Being charged with impaired driving is never a positive experience. For those who have never run afoul of the law, it can become the first entry on a criminal history if there is a conviction for actually driving under the influence. For those who are multiple offenders, the problems are intensified in terms of punishment, including significant jail time. This is not to mention the fact that all states have reviewed their impaired driving laws over the past two decades and have set mandatory minimums for prosecutors who are handling intoxicated driving cases. In addition, when there is an accident involved, the impaired driver is almost always the primary responsible party. Accidents that include fatalities can result in vehicular homicide charges or manslaughter charges as well, based on the material case facts. Even first DUI charges that are prosecuted based on borderline or insufficient evidence can mean significant ongoing problems for a defendant in the event of a conviction without the benefit of solid legal counsel. Because of focus on the seriousness of intoxicated driving, including those driving under the influence of drugs or controlled substances, prosecutors are usually very vigorous when pursuing a conviction even when evidence can be questioned. What this combination of factors means is that it is always a good decision to retain a criminal defense attorney even when the state actually has a good case, and especially when they do not.
DUI Impact on Life
Many people would have no criminal history if they hadn’t received an impaired driving conviction, including multiple offenders. Many of those individuals also faced the first offense without the advantage of having an experienced DUI attorney to build an argument on behalf of the defendant that could result in a reduced charge or even a dismissal in certain instances. A conviction for driving under the influence can prohibit gainful employment from certain employers as well as be a reason for public housing denial. And with a DUI conviction, the record stays in place for at least seven years because subsequent charges for intoxicated driving will be charged as a multiple enhanced offense. Retaining an attorney to defend against even a first minimal charge is very important, and it is actually an investment in your future as well as your freedom and good name.
Case Facts Matter When Defending a Charge
Impaired driving charges are serious business for all prosecutors, as many states have tied their hands in terms of ability to negotiate a case. What this means is that the facts that are being used as the basis for the charge become very important because inadmissible evidence can be addressed by a criminal defense attorney. There is an unwritten rule for criminal defense attorneys. When the facts are against the defendant, utilize the law. When the law is against the defendant, utilize the facts. Officers can be questioned and evidence can be evaluated for validity, especially in a DUI case that does not involve alcohol intoxication levels. Unless there is a blood test record, there is no statute regarding any other scheduled drug concentration because there is no approved device for unwarranted intoxication measurement. Blood tests require a warrant. The fact that chemicals may be present in the blood stream does not mean the defendant was impaired, but a typical defendant would have a hard time arguing this point without professional legal counsel who can investigate and move for dismissal. Officer testimony is very important in non-alcohol cases and an aggressive DUI attorney can investigate the case while questioning the officer before a case even goes to court. Many times charges are weak, especially in DUI cases based on blood alcohol concentration, as the legal limit nationally is .08 BAC. Many times cases with this minimal BAC involved can be reduced to reckless driving in most states. It is not considered a criminal driving record and rarely carries a license suspension. The facts matter, and an experienced lawyer knows that.
One of the worst components of a DUI conviction is the actual sentencing phase and completing the penalties. They always include drunk driver education for every convicted defendant, but multiple offenders will be enrolled for a complete year at least and are responsible for all associated school fees. Most classes are held weekly, which can hamper personal or family schedules. Of course, there are also fines that usually range between $500-$1,500 depending on the facts of the charge, such as an aggravated DUI charge or being involved in an accident. And, multiple defenders can expect higher fines in every situation, along with any other charge fines being compounded. Jail sentences range from none for the first conviction to up to five years for a felony offense. Very serious cases that involve fatal accidents can result in vehicular homicide or manslaughter charges stemming the use of alcohol, which carry greater sentences. Having a comprehensive criminal defense attorney can help at every legal juncture of defending a DUI charge and help lessen the damage resulting from punishment.
Avoid a Public Defender
Many individuals who have been punished severely for a DUI were represented by a public defender. This never bodes well for a defendant, as the public defender works daily with the prosecution if they are from a designated public advocacy office. The same state that is prosecuting the charge is also the employer of the defense attorney. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court requires that all individuals charged with a crime that can result in incarceration have “competent” representation, which is a loose term at best. The careers of public defenders are largely determined by relationships within the prosecution department of the court and are they often more concerned with delivering a conviction than achieving a case dismissal or charge reduction. It is always the best decision to retain a personal attorney who will put the defendant first regardless of the court while defending the rights of the accused client.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
The most important aspect of legal representation is how strong a lawyer defends all of the legal rights of the defendant. The state is not entitled to a criminal conviction, even though that is how many prosecutors and public defendants act, and the burden of the proof is assigned to the state throughout the case. All defendants have the right to have each article of evidence evaluated for legal search and seizure, proper warrants when a blood test is ordered, and accurate operating condition of any device used to measure blood alcohol, such as a breathalyzer. All evidence must be acquired within the protocol allowed by the U.S. Constitution, especially with respect to legal search. Prosecutors also do not like to take cases to a full trial, but a trial is a legal right of all defendants and the best attorney is the one who is willing to take a case to trial if the prosecutor is being unreasonable about overstated charges.
DUI Under the Influence Drugs
These cases can be some of the most complicated charges filed for impaired driving, especially when the defendant has a verifiable script for a medication that is used on a regular basis for a chronic pain or mental issue. The substance will appear in the body in some amount at all times, and there is no way to measure the latency in most cases. The issue with the charge then becomes material facts of what actually happened along with the testimony of the officer, who can be interviewed or cross-examined by a DUI attorney.
Going to Trial
Not all DUI cases will go to trial because many times the evidence is overwhelming against the defendant. But, borderline cases or cases where a technicality could relieve an impaired driver of responsibility in another factor can be exposed in court by an experienced criminal trial attorney. Serious injury cases where the charged driver was barely within the range of being legally drunk can end up in a trial because the issue of actual impairment can be argued in some instances when prosecutors are being difficult in a settlement negotiation. It is important to remember that all DUI cases are not equal, and technicalities matter greatly because they can impact the lives of everyone involved, including families.