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Get Legal Help With a DUI

Being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be devastating. State laws impose serious consequences. You face hefty fines, loss of your driving privileges, probation, and possibly jail. A DUI conviction on your criminal record will follow you for years. Your insurance premiums increase. You can lose job opportunities and may not be able to get specific professional licenses.

Driving under the influence (DUI) laws get complicated. Having an attorney who specializes in drugged or drunk driving charges can be beneficial. Only an attorney can give you legal advice about your criminal charge.

DUI Basics

A variety of different terms can refer to impaired driving. Some state laws use operating while intoxicated (OWI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), or different variations of these terms. All these refer to driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and other intoxicants.

It is illegal in every state to operate a motor vehicle when impaired. Because drunk driving is dangerous and accounts for one death every 39 minutes in America, state laws take it very seriously.

Law enforcement officers are specially trained to spot possible intoxicated drivers. Police officers also undergo extensive training in performing field sobriety tests, conducting chemical tests to assess your blood alcohol content (BAC), and spotting signs of drug intoxication.

During your traffic stop, law enforcement may ask you to submit to chemical tests to gauge your intoxication. This is usually done with a Breathalyzer or breath test, which can read the amount of alcohol in your system. The office may ask you to take a urine, saliva, or blood test. These confirm your BAC level, as well as look for intoxicating substances.

You can refuse to cooperate with field sobriety tests and chemical testing. All states have implied consent laws. By driving within the state, you have agreed to take chemical tests when law enforcement asks. While you are within your rights to refuse them, you will face immediate penalties. Usually, this includes driver's license suspension, but you may receive a criminal charge, additional fines, or arrest.

A police officer can arrest you even if you refuse chemical tests. You may also face arrest if you are below your state's legal, per se DUI limit. All states, except Utah, have a per se limit of 0.08%. Utah has set its legal limit at 0.05%. If the chemical test result shows intoxication to this level, under a per se DUI law, law enforcement does not need further evidence against you. 

If you are below the legal limit, law enforcement will need to show that you are too intoxicated to operate a motor vehicle. This may include your behavior, like slurred speech or the smell of alcohol. It may consist of evidence of reckless driving, swerving, and speeding.

DUI Charges

How serious your DUI charge is depends on a variety of factors. For a first-time DUI charge when you are 21 or older, it is typically a misdemeanor if no aggravating factors are present. Aggravating factors will make your DUI more serious. Aggravating factors can be different depending on what state you live in, but often include:

  • Excessive blood alcohol concentration
  • Prior DUI convictions
  • Driving with a minor
  • Refusing drug and alcohol testing
  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Causing property damage
  • Causing serious bodily injury or death

If you are underage, the officer charges you differently. Underage DUIs often go to juvenile or family court if your BAC is under your state's legal limit. A BAC exceeding this limit will garner a more severe charge with harsher penalties.

Why an Attorney Can Help

DUI laws vary by state. Your state's legislature can add to the laws and change penalties for a DUI conviction with each term they meet. Having a DUI defense lawyer specializing in DUI law can be very helpful in navigating your DUI offense. 

A skilled attorney familiar with the intricacies of DUI cases will check all the evidence to protect your rights. This includes scrutiny of the procedures involved in your DUI arrest. A DUI lawyer may challenge the validity of any field sobriety and chemical tests administered in your case. Your lawyer will know what your options are and provide you with legal advice to help your case.

Many states are enacting laws that bar the prosecution from plea bargaining a DUI to a lesser offense. Your attorney will know the best procedure for your case and how to approach it. You may be able to plead "no contest" or negotiate the terms of your probation and its requirements.

A DUI conviction may include jail time or probation. You will face driver's license revocation for some time. You may be eligible for a restricted license that will allow you to maintain a job, attend school, and begin a substance abuse treatment program. 

You will likely need to get approved for an ignition interlock device as part of the requirements of the restricted license. Often, there is only a short window of time in which you can apply. An attorney can advise you on the procedures and requirements involved.

You will especially benefit from having an attorney when navigating a more serious DUI charge, as opposed to a first DUI. If you are facing DUI manslaughter, DUI murder, or a DUI that caused serious bodily injury, your legal proceedings will be more complex. You will face jail time, large fines, and lengthy or permanent license suspension.

Choosing a Private Attorney

Many attorneys offer DUI defense services. The right attorney for you will be someone with experience with DUI defense. An attorney who practices in your jurisdiction has advantages compared to an out-of-towner. Their knowledge of the judges and prosecutors and their attitudes about different kinds of DUI cases can help plan a successful defense. 

Personal style is another important consideration. You and your defense attorney are a team. Good communication in both directions is necessary for the best attorney/client relationship.

Public defense or legal aid may be available if you cannot afford a private attorney. When you hire an attorney yourself, the greatest benefit is your ability to choose. Unlike public defenders, whom the court appoints, you can select your private attorney. 

Private attorneys usually have more time to review your case's facts. They may offer you the choice of investing in an independent investigation of facts. They can arrange for experts to testify about technical issues such as alcohol and drug metabolism. These kinds of efforts are not always possible in public defense.

If You Cannot Afford a Lawyer

At most steps in the criminal justice process, the United States Constitution guarantees the assistance of an attorney to most people charged with a crime. This means that even if you cannot afford to hire a criminal defense lawyer for yourself, the government will provide you with a lawyer free of charge. A public defender is an attorney responsible for protecting your rights at all stages of the criminal process, from arrest to appeal.

You can request a public defender at your arraignment. You must apply and qualify to have a public defender appointed to you.

If you are unsure whether a public defender is the right option, consider seeking a consultation with a qualified local attorney to determine whether private representation is the right option. Often, an initial consultation is free and confidential.

Get Legal Help With Your DUI Case

A private attorney can be an excellent investment. Private counsel will spend time reviewing your case's details and educating you about your position and options. Contact a qualified DUI attorney today to discuss your case and defense options.

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Contact a qualified DUI attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex DUI situations usually require a lawyer
  • DUI defense attorneys can challenge Breathalyzer/Intoxilyzer or blood test results
  • A lawyer can seek to reduce or eliminate DUI penalties
  • A lawyer can help get your license back

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