Do You Need a Lawyer for Your First DUI?
According to SafeHome.org, as many as two out of every ten drivers in the United States have admitted to driving drunk at least once. And one out of every ten drivers admit to doing so often. Many drivers think having a drink or two before getting behind the wheel won’t be a risk.
However, this isn’t the case. And chances are good that you’ll be charged with driving under the influence at some point.
Driving under the influence is a crime in all 50 states. Fortunately, most states do not punish someone for their first DUI as severely as they punish a repeat offender. In some states, you may not need to serve any jail time. You may even be eligible for a deferred prosecution.
But even a first-time DUI conviction can be costly. You may be tempted to minimize your costs by handling your case yourself and not using an attorney’s services. This decision can be risky and expose you to consequences beyond a jail sentence or fine. Here is why.
6 Reasons You Need a DUI Lawyer for Every Case
You may think that a first-time DUI charge is not a big deal or too insignificant to speak to an attorney about. Take a look at these six key reasons why you should hire a lawyer even for your first DUI charge:
1. Your Rights May Have Been Violated
You may believe that the officer caught you driving drunk red-handed. However, the officer may have violated your rights in the process of investigating your case. For example, they might have arrested you without sufficient probable cause, or pulled you over without having a valid reason to do so.
When the police violate your rights in these and other ways, the law does not permit them to use the evidence they obtain from their illegal actions against you. In your DUI case, this could mean they do not get to use your statements, evidence they find in your car, or even your breath or blood test results.
You need an experienced drunk and driving lawyer to review your case and determine whether your rights were violated. Your lawyer will also be able to recognize how any violations impact your defense.
2. Your Driving Privileges Are at Risk
A DUI conviction will often be accompanied by losing your driving privileges if you do nothing to protect them. Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can restrict or suspend your driving privileges following a DUI arrest. They will often do so even if you are never convicted of DUI.
To preserve your right to drive, your DUI lawyer can request an administrative hearing. At that hearing, you can present evidence as to why your license should not be suspended or restricted. Otherwise, the state may limit your right to drive, affecting your ability to work and provide for your family.
3. Evidence of Your Intoxication May Be Weak
When you are charged with any crime like DUI, it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to prove you are guilty of that crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution’s evidence is weak or inconclusive, they may be unable to meet this burden. As a result, your criminal charges could be dismissed.
But pleading guilty or agreeing to a deferred prosecution agreement relieves the prosecutor of this burden. A court can find you guilty and sentence you for DUI even if there is not enough evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
Before you plead guilty to a DUI charge, a skilled DUI lawyer can tell you whether the prosecutor’s case is strong enough to survive a trial. This information can allow you to make a more informed decision about how to handle your case.
4. You May Have Room to Negotiate
Prosecutors do not consider your interests in these cases. They may offer you a plea agreement to resolve your DUI case. However, the terms of these agreements will be favorable to the prosecutor, not you. With a DUI lawyer working for you, you stand a better chance of getting the best deal possible.
Suppose that the evidence in your case could support a DUI conviction, but it also might not. A prosecutor may want you to plead guilty to DUI anyway. Luckily, a seasoned DUI lawyer can secure a deal where you plead to a less severe charge with lower penalties.
5. There Is More at Stake in Your Case Than Criminal Penalties
A first-time DUI conviction can have additional and unanticipated consequences for you, personally and professionally. If you do not consider these effects before pleading, it can be too late for you to take back your plea and avoid them.
For instance, a DUI conviction alone will generally not affect your ability to purchase or possess a firearm. Yet it can be one factor among several that law enforcement might use to suggest you are addicted to alcohol. Some states would prohibit you from owning a firearm under those circumstances.
If you have a professional license, a DUI conviction can result in the issuing office taking disciplinary action against that license. The disciplinary board could impose additional requirements on you before allowing you to resume your job.
Similarly, if you have a commercial driver’s license, the impact on your driving privileges can be especially harsh. Some trucking companies will not employ a commercial driver who gets a DUI, even if the DUI happens on your off time. If your employer is one of these companies, they may terminate you for your first-time DUI.
Lastly, a first-time DUI conviction can damage your reputation at work and in your community. Your family members or coworkers might view you less favorably or in a different light after your DUI conviction. This reputational harm can be difficult to fix, even after serving your DUI sentence.
6. Fighting Your DUI Charge Is Difficult
Fighting your DUI charge is crucial. But doing so effectively can be difficult and time-consuming, especially for individuals without a legal background. Subpoenaing witnesses to testify for you takes time and experience, as does requesting documents necessary to prepare your defense.
If you must take your case to trial, then a brand-new set of skills becomes necessary to present your case effectively. You can read about how to question witnesses and address a jury. Still, reading about legal skills is no substitute for practicing them in the classroom and in the courtroom.
Without a DUI lawyer’s experience and knowledge, you may not be able to investigate or present your case as fully as possible. This, in turn, could impact your success at trial and the outcome of your case. A lawyer already has these skills and knows how to employ them.
What to Look For in a DUI Lawyer
Not all attorneys are equally qualified to help you with your DUI case. You should take your time and carefully consider whether a particular attorney is the best suited to help you with your case. You will want an attorney who:
Knows the DUI Laws in Your State
State legislators frequently change and update their state’s DUI laws. As a result, it is critical that your attorney regularly practice in this area. This means that they should be familiar with the current DUI laws and other laws and procedures affecting your charges.
Has Courtroom and Negotiating Experience
Plea agreements are common for first-time DUI charges, but negotiating a favorable plea agreement is a skill not all possess. You want to have a lawyer on your side who knows how to drive a hard bargain and can use the weaknesses in the government’s case to secure you the best deal possible.
Your lawyer should also know when to walk away from a bad plea deal and insist that the prosecution prove its case at trial. This bold step requires an attorney with confidence in their abilities and your case.
It is also sometimes necessary to protect your interests by walking away from the negotiating table if the prosecutor is not offering you a fair deal.
Is Someone You Can Trust
Finally, a considerable amount of work goes into investigating and preparing your case. You must be able to trust that your attorney is doing this important work and trying to resolve your case as quickly as possible.
If you do not trust your attorney to do this, you and your attorney might not develop the best working relationship. This can lead to further frustrations and anxiety on top of what you are already experiencing.
Contact an Experienced DUI Lawyer Today
It’s vital to work quickly on responding to a first-time DUI charge, or you can lose your driving privileges. You may also find that they are restricted within just a matter of weeks after your DUI arrest. One of the first steps to take is to consult with a seasoned lawyer and discuss your charges with them.
If you have been charged with DUI, turn to a knowledgeable and seasoned DUI lawyer from The Joel Bieber Firm. Our legal team can review your case and advise you on your best options. We aim to protect your license, livelihood, and freedom.
You can trust us to work hard to resolve your case efficiently and effectively. Contact us to schedule your consultation today.