When to Hire a DUI Lawyer
The second you decide to drive while intoxicated (DWI) is the second you begin to put yourself and others at risk. In the event that this happens and you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), you are looking forward to a relatively lengthy legal process. As with any legal process, it is always best to have the support of an attorney.
* NOTE: Often, the terms “DUI" and “DWI" are used interchangeably to refer to the same charge. You will see both referenced in this guide—but be aware that in your state, they may mean different things.
When to Hire a DUI Lawyer
The majority of DUI cases are handled without legal representation. However, because a DUI charge is very serious, you should strongly consider hiring a DUI attorney.
Consider hiring a DUI lawyer when:
- This is NOT your first DWI arrest.
- Someone is injured or killed as a result of your DUI.
- You believe that you're not guilty.
- You think you can reduce your charges from DWI to reckless driving.
- You're a commercial driver (e.g. truck driver, delivery person, bus driver, etc.).
Why Hire a DUI Attorney
DUI lawyers are experts when it comes to alcohol- and drug-related cases. This expertise can help to get your charges or sentencing reduced, and even have your case dismissed.
From DUI to Reckless Driving
If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reads close to the legal limit, your DUI attorney might be able to argue that there's a possibility the Breathalyzer was incorrect and your DUI charges could be reduced to “reckless driving".
If it's determined that you were not in fact intoxicated, you'll most likely be charged with reckless driving.
If it's determined that you had alcohol in your system but not an illegal amount, you might be charged with a “wet reckless" driving offense. Sentences for wet reckless driving normally do NOT require:
- Jail time.
- License suspension or revocation.
- As costly a fine.
- Lengthy DUI program attendance.
You will most likely be put on probation to compensate for the wet reckless charge. Despite the reduced punishments, your car insurance company will still see a wet reckless as a DUI/DWI arrest and adjust your premium accordingly.
Hiring a DUI lawyer might also help in having your sentence reduced, should you plead or be found guilty.
For example, your attorney can set up a deal in which you'd agree to plead guilty, only because your punishment for the DUI would be reduced. Some situations in which this would be a good route to take include:
- Your BAC registered very high.
- You were driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol.
- Somebody was harmed or killed as a result of your DWI.
In the cases listed above, you will most likely serve some form of jail time, have your license suspended, and/or have to pay a hefty fine.
There are several reasons why your DUI case can be completely dropped, most of which require a very strong understanding of laws and legal precedents that only lawyers typically have at their disposal.
An experienced DUI attorney can analyze your case, and determine whether or not you can pursue having the charges against you dropped.
What to Look for in a DUI Attorney
When you're deciding which DUI attorney to hire, you should take these factors into consideration:
- Their familiarity with DUI/DWI laws in your state.
- Consider how many DUI cases they've been involved in, how much of their legal practice is devoted strictly to defending DWI cases, and their knowledge of DUI laws and limits specific to your state.
- Fees for their services.
- How much of your case they will directly handle.
- Ideally, you'll want them to deal with most or all of the court proceedings, rather than passing responsibilities over to associates.
- Their relationship to the prosecution.
- It's extremely beneficial to find a lawyer that has a good relationship with the prosecutor.
NOTE: Depending on your financial situation, you can also opt have a public defender appointed to your case.