Fines, court costs, jail time, loss of work, loss of driving privileges―DWI convictions are costly matters, in more ways than one. But with the help of an experienced DWI attorney, drivers facing drunk-driving charges stand a better chance of getting minimized DWI penalties.
The benefit of being represented by professional counsel is that DWI attorneys know how to navigate the legal system. For a first-time offender, this can be huge. That’s because a DWI lawyer helps you from the time of your arrest to the end of your hearing or trial, all the while working to make sure you get the best possible outcome. For those who are on their second, third or even fourth DWI and face serious jail time, hiring a DWI attorney could mean less time behind bars.
DUI, DWI, DWAI―no matter your state’s drunk driving lingo, driving under the influence of alcohol and other intoxicants is both dangerous and illegal.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia use a driver’s BAC (blood alcohol content or concentration) to determine whether the driver is drunk or intoxicated.
DWI laws throughout the country set legal BAC limits at:
- 0.08% for drivers of regular passenger vehicles.
- 0.04% for commercial drivers.
- Zero tolerance for drivers younger than 21.
If a police officer pulls you over for any reason (speeding, swerving, a busted tail light) and has reason to believe you’re driving while intoxicated, he can issue a test to determine your BAC. Most commonly, these are breath tests with a Breathalyzer, but some states use blood and urine tests, too.
(Of course, you can refuse these tests, but that’s a whole different set of problems. See “Get Legal Help” below.)
Get caught with a BAC beyond the limit and you face some pretty hefty DWI penalties.
Specific drunk-driving penalties depend on each state’s DWI law, but you can expect to face some combination of the following:
- Serious cash. We’re talking thousands of dollars for DWI fines; court costs and attorney fees; and any out-of-pocket costs for requirements like substance abuse treatment and ignition interlock devices.
- License suspension or revocation, depending on the state and the offense number.
- Jail time, community service, or both.
- Alcohol and substance abuse evaluation and treatment.
- Some version of a traffic or DUI school.
- Fees to reinstate your license, once eligible, and possibly yearly fees to keep it reinstated (these usually last up to three years).
- Limited driving privileges, including an ignition interlock device.
- Increased car insurance rates. You might have to file SR 22 for a certain number of years, also.
Sounds pretty daunting, right? Keep in mind that these are just the common penalties for a run-of-the-mill DWI conviction; if you injure or kill another person while drunk driving, the penalties are exponentially more severe.
Fortunately, there are DWI attorneys who can help you navigate the legal system, defend you if you’ve been falsely charged, and even help you receive minimized charges―in terms of penalties―if you’re guilty.
Get Legal Help: Hire a DWI Attorney
DUI and DWI attorneys are experts on drunk driving laws. They know everything about the charges, the penalties, and―if you choose the right one―the court system in your area.
Yes, that means your DWI lawyer has worked with your judge before and is familiar with the officer who pulled you over.
Still, choosing the best DWI attorney takes a little work; you don’t want to just open the Yellow Pages and pick the first one you see.
Tips for Hiring a DWI Lawyer
As you consider various DUI lawyers for hire, keep these tips in mind:
- Seek references. Talk with people you know who might have worked with DWI lawyers in the past, or who know someone who has.
- Choose lawyers with specific DWI experience. For example, you don’t want an attorney who specializes in civil cases to represent you during a criminal DWI hearing.
- Choose DWI attorneys who practice in your state; even better, your county or city. These attorneys are the most familiar with your state’s DWI laws and, chances are, have working relationships with the court and law enforcement.
- Schedule consultations with more than one lawyer before making a decision; these consultations should be free.
- Ask about total lawyer fees up front. You might pay an initial lump fee and then face additional costs throughout the hearing process. You might even have to pay a fee at the end of the hearing or trial. Get all of this information before hiring an attorney.
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