DUI Legal Information
 

OVERVIEW

Driving under the influence (DUI) lawyers can help individuals who are have been arrested for driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  A DUI lawyer can help the person accused during almost every stage of the DUI process.  If you wish to fight your DUI case then an experienced DUI lawyer who understands scientific and medical concepts and who can question tough witnesses such as police officers and scientists can help you fight your DUI charges.

 

“WHAT ARE THE STAGES OF A DUI CASE?”

The stages of a DUI case are listed below and explained more thoroughly later in the text.

    1. Arrest
    2. Booking and Bail
    3. Arraignment
    4. Plea Bargain
    5. Preliminary Hearing
    6. Pre-Trial Motions
    7. Trial
    8. Sentencing
    9. Appeals

 

“WHAT HAPPENS IF I AM PULLED OVER FOR A SUSPECTED DUI?”

If a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs they will conduct field sobriety tests.  Field sobriety tests are designed to determine whether or not the suspect is impaired cognitively or physically.  Examples of the tests include walking a straight line, reciting the alphabet backwards, and the “pen light” test of the suspect’s eyes.  Chemical tests are also used and are designed to measure a person’s blood alcohol level (BAC) using either a breathalyzer during the traffic stop or by testing urine or blood at a hospital.

 

“CAN I REFUSE TO SUBMIT A CHEMICAL TEST OF BLOOD ALCOHOL LEVEL?”

By having a driver’s license and driving a vehicle you are required to submit to a chemical test when suspected of a DUI.  This is called an “implied consent” law.  If you refuse to take a chemical test when suspected of a DUI there are penalties, including the loss of your driver’s license for up to 1 year.  The punishment for refusing to take a chemical test are often much harsher than if you were to take and fail a chemical test during your DUI arrest.  In addition, if you refuse to take a chemical test and are still convicted of a DUI, your punishment will more than likely be more severe than if you had consented to the chemical test.

 

“WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS WHEN I AM PULLED OVER FOR A DUI?”

When you are pulled over for a DUI, you have the same rights as anyone else who has been pulled over for a routine traffic stop.  Initially the police may question you about your drinking and ask you to perform various sobriety tests.  After the police officer observes your behavior during the sobriety tests and has given a breathalyzer they will determine whether or not to place you under arrest.  An arrest occurs when you are taken into police custody and are no longer allowed to leave the scene.  At this point, your rights fall under the Fourth Amendment and are known as your “Miranda” rights.

 

“WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS WHEN I’M ARRESTED FOR A DUI?”

When you are arrested you have a number of rights known as “Miranda” rights.  Once the police officer determines that they wish to restrain you from leaving the scene, thus placing you under arrest for DUI, they will tell you your “Miranda” rights.  Because of these rights, when you are arrested, a police officer must read you four things related to your Fifth Amendment rights.  These four things are:

  1.  You have the right to remain silent.
  2. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
  3. You have the right to an attorney.
  4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

If a police officer questions someone who has been arrested without first telling them their “Miranda” rights, any statement or confession cannot be used against the suspect during the criminal case.

 

“I’VE BEEN ARRESTED, WHAT WILL HAPPEN NOW?”

An arrest occurs when a police officers exercises their power to take a person into custody.  This occurs when a person is no longer free to leave or move about; they do not need to be physically restrained.  Once a police officer has placed a person under arrest, the criminal process has begun.

After a person has been arrested and taken into custody, they will go through the booking process.  This process involves recording the person’s personal information, fingerprinting, background checks, confiscation of property, and then the placement in a jail cell.  A determination will then be made about their eligibility to be released from jail, also known as bail.  Bail is the amount of money that a defendant must pay in order to be released from jail.  The bail money will be refunded when the defendant shows up for their court appearances.  A person may be released on their own recognizance, meaning they pay no bail, based on their criminal past, seriousness of the crime, and their ties to the community.  Judges are responsible for setting bail.  The U.S. Constitution guarantees that an assigned bail amount will not be excessive.

 

“WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I HAVE POSTED BAIL?”

After the bail process, the next step in the DUI case is the arraignment.  This is the first courtroom step in the process.  The person suspected of the crime appears in court, before a judge who takes the following actions:

  • Reads the DUI charges filed against the defendant
  • Asks whether or not the defendant needs a court appointed lawyer
  • Asks how the defendant pleads, if the defendant pleads guilty during the arraignment, the judge will often hand down the punishment and the case will be resolved
  • Decides if bail should be altered or the defendant should be released on their own recognizance
  • Announces future court proceedings

 

“HOW CAN A DUI LAWYER ASSIST ME DURING MY DUI CASE?”

If you wish to fight the DUI charges against you then you will need the help of a lawyer who specializes in DUI cases.  The prosecution will have expert witnesses like police officers and scientists who will need to be questioned by an experienced DUI lawyer.  As part of your defense your lawyer will usually try and attack the observations and opinions of the police officer who arrested you.  There are also very specific strategic defenses that a DUI lawyer may be able to argue in court, they are:

  • Necessity:  applies when a person had to drive to prevent a greater evil
  • Duress:  applies when a person drives to avoid serious injury or death
  • Entrapment:  applies when an officer requested a person to drive drunk
  • Mistake of fact:  applies when a person has an honest belief that their BAC was under the legal limit
  • Involuntary intoxication:  applies when a person has ingested alcohol or drugs without knowing it

In general, these defenses involve a very specific set of facts that must be shown and are extremely difficult to prove.  You will need an experienced DUI lawyer if you want to use one of these defenses in court.

 

“HOW CAN I CHOOSE A GOOD DUI LAWYER?”

If you wish to fight your DUI case then you will want to hire a lawyer with experience in DUI cases.  These lawyers often will be experienced in the area of criminal law.  You should not hire a discount lawyer or general practitioner.  These lawyers are cheaper than those who are experienced with DUI cases, but they will often want to solve the case quickly through a guilty plea.  You are better off having a public defender than a discount lawyer or general practitioner.

 

“WHY WOULD I WANT TO ACCEPT A PLEA BARGAIN?”

Because DUI cases and their punishments are relatively standard it is rare to get a plea bargain.  If you are able to get a plea bargain, you may be able to accept a lesser charge like “driving with an open container,” which would carry with it a lesser punishment.

 

“SHOULD I REPRESENT MYSELF DURING MY DUI CASE?”

If you are truly guilty of your DUI offense and do not wish to fight the charges then you can probably represent yourself during your DUI case.  Most DUI cases are straight forward (ending with the arraignment) and difficult to fight, assuming the police collected evidence against you.  In addition, the punishments are pretty standard.  When this is the case a DUI lawyer may not be able to get you any better of a deal or plea bargain than you could by yourself.

 

“WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE PRELIMINARY HEARING IN MY DUI CASE?"

During the preliminary hearing a judge will decide whether there is enough evidence against you to take the case to trial.  The judge will listen to the prosecutions evidence and the defendant (usually with the help of a lawyer) and may listen to witness testimony.  If the judge decides there is enough evidence to move forward with the case then the next stages are pre-trial motions and the trial.  The preliminary hearing will only occur if you plead not guilty during the arraignment.  You should have lawyer during this stage of your case.

Most DUI cases do not reach the preliminary hearing.  When the evidence against a defendant is strong they will most often plea guilty during the arraignment phase of their DUI case.  If you choose to plead not guilty and fight your DUI you will need the help of an experience lawyer to guide your through preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, and the trial.

 

“WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I AM SENTENCED FOR MY DUI CASE?”

Sentencing occurs after a person has been found guilty in their DUI case.  This could be the result of a “guilty” plea during the arraignment, a jury verdict, or a plea bargain.  During the sentencing phase the legal punishment for your DUI case will be determined.  There are a range of legal punishments, including:

  • Payment of fines
  • Jail time (short duration)
  • Prison time (long duration, usually when injury or death is cause by DUI)
  • Probation
  • Suspended driver’s license
  • Using an Ignition-interlock device in order to start a car
  • Forfeiting or impounding of the vehicle
  • Community service
  • Drug and alcohol rehabilitation

The judge will consider a number of factors when decided on a punishment for your DUI offense, including:

  • DUI record (including extremely high BAC’s) and criminal history
  • Impact of the DUI on victims and their families
  • Defendants personal, social, and economic circumstances
  • Defendants refusal to submit to chemical testing
  • Regret and remorse shown by the defendant

 

PAYMENT

DUI lawyers will often charge an initial retainer fee to take your case.  This is money that you pay up front before the lawyer begins to work on your case.  After the DUI lawyer has provided you with the services your retainer fee covered, they will begin charging you an hourly fee.  If your DUI case is especially complicated, your lawyer may charge additional trial fees as well.  The amount a DUI lawyer charges is based on their experience and the location of their practice.