Facing drunk driving offenses or having a loved one dealing with drunk driving offenses can be scary and intimidating. The bonding process, hiring a lawyer, and the judicial system is not always easy to navigate or understand. Many times people facing drunk driving offenses just want to bury their head in the sand and hope it all goes away. Their embarrassment sometimes will get in the way of doing what needs to be done to protect their future. We are going to walk you through the basics of drunk driving offenses so that you or your loved one can make informed decisions about what to do next. Our hope is that providing you some basic answers, we can reduce some of the stress and anxiety you are probably feeling. So, first things first:
What are drunk driving offenses?
Drunk driving offenses are a category of driving under the influence or DUI laws. Driving under the influence is also often referred to as driving while impaired in some jurisdictions. In general, driving while impaired crimes are offenses committed by driving a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Impaired by drugs can include illegal drugs and those prescribed by a physician. Driving while impaired, regardless of what it is called, is a crime in all fifty U.S. states and D.C. Also, a motor vehicle does not just apply to automobiles, people have been charged with driving boats, golf carts, scooters, and even motorized coolers while under the influence.
Do I need a DUI lawyer?
Yes, if you can in any way afford to hire a lawyer, you should. A lawyer may be able to get your charges reduced, may be able to keep your license from being suspended, and may be able to keep you or a loved out of jail. Hiring a qualified lawyer is the single best thing you can do to protect you or your loved one’s future. They will be able to exclaim the system to you and relieve your stress and anxiety about dealing with the justice system.
What happens for your first DUI offense?
Most likely after a first DUI offense, you will be taken into custody, arrested, and a bond set by a judge in less than twenty-four hours. Once a bond amount is set, you or a loved can contact a bail bondsman, or women, to arrange for the bond to be posted. You will be arraigned or formally charged within a couple of days of being arrested. This is where the judge informs you of what you have been charged with and you get to enter a plea of guilty or no-guilty. If possible, you should have an attorney hired present by this point.
What to plead for your first DUI?
If you have not retained an attorney by your arraignment, you should plead not guilty to any and all charges. You are not in the best position to weigh the evidence against you or know what, if any, defenses you may be able to avail yourself of until you have met and talked with a legal professional. Pleading not guilty at the arraignment will give you the most options on how to handle your drunk driving offenses going forward. A not-guilty plea can always be changed down the line to a guilty plea if that is what is deemed to be in your best interests. Also, pleading not guilty leaves the door open to hoping to have the charges reduced or even dismissed in the future. Also, in most jurisdictions pleading guilty will prevent you from ever having the record sealed or expunged. You want to have any many options as possible going forward and pleading not guilty will most likely leave you with the most options.
What to expect for a first time DUI charge?
Hopefully, there is not enough evidence for the state to prove any drunk driving offenses and you will be able to have the charges reduced to reckless driving or some other non-drunk driving offense. This will often depend on whether you blew over the legal limit, whether you passed or failed any field sobriety tests, whether they have incriminating video evidence, and whether they have any witnesses.
What are the standard DUI penalties?
The DUI penalty that is imposed by the court will differ greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The penalty will largely be based on what charge a defendant pleas to and if this is a first-time drunk driving offense. If a defendant does not plea to the charges, the penalty will depend on what the state charges them with and whether the jury finds them guilty of one or more of the charges. If a defendant can plead to something other than a drunk driving offense, reckless driving, for instance, they will have a better chance of just having to pay a fine and maybe some probation. If someone pleads guilty to drunk driving offenses or is found guilty of drunk driving offenses, they are more likely to get jail time as part of their penalty. A good local lawyer will be in the best position to discuss your individual case and what penalties you or someone you know may be exposed to.
What if this is my 2nd offense DUI?
What impact a 2nd offense will greatly be influenced by how your first charge was resolved. If you were able to get the first charge reduced to a reckless driving you have a better shot of retaining your driving privileges and avoiding jail time. If you pled or were found guilty of a drunk driving offense the first time around you will have a harder time retaining your driving privileges and may face jail time. Again, a local DUI lawyer will be able to review your options with you if you are facing a 2nd offense DUI. The DMV rules for 2nd offense are usually much stricter and depending on how many points you already have on your license can result in temporary and permanent license suspensions.
What if this is a 3rd offense DUI?
Many jurisdictions have mandatory jail time for a third DWI offense. Because of these mandatory minimum sentencing issues, it is critical to contact an experienced local DUI attorney. With repeat offenders, it is, even more, to try and get the charges reduced. If the charges cannot be reduced taking a DUI charge to trial might become necessary to try and beat the 3rd conviction. A 3rd offense DUI is a very serious charge that more often than not results in serious jail time. If you or a loved has been charged with a 3rd DUI offense you should contact a local experienced attorney today.
What if you are under 21?
Most jurisdictions have stiff penalties for anyone convicted of a DUI under 21 years of age. A DUI conviction for anyone under 21 years of age will almost certainly result in at least a suspended license. This is also a permanent scar on your record that can impact your ability to get a job, get into college, and professional licenses. A DUI conviction can follow you around and haunt you for years, it is imperative that you try and get the charges or reduced or dropped if possible.
Whether this is your first time being charged with drunk driving offenses, your second DUI offense, or your third offense you should be aware of the various DUI penalty levels in your jurisdiction and get the professional legal advice you need. Facing these types of charges is scary but you do not have to face it alone. You should rally your friends, family, and the legal team around you to help you get through this process. We know that being charged with a first time drunk driving offense or with a DUI controlled substance is intimidating. We hope that the information here will help answer some of your questions about drunk driving offenses and get you headed in the right direction.