No one plans to drive drunk, risking injury and putting lives at stake, but nonetheless, it happens every day. If you find yourself in this unenviable situation, it is important to call an expert to defend you, someone who specializes in Driving While Intoxicated cases. While you may feel confident that you are competent enough to defend yourself, there are very compelling reasons to hire someone with expertise in the legal field.
Laws vary from state to state, so it is important to know the DWI laws in your state. DWI, also called Driving Under Influence, or DUI, carries some hefty fines and penalties, so it is best to know what you are up against if you are arrested for driving DWI.
If you believe that you are guilty and plan on pleading guilty to a DWI or DUI offense, you may not need an attorney. It cannot hurt, however, to consult a specialized attorney just to see if you might have a defense. If you would like to fight the case, having a DWI attorney may save you time, money and heartache in the long run. Many factors will come into play in your case, including the results of the field sobriety tests you were given and what your blood alcohol content were at the time of arrest. If you have been arrested for DWI previously, that will also factor into your case. When in doubt of your rights, consult an expert. Even if you feel you have gathered all the evidence and feel prepared, it will be helpful to speak with a lawyer in case you missed important information or to confirm what to expect if you are going to plead guilty.
If this is your first DWI offense and no one was injured, the consequences of the guilty plea may be less severe. And whether or not a lawyer is representing you, a guilty plea is by far the most common result in DUI cases. If someone testifies that you were intoxicated, or your blood or breathalyzer tests indicate your blood alcohol content to be at least .08 percent, or you failed the any sobriety tests when you were pulled over, your chances of being found guilty are much stronger. These are the biggest factors used when a prosecutor looks to get a DWI conviction. This is where an effective DWI attorney can be of immense assistance.
While you may feel educated and competent enough to attempt a plea bargain with the prosecutor, there may be factors that make an attorney a necessity. If your blood alcohol content is just above the legal limit, an experienced DWI attorney might be able to plea the charge to something that carries a lighter sentence, like reckless driving. Also, a prosecutor is more likely to strike a deal with someone who has legal representation since they do not want to take their chances at a trial if they don’t have a strong case. If you try to bargain with the prosecutor and cannot come to an agreement, he or she will have no qualms about facing you in court. And while you may be a master orator, a legal professional has perfected that sought after combination of legal knowledge, experience, and negotiation skills. Hiring a lawyer with a respected, tough reputation may be enough to dissuade a prosecutor from taking your case to trial.
Other than representing yourself or hiring a DWI attorney, your other option is to have a public defender represent you in court. The public defender is assigned to your case and paid for by the government. This option is available for lower income clients but if it is determined that your income is not low enough, you will have to opt for self-representation or you will need to hire your own attorney.
Driving While Intoxicated or Under the Influence is a serious offense; one that can carry some harsh penalties including the loss of your driver’s license, numerous court appearances, restrictive conditions like an Ignition Interlock device, and possibly even jail time. In addition, you may have to pay for alcohol education classes, fines and even restitution is there is another party involved. While these are financial setbacks, there is also the damage to your reputation—some employers will not hire or will dismiss employees convicted of a DWI offense. All of these add up, financially, emotionally and otherwise, so if paying for a sharp attorney can help you avoid the severe penalties assessed for your crime, it would be money well spent, especially if the attorney is able to plea bargain to a lesser charge.
If you don’t accept the deal offered by the prosecutor—if one is even offered—and you feel that you can prove your innocence, you may go to trial, generally one with a jury. You can represent yourself, you can be represented by a public defender if you financially qualify, or you can invest in a DWI attorney for your defense. The reasons for professional legal representation might not be apparent, especially if you have a knowledge of the law; however, you may be skilled at washing windows, but an expert would catch the streaks and spots you would miss. This is true of a criminal defense / DWI lawyer—he or she can review the facts of your case, gather evidence to present, and duly represent your case in front of the judge or the jury, if it is a jury trial. The defense attorney has seen it all, and he or she may have previous information from another case that may benefit your case. Since the attorney is also versed in the rules of law, they may be able to find a mistake made by police during your arrest that will result in a lesser charge or the charge being dismissed altogether.
Finding an experienced DWI attorney takes some work but it can be well worth your time in the end. Ask friends, family and co-workers for recommendations and research the attorney yourself. A good reputation and outstanding results are earmarks of an excellent defense attorney. Remember, however, that someone whose practice is dedicated to DWI/DUI defense will have the most experience, but he or she might be more expensive than someone who also takes additional types of cases. Arrange a consultation with the attorney and ask about his or her courtroom philosophy and make sure you are comfortable with the attorney. If the costs associated with the defense is too high, see if you can set up a payment arrangement. While the cost may seem expensive to hire representation, it can wind up being costlier WITHOUT representation.