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Charged with a DUI / DWI? – Overview of the Law and Your Legal Rights
If you were pulled over by police and charged with drunken driving, your mind may be deluged with a myriad of questions and concerns. Is the charge going to remain on your permanent record? Are your auto insurance premiums going to skyrocket? Will you have to serve time in jail?
This article is intended to address these common questions, among others, and provide insight into your legal rights in the wake of being charged with a DUI / DWI.
What Does “DUI” Actually Stand For?
The DUI acronym specifically stands for “Driving Under the Influence.” It is also referred to as a “DWI” which stands for “Driving While Intoxicated.” Other common terms associated with this type of criminal offense include:
- Impaired driving;
- Drunk driving; and/or
- Drugged driving
You could potentially be charged with drunk driving if the police pull you over and have reason to believe you were operating a vehicle after consuming an excessive amount of alcohol or drugs to the point where you were “over the legal limit.”
Understanding the Legal Limit for Alcohol Consumption
There is a federal standard that governs the amount of alcohol you can consume to legally operate a vehicle in the United States. The federal legal limit is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent. Even though there is a standardized legal limit of 0.08 percent, it is important to understand that the penalties for consuming alcohol in excess of the legal limit will vary widely depending on the state in which you reside. For example, there are some states that have actually instituted mandatory jail time for first-time DUI offenders. In other states, there are monetary penalties and fines associated with a DUI conviction, but no mandatory jail time. The different laws and potential penalties that could apply to your case are a big reason why it makes sense to retain the services of an experienced DUI defense attorney.
Factors Considered When Charged with a DUI / DWI
There are numerous factors that come into play when someone is charged with a DUI / DWI. For example, your age, blood alcohol content, any prior DUI convictions, etc. will play a role in the type of criminal charge and whether the state would be open to negotiating a plea bargain.
In most DUI cases, your blood alcohol content will be one of the biggest factors in determining the severity of the charge. Law enforcement typically utilizes a breathalyzer test, urine test, or blood test to determine your blood alcohol content.
Ramifications of a DUI Conviction
If you are charged and convicted of a DUI or DWI, the ramifications can be serious and life-altering. Depending on the state in which you reside, a DUI conviction often means your driver’s license will be suspended for an extended period of time, you will be ordered to pay a large monetary fine, your auto insurance rates will likely skyrocket, and you may be ordered to participate in a driver improvement program. If that was not bad enough, there are some states where a DUI conviction also carries a mandatory minimum jail term.
You may be able to negotiate a plea bargain if this is your first offense or there are other mitigating circumstances. Though, your chances of reaching a favorable plea bargain would improve dramatically with an experienced DUI defense lawyer by your side.
Benefits of Hiring an Experienced DUI Defense Lawyer
If you are on the fence about hiring a DUI defense attorney, here are just some of the benefits associated with retaining experienced defense counsel:
A DUI defense attorney could potentially get your drunk driving charges dismissed before having to go to trial.
Obviously, this would be the best outcome possible in your case. When DUI charges are dismissed or thrown out of court, you will not be haunted by the stigma associated with a DUI conviction on your permanent record.
The possibility of a DUI defense lawyer getting the charges dismissed outright will depend primarily on the unique factors in your case, including whether you have any prior DUI convictions on your record, your blood alcohol content, etc.
A DUI defense attorney understands how to effectively negotiate reductions in DUI charges
If you cannot get the DUI charges dismissed, an attorney can assist in negotiating with the state attorney assigned to your case to try and reach an amicable plea bargain where the charges (and penalties) are reduced. For example, a knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer could try to get a DUI reduced down to a reckless driving charge. This reduction often means far less severe penalties and eliminates the risk of any mandatory minimum jail sentence that may accompany a DUI conviction in your state.
Knowledge of the Legal System
Another benefit of hiring a DUI defense lawyer is that they know the proverbial “ins and outs” of the local court system, what documents need to be filed, and what steps need to be taken to build a compelling defense for your case.
A DUI defense attorney understands what must be done to shield your driver’s license from getting suspended for a prolonged period of time.
When someone is charged with a DUI or DWI, it is important to understand that you could be at risk of getting penalized criminally and being unable to operate an automobile due to the suspension of your driver’s license. Once a DUI charge is issued, there will be an Administrative License Review hearing at the DMV to assess whether your license should be suspended. Generally, a motorist charged with a DUI usually has ten days to contest the license suspension at this DMV hearing. If you miss your license review hearing, the DMV will suspend your license. If, on the other hand, you have a skilled and experienced DUI defense lawyer on your side, they can file the necessary paperwork and contest any potential suspension of your license at the DMV hearing.
An experienced DUI defense attorney can advocate for your rights during trial.
One of the biggest benefits of hiring a skilled DUI defense lawyer is that you will have an advocate by your side throughout the entire process, even if your case goes to trial before a judge or jury. They will carefully examine all arrest information and evidence in your case to assess any procedural flaws or mistakes that may have been committed by police during a field sobriety test, or in pulling you over in the first place. They will take the steps necessary to build a compelling defense in the hopes of convincing a judge or jury to exonerate you of the DUI charges.
Now is the Time for Action
If you or a family member was charged with a DUI or DWOI, it is extremely important to be proactive to ensure your legal rights are protected. Take action by contacting NextLegal.com We can assist you with your DUI / DWI case by providing insight and advice on what steps need to be taken to protect your Constitutional rights. Complete the contact form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.