What can I do if I am accused of Driving Under the Influence?

Of all the criminal charges that exist, the one that the “average and ordinary” citizen is most likely to be charged with is Driving Under the Influence (DUI). This is because DUI is not a crime that is reserved for hardened criminals. Rather, it is a crime that is often faced by people who are otherwise productive and law-abiding members of society. Anyone who is a social or casual consumer of alcohol has probably stepped behind the wheel of a car after having a drink or two and that is all it takes to be arrested and charged with DUI.

If you have been arrested for DUI, you have probably already realized the seriousness of your situation. You have already had to endure the humiliation of an overnight stay in jail. You have felt the embarrassment of calling friends and family to post your bail. You have experienced the fear about how this arrest will impact your employment and family life. And you have felt the concern over how you will cope with the possibility that you may lose your driving privileges for some period of time.

The reality is that DUI is a very serious offense which can have a drastic impact on your life. Despite the fact that it is a misdemeanor, DUI can carry penalties more severe than some felony charges, even for a first time offender. For that reason, it is crucial that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible to avoid or minimize the damaging effects of a DUI charge.

Your Driving Privileges
The most immediate threat that you will face upon being charged with DUI is the suspension of your driver’s license. In 1994, the Legislature enacted a new DUI law which empowers the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to suspend your driver’s license if a police officer had probable cause to arrest you for DUI and you either had a blood alcohol level of at least .08 or you refused to take a breath test. The length of that suspension can be from 12 to 18 months, depending on your prior record. It is important to note that this automatic suspension of your license is totally separate from the criminal case and will probably occur before your case even goes to court.

Upon being arrested for DUI, the police officer will confiscate your driver’s license on the spot. The officer will also issue a DUI citation which will act as your temporary driver’s license for the next 30 days. After that 30-day period expires, the citation becomes invalid and your driving privileges will be suspended for a minimum of 30 days. During any period of license suspension you should not drive. It is a misdemeanor to drive while your license is suspended and if you get caught, you will certainly get arrested and charged with the separate crime of driving on a suspended license. Additionally, if you get convicted of driving on a license that is suspended for alcohol-related reasons, it is very likely that the State will seek jail time.

The only effective way to avoid or minimize a license suspension by the DHSMV is to request a Formal Review Hearing before a DHSMV hearing officer. However, this request must be made within 10 days of your arrest. If you fail to request a hearing within that 10 day period, then the DHSMV will review your case on their own and will most likely sustain the suspension.

If you retain my law office to represent you, I will immediately file the appropriate paperwork and request a hearing before the DHSMV. A hearing will then be set sometime within 30 days of my demand. An attorney from my office will appear at the hearing and will vigorously present your case in an attempt to have your license reinstated while the DUI case is pending. If we are unable to have the suspension lifted, we will then seek to have a hardship permit issued which will allow you to drive for employment purposes.

Due to the numerous deadlines which apply to these types of proceedings, it is crucial that you contact my office immediately so that you do not miss your opportunity to have a Formal Review Hearing. Time is of the essence. If you simply sit around and wait, you will be giving up important rights to properly contest your case. If you have recently been arrested for DUI, you need to call a lawyer NOW.

The Criminal Case
Aside from the license concerns we have just discussed, getting arrested for DUI will also lead to criminal charges being filed against you by the State Attorney’s Office. These criminal charges are totally separate from the DHSMV suspension and the penalties that you will potentially face are even more burdensome. Those penalties can include:
-possible jail time,
-driver’s license suspension,
-alcohol and substance abuse counseling,
-random drug and alcohol testing,
-community service hours,
-mandatory participation in Alcoholics Anonymous,
-fines and court costs,
-a permanent criminal conviction on your record,
-restitution to victims, and
-immobilization of your vehicle for a period of time.

Approximately 30 days after being arrested, you will receive a court notice with your arraignment date. This will be the first date that you have to appear in front of a judge to answer for the charges which have been filed against you. Having to appear in court can be a very frightening and intimidating experience for someone who is not accustomed to it. If you retain my office, we will appear at the arraignment for you. You will not even have to appear in court that day. Depending on which Judge your case is assigned to, you may or may not be required to appear for additional court dates after the arraignment. If you do have to appear, you will always be accompanied by a competent and experienced attorney from my office who will guide you through the process every step of the way.

Within 30 days from your arraignment date, my office will receive discovery materials from the State Attorney’s Office. These materials will consist of the evidence that the State intends to present against you if there is a trial. These materials will usually include police reports, breath test results, traffic citations, witness lists, and a video tape of your arrest. Upon receiving these materials, I will schedule an appointment with you to review them and discuss any possible defenses that may exist.

Based on the discovery materials, it may be possible to defend your case in many different ways, including: challenging the officer’s reasons for stopping you in the first place; challenging the officer’s conclusion that you were intoxicated, and attacking the reliability of the road-side exercises and breath tests. My office has experience in mounting these types of legal defenses and we will advise you, based on the facts of your case, whether such defenses are likely to succeed in your case. Together, we will decide how to bring your case to the most acceptable conclusion; minimizing or avoiding the negative impact on you.

Do you suffer from an injury to your hips, knees, back, joints or elsewhere that would affect your balance?
Did the police fail to advise you of your right to an attorney before taking the field sobriety (balance) test?
Were your field sobriety (balance) tests conducted on a surface that was not even, flat, clean, properly lighted, or protected from the wind?
Did the glare from the police car’s overhead lights blind you or make you dizzy?
Were you wearing contact lenses while taking roadside tests?
Were you arrested on private property?
If videotaped, did you appear sober, even if you were scared or exhausted?
Did the officer confuse fear or exhaustion with intoxication (drunkenness)?
Did you recently suffer a concussion (blow to the head) that would duplicate intoxication (drunkenness)?
Do you suffer from diabetes, hypoglycemia or any other condition that might have caused you to seem impaired?
Do you know people who would honestly testify they saw you while you were fine shortly before you were stopped?
Did the Law Enforcement Officer wake you from a deep sleep while you were stopped or parked?
If you were in an accident, did you suffer injuries that might have caused the Law Enforcement Officer to mistakenly believe you were drunk?
Did you wear removable dentures during the breath test?

If you answered YES to any one of these questions – or would to dozens of other questions which need to be asked – you owe it to yourself to have us:

Analyze Your Case
Explain your options
Recommend a course of action

All at no charge or obligation.