Drunk driving is a serious offense and if caught, you could be charged with a DUI (Driving Under Influence) or DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired). Once charged, you become involved in a complex legal process that may not be easy to navigate without professional help.
It might have been a small mistake that led you to start driving while you had some alcohol in your system. Getting caught by the police, however, can trigger a spate of legal hassles and be an absolutely traumatizing event. Knowing what to expect will help you maintain your sanity through the process, handle the situation better, and take the right steps to make sure you get minimum punishment.
Here’s what to expect when you are caught driving under the influence –
First, you will be asked to step out of your vehicle and take the Standardized Field Sobriety Test. This would include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg-stand test. If you fail this test, you will be asked to take a Breathalyzer test or provide a blood sample. Failing the field sobriety test and the Breathalyzer test will result in immediate arrest.
If the test results confirm the presence of alcohol higher than legal limit (0.08%), you will be charged with DUI and have to face administrative as well as criminal penalties.
Once charged with DUI, the officer will file the “Notice of Express Consent Affidavit” with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV will send a letter to your address stating that if you do not request a hearing within seven days of the arrest, your driving privileges will be revoked.
When this happens, be sure to request a hearing within seven days or your driving rights will be revoked on the eighth day. Take the Express Consent Affidavit to the DMV and fill out a form requesting a hearing. It is also a good idea to go to the main DMV office of your city instead of going to one of the smaller branches to avoid getting turned away and delayed.
The hearing request form will ask you an important question – do you want the officer present at the hearing? The answer to that question is debatable and depends on a lot of factors specific to your case. It is, therefore, imperative that you proceed with caution and seek legal counsel from an experienced local DUI attorney as the laws vary from state to state. If you’re a resident of Colorado Springs, for example, consult a DUI attorney in Colorado Springs to avoid problems later.
If you lose the hearing, you could be suspended from driving for 30 or 60 days, depending on the specifics, and will have to file for a reinstatement at the end of that period.
This part of the legal process involves the court and is more complicated and time consuming. You will be provided a date for your first appearance in court, failing which you will have an arrest warrant issued. The hearing will take place within 30 to 60 days of your arrest. When you show up for the hearing or arraignment, you will be made aware of the charges and penalties against you, and be allowed to make your plea. You will be made aware of the DA’s offer, which if you accept, will take the case to sentencing. At this point, you can choose to go for immediate sentencing, undergo a thorough alcohol evaluation from the probation department.
Should you reject the DA’s offer, the case will go to trial. At this point, the prosecution and your defense attorney will have an equal opportunity to present their cases and the jury will issue a verdict.
What a Good Attorney Can Do for You
A lot of people feel that hiring a DUI attorney is just added expense because if a charge is made, it’s made and nothing can be done about it. However, this is a huge misconception and not hiring an attorney is a big mistake.
Even if your offense is sure to be issued a guilty verdict, a seasoned attorney can do a lot to mitigate the damage. DUI cases are complex and the verdict can change if the recorded BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) wasn’t too high, if there is no past criminal record, and various other factors. An attorney can make sure you get the minimum penalty and get you free and back to driving sooner.
For those worried about the added expense, know that a good attorney can sometimes help you save money by minimizing legal charges, fees, and penalties. Many people have experienced that they ended up spending far more when they had no legal counsel.
Now that you know what can go wrong if you are ever charged with a DUI and what you can do to get yourself out of that situation, be sure to contact a good DUI attorney as soon as you possible if you ever get in trouble.
Author Bio: Christian Schwaner is a criminal defense attorney in Colorado Springs. He specializes in defending those accused of DUI and domestic violence, including active military personnel. He is a former Pueblo and Canon City special prosecutor, and former Deputy District Attorney in Teller and El Paso Counties. He has the experience to defend you, regardless of the charges you face.