Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious problem and it poses a grave threat to lives and properties. As such, the consequences of being charged for DUI are far reaching. So does it help to hire a drunk driving defence attorney if you are charged with DUI or will it instead be another expense that you are going to incur? The answer depends on whether you can afford it and if you are truly innocent. It is anyway going to be an expensive process.
Do You Need an Attorney?
DUI is a serious offence and the consequences are grave. It could affect your future and employment possibilities. People may advise you to hire an attorney who specialises in defending drunk drivers. Attorneys may assure that they will be able to save your driver’s license or get your ‘drunk driving’ charge reduced or dismissed, but there is no guarantee.
There was a time when a drinking and driving lawyer could help you plead for a lesser charge, like reckless driving, and get you done with it by paying a fine. But that was before all 50 states passed what is known as drunk driving per se and other laws, making it mandatory for drunk drivers to be judged on the DUI charge.
Blood Alcohol Level Limit
The per se laws say that, in every state of the US, if your blood-alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limit, which is 0.08, by breath test or blood test, you are liable to be found guilty of DUI. It does not matter that you behaved normally and didn’t appear to be intoxicated, your BAC level alone is all the evidence needed to convict you of DUI. Under these circumstances, even an attorney cannot help you save your license. You’ll be fined and your insurance will go up. You will be convicted.
One important criterion to determine if hiring a lawyer will do you any good is to know your BAC level at the time of your arrest. If you recorded 0.08 or above, there is little doubt that you will be convicted. You will have to pay all the fines, fees, and extra expenses involved with having a DUI conviction.
Compulsory Suspension of License
As of April 2017, 41 states, excluding Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee, have passed administrative license suspension laws that allow law enforcement officials to immediately confiscate and suspend your driver’s license on the spot if you fail a field sobriety test or record a BAC level over the legal limit. These laws allow your driver’s license to be suspended as an administrative sanction, completely independent from criminal court proceedings.
In the nine states that do not have administrative license suspension laws, the license is not suspended until you plead guilty in court or are convicted. In most states, if you refuse to take a breath test, your license is immediately confiscated and revoked.
Other Circumstances at the Time of DUI
If there are other factors, such as repeat offence, property damages, injuries, or child endangerment, you may have “aggravating circumstances” that could cause you to receive an enhanced sentence. A drunk driving defence attorney may be able to help mitigate some of those charges, but in many states, even those sentence enhancements carry mandatory penalties, especially for repeat offenders. In some cases, hiring an attorney may not help much in the long run.
Situations Where you Should Hire an Attorney
In a situation where you are truly innocent, such as you were not drinking at all but failed the field sobriety test or the breath test, then you should hire an attorney. If you intend to argue your innocence, you should consult an attorney. Do not ever try to represent yourself.
Where an Attorney Can Help You
The most an attorney can do for you is help you understand what is going to be expected of you when you go to court. He/she can help you complete some requirements preceding your court appearance. For instance, your attorney may help you obtain SR-22 auto insurance and file the right forms with the department of motor vehicles. Also, your attorney may have you complete alcohol education or treatment programs as may be required by your state in order to regain your driving privileges.
It means your attorney can guide you through the process that he knows you will eventually have to go through. But if you can do so prior to sentencing, driving privileges can be restored more quickly.
If you can afford to pay DUI lawyers, then hire the best. If this is your first offence and you are confused by the entire court process, an attorney can help you walk through the steps as smoothly as possible. But if you lack the financial strength and the fines and expenses of a drunk driving conviction are going to be a burden for you, hiring an attorney may not really change the outcome of the case in your favour.