impaired to safely operate their motor vehicle.
Some of the telltale signs of impaired driving include:
- Inability to walk in a straight line
- Alcohol on breath
- Bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
- Overzealously weaving in and out of traffic
When a police officer determines that a driver's faculties are impaired, they can arrest the driver for DUI even if their BAC falls below the legal limit. You will need an experienced lawyer to fight against the imposition of this subjective standard. An experienced DUI lawyer, for example, can argue that the police officer lacked the necessary training to look for symptoms of drug and alcohol intoxication.
Proving a Person Is Guilty of DUI
No matter how many times an officer has arrested a person for DUI, the legal burden of proof still rests with the prosecuting attorney—and the elements of proof are the same. Specifically, the State's attorney must demonstrate that the driver was intoxicated beyond a reasonable doubt. To prove the legal elements of their case, the prosecutor may introduce various evidence, including a Breathalyzer or field sobriety test that a police officer administered at the scene.
Since the prosecutor has the sole legal burden of proof in the case, the defense attorney does not need to prove anything. The defendant need not even take the witness stand and testify at their trial. If the prosecutor fails to prove even one legal element of the DUI claim, the case can be subject to a complete dismissal.
A skilled DUI defense attorney in your area can assert a legal defense strategy on your behalf in court, even if you have one or more prior DUI offenses on your record. Your lawyer can argue the defense on your behalf and work to get your current case dismissed.
Potential Penalties and Collateral Consequences After a Second DUI Conviction
If the prosecutor handling your case can satisfy their legal burden of proof, you can ultimately sustain a second (or subsequent) DUI conviction. When that happens, the sentencing judge handling your case will determine the penalties. Generally speaking, the more prior DUIs you have on your record, the higher the potential penalties you will likely incur. After a second DUI conviction, you might have to pay a higher monetary fine than you did after your first conviction.
In addition, depending upon your level of intoxication, a judge might order you to serve jail time. Although a judge can order jail time following a first-time DUI conviction, it is more likely for a second or subsequent offense. A term of probation is also less likely a second time since the judge may figure that you did not learn your lesson the first time.
Following a second DUI conviction, a judge might order you to complete an alcohol rehabilitation or treatment program. You may also need to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle to drive it. After installation, you will need to blow into the device to drive.
If the device detects any alcohol on your breath, the vehicle will not start. In addition to paying an installation fee for the device, you will need to pay regular maintenance costs. Finally, following a second DUI, the State might revoke your license for a longer period than after your first conviction.
In addition to the potential legal penalties following a second or subsequent DUI conviction, a driver may also face numerous collateral consequences from their offense. This is especially true since DUI convictions will appear on a public records database when someone performs a search. Consequently, a litany of DUI convictions on a person’s criminal record can make it hard to find and keep a job or attend an educational institution, such as a college or university.
Criminal penalties are not the only penalties that an intoxicated individual has to worry about. When an intoxicated driver causes an accident that injures one or more people, the intoxicated driver's insurance company may need to pay for damages.
If you are currently pending a second or subsequent DUI charge, you should have knowledgeable legal representation in your case as early on in the process as possible. A skilled criminal defense attorney in your area can help you to avoid these criminal penalties by trying to get your case dropped.
If a judge dismisses your case, you don’t need to worry about these potential consequences. If you do ultimately sustain a conviction, though, a lawyer can help you get a reasonable penalty considering your offenses.
Legal Representation During Initial Questioning by a Police Officer Following a DUI Arrest
If a police officer arrested you for DUI—regardless of how many prior DUI arrests or convictions you have on your criminal record—call a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Specifically, you want an attorney present with you during the questioning. In many cases, when a police officer arrests someone for DUI, they will begin asking the arrestee questions, such as whether or not they had been drinking, how long ago they drank, and how much they had to drink.
If the arrestee asserts their right to the presence of counsel, the police officer has to stop their questioning. If the officer continues to question the arrestee, anything that the arrestee says can be subject to exclusion from evidence at trial. However, if the arrestee does not assert their right to counsel, the officer or the prosecutor can use anything that the arrestee says against them in court. Consequently, you want a criminal defense lawyer representing you at each stage of a post-DUI-arrest interrogation.
Raising a Legal Defense for Your Criminal DUI Charge
Regardless of the number of prior DUIs you may have on your record, you can always assert a legal defense against your charge. The prosecutor handling your case has the burden of proof, and if they cannot satisfy it, your case can go away. In court, your lawyer might be in a position to argue one of several defenses on your behalf.
For example, your lawyer can argue that the breathalyzer equipment the police officer used to measure your BAC was not functioning properly.
The police officer might have also made an error when administering a field sobriety test. Moreover, in some cases, the arrestee may suffer from a health condition, such as acid reflux, which can alter the BAC result.
Finally, a police officer might have violated the arrestee’s Fifth Amendment rights by disregarding their legal right to have counsel present during initial questioning.
If the judge or jury handling your DUI case believes a legal defense that your attorney advances on your behalf, the prosecution might not satisfy their burden of proof, resulting in a dismissal of your case.
Negotiating a Favorable Plea Deal with the State Prosecutor in Your DUI Case
In addition to representing you at all criminal court hearings and trials, a knowledgeable DUI criminal defense lawyer in your area can help you obtain a favorable plea deal with the prosecutor who is handling your case. In a plea deal, the arrestee usually pleads guilty to an offense in exchange for a reduced criminal charge, a period of probation instead of jail time, or some other concession by the prosecutor.
Many DUI defense attorneys have good working relationships with prosecutors and judges in criminal court. Therefore, your lawyer may be in a good position to arrange a reasonable plea deal for you. Your attorney can also help you decide whether you should accept a pending plea deal arrangement or take your case to a trial.
Should you decide to go to trial, and you sustain a conviction for your DUI offense, your lawyer can represent you at a sentencing hearing where the judge imposes penalties. Your lawyer can argue for a fair penalty on your behalf and request that you do not receive jail time for a second or subsequent DUI offense.
Speak With a Knowledgeable DUI Defense Lawyer in Your Area Today
The potential penalties upon conviction for a second or subsequent DUI conviction can be serious and long-term. In general, the more DUI convictions you have on your criminal record, the higher the potential penalties will be for a subsequent conviction. Therefore, immediately seek an experienced DUI criminal defense attorney in your area to represent you.
Your lawyer will be by your side throughout every stage of your case, safeguarding your legal rights and helping you attain the best possible result. In addition to representing you during initial questioning by a police officer, your attorney will be by your side at all legal proceedings in the courtroom and can recommend whether you should accept a plea deal or take your case to trial.
If you sustain a subsequent DUI conviction, your attorney can represent you at your sentencing hearing and fight to get you the lowest possible penalty.
Too many people fail to take a first DUI charge seriously, and they might have an unjustified conviction on their records. Contacting a DUI defense attorney for a first DUI charge might avoid a conviction, meaning that you will not face overly harsh consequences for subsequent charges. Never wait to seek defense help for a DUI allegation or any criminal case.