You had one drink too many. You knew you probably shouldn’t get behind the wheel, but you felt totally fine to drive and really didn’t want to pay that ridesharing fee. Now, you’ve been charged with a DUI. But do you really need to hire a lawyer and pay even more fees?
The necessity of a lawyer for a DUI charge depends on the following factors:
First-time DUI offense with relatively low BAC results
If this was your first DUI charge and your blood-alcohol content was relatively low, you may not need a lawyer. Also, having a clean criminal background and cooperating with the police at the time you were pulled over can help your case. In this situation, many prosecutors and judges may see the charge as routine and inoffensive, especially if there was no accident and no one was injured. If you are in this position, you may consider avoiding the attorney fees and pursuing self-representation instead.
However, if you have any possible defenses to your DUI charge, such as mishandling of blood samples or other misconduct, it is best to hire a lawyer. A lawyer can help you gather evidence and argue against the charges. If there is any possibility for the charges to be dismissed, you’ll want to have a lawyer on your side.
Repeat offenders with high BAC results
Although the DUI law varies by state, there are some factors that can transform an inoffensive DUI charge into a major criminal offense. With the higher offenses, come more severe punishments, meaning more costly fines, harsher penalties, and even jail time.
One of the most common factors often causing a higher charge is a repeat offense. If this is your third or more DUI offense, you can face up to $10,000 in fines and 15 to 20 years of jail time. Repeat DUI offenders should hire an attorney to try to limit these punishments, save money, and preserve your freedom. Although prosecutors and judges will be less lenient in an attempt to keep the roads safe and prevent future accidents, lawyers can argue against further penalties, especially if the prior offenses occurred a while ago.
Another common factor often leading to higher offenses is a high blood-alcohol content reading. If your BAC is high, having a lawyer on your side can help reduce the potentially increased punishments. For instance, a lawyer may be able to argue the following reasons for inaccurate BAC results:
- Tainted evidence due to improper treatment by a laboratory technician
- Possible mix up with another sample
- Medical or health conditions
- Failure to maintain chain-of-custody procedures
- Unreasonable delay between arrest and testing
If you were underage at the time of your DUI arrest, it is highly recommended to hire an attorney. Underage DUI convictions can lead to severe consequences, such as loss of driving privileges, school expulsion, motor vehicle impoundment, huge fines, or probation or juvenile detention. To try to limit the potentially disastrous consequences, underage offenders should seek an experienced lawyer.
Accidents, injury, property damage, and death
The most critical DUI punishments are for cases where DUI accidents led to extreme bodily injuries, extensive property damage, and/or death. In these instances, it is essential to hire a DUI attorney because the stakes are so high and consequences can be grave. DUI accidents with severe effects can bring on additional charges, such as manslaughter, homicide, assault, criminal negligence, or reckless indifference. However, with the help of an attorney, defendants may be able to enter a plea bargain in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Still not sure? When in doubt, hire an attorney.
If you’re not sure what your next move should be, contact a lawyer. Having an experienced lawyer to walk you through this confusing and difficult time is priceless.
Looking for a reputable, experienced DUI attorney? The Law Offices of EJ Stopyro is Orange County’s most trusted criminal and DUI defense firm. Contact EJ today for a free consultation and confidential case review!