What You Should Know About DUI Attorneys Appearing for You
After being arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) the charged individual will be arraigned, meaning the charges will be formally places against them. In most cases of non-fatal, misdemeanor DUI charges, the defendant will be released either by paying bail or on his or her own recognizance.
Usually, the defendant will return to daily life and return to work while waiting for the trial to begin. In some circumstances, the defendant is unable to make the court date because he or she cannot get off work during that time, in which case he or she can be represented by an attorney.
In situations when a person cannot afford a lawyer for DUI when going to court, many local top law firms in most areas offer free pro bono legal services for DUI-related cases so an individual can still have a strong defense at their upcoming scheduled court dates.
When a Lawyer Should Represent You in Court
It is possible for a DUI or DWI attorney to represent a client in court without the client being present. This is sometimes the case when the client cannot miss work or has had his or her license revoked and does not have a reliable way to get to the courthouse. While it is possible for an attorney to represent the defendant without being present, it is important to make sure that the attorney reviews and outlines the case with the client before the trial date to make sure that all needs are being represented.
For non-injury, misdemeanor DUI cases, the defendant’s presence is often not needed throughout the duration of the trial. Since these charges are much less serious than others, it is possible for the attorney to represent the client throughout the entire case without the client being physically present in court. For example, if a person may lose their job for a DUI, DWI charge case that is pending because of having to take too much time off from work for multiple court dates, a trusted local DUI defense lawyer can often appear on the client’s behalf in most misdemeanor DUI, DWI cases.
In many cases, the attorney will schedule meetings with the client to go over details of the case, but in general, the attorney will handle the majority of the court appearances and representation on his or her own.
For more serious cases, such as felony cases, it is suggested that the defendant appear in court with the attorney. Since these types of charges often carry heavy penalties, being present during all aspects of the case is a wise decision to help better understand what consequences the defendant is facing and also show the judge and/or the jury that the defendant is taking the charges seriously. In this case, it would be recommended for the defendant to hire an attorney specialized in DUI and/or DWI and more specifically, cases facing severe criminal charges.
What Punishments You May Face if Convicted of DUI
Regardless of whether the client is present during trial, the penalties faced if found guilty of DUI remain the same. Guilt of DUI is established either through a plea or through jury or judge conviction at trial. When and if the defendant is convicted, he or she could face a wide array of penalties that will vary from one state to the next. The most common of these punishments include:
- Driver’s license revocation/suspension
- Alcohol/drug rehabilitation
- Alcohol/drug education classes
- Jail time
Jail Sentences for DUI
First offense DUI or DWI charges are considered a misdemeanor in all states and punishable with up to six months in jail, which may be increased according to the details of the case. Some states, for example, require higher jail sentences for those defendants who presented high Blood Alcohol Content or BAC levels during the time of the arrest. States will also require minimum jail sentences of a few days for first offenders and longer jail stays for those individuals convicted of a second or third offense.
Driver’s License Issues for DUI
Those defendants who are convicted of DUI or DWI stand a very good chance of having their driver’s revoked or suspended for a period of time, either as mandated by the court or as mandated by the motor vehicle department of their state. First offenders may have their license suspended for 90 days, second time offenders for a year or more and third time offenders for a period of three years or more. Additionally, refusing to take a Breathalyzer or urine test during the arrest for suspected DUI may also result in license suspension even without going to trial and being found guilty of the charge.
Alcohol and Drug Programs for DUI
Some states employ alternative methods of punishment that also help to educate and rehabilitate the offender. In these states, part of a DUI punishment may include:
- Alcohol/drug education programs
- Assessment for alcohol/drug dependency
- Treatment for alcohol/drug dependency
- Payment of victim restitution
- Performance of community service
In most cases, these are considered alternative forms of punishment for first offenders or may be combined with the traditional punishments of paying fines and serving jail time. For example, states like Texas require minors convicted of DUI to complete mandatory community service and other penalties.
Why an Experienced DUI Attorney Should Represent You in Court
When dealing with a driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated charge, it is always in the individual’s best interest to have an attorney specializing in DUI represent them, especially if they will not be available to appear in court along with their attorney. Some of the benefits of retaining this type of lawyer who is well versed in DUI law include:
- Attorney familiar with the court system
- Attorney being familiar with state and local DUI laws
- Attorney being able to navigate the complex administrative procedures
- Attorney being able to negotiate/understand plea bargain details
While having a knowledgeable DUI attorney is important for anyone who is charged with driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, it is especially important for those who may be on the second or third offense. Since repeat offenders of DUI and DWI often face harsher penalties and may have their license revoked and not able to make it to court, a professional attorney well versed on the subject is almost a necessity to make sure the case is handled with the best possible outcomes.
What You Should Consider When Choosing a DUI Attorney to Represent You
When looking for a DUI attorney, the defendant should get a local attorney who is well-versed on DUI laws for the state in which the arrest took place. This is important since DUI and DWI laws and penalties can vary from one state to the next. For example, in the state of New Jersey, first offenders of DUI lose their license for 90 days whereas in Georgia, they lose their driving privileges for a full year. It is important that the attorney know the state laws in order to defend the case properly.
When looking for an attorney to try a DUI case, there are some simple steps that an individual should keep in mind:
- Seek out a professional attorney who specializes in DUI/DWI cases in the state the arrest took place
- Schedule an initial meeting with the attorney chosen – this consultation is usually free of charge to review the case and see if the attorney will meet the case’s needs
- Confirm with the attorney the costs of representation and if there are any situations that may cause the cost of representation to increase. Also see if any payment plans are available based on financial needs.
- Individuals should always try to meet with at least two or more DUI attorneys to insure the best possible fit to represent them in court
Taryn J. White is a legal research specialist and DUI law news reporter. Her current accomplishments include helping those facing any driving under the influence arrest charges, get free online assistance in learning how to fight a DUI case for the best possible outcome.