A drunk driving conviction can have far-reaching effects. However, if you have been charged, you may be able to prevent a conviction and avoid the associated penalties by taking proper steps after the arrest.
People charged with DUI commonly make mistakes that result in them getting the harshest penalties possible. It is important to be aware of these common mistakes – and how to potentially reduce the negative outcomes of a conviction.
Mistake #1: Not taking it seriously
A DUI is serious and may result in harsh punishments. If you are convicted, you may end up in jail, be required to pay thousands of dollars in fines and lose your driving privileges. Because of this, it is important to understand the severity of your actions and act quickly in the days following your arrest.
Additionally, there may be a short deadline to file a challenge to any proposed administrative license suspensions. An administrative suspension can preemptively result in suspension of driving privileges before you even go to court.
It is advisable to contact an attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you contact an attorney, the more time he or she will have to gather all necessary evidence to build a strong defense on your behalf.
Mistake #2: Talking to the police
Some people believe they can convince the police to drop their criminal charges. This can quickly prove to be counterproductive. The authorities can use everything you say against you in court, so the less you talk, the better. There is no punishment for refusing to talk to the police. It is highly unlikely that anything you say will help the situation.
During an arrest, you should exercise your fifth amendment right to remain silent. This will help you avoid saying something that could make you sound guilty or could otherwise work against you.
Mistake #3: Failing to hire an attorney
Even if you feel like your DUI is “an open and shut case” it does not mean you should ignore the benefits of hiring an attorney. If you don’t hire an attorney you undoubtedly be put on the spot when you get to court. You’ll be required to file a form waving your right to an attorney. Then you will find yourself in the unenviable position of being in front of a judge and being asked if you plead guilty or not guilty.
If you played guilty then you are putting yourself completely at the mercy of the sentencing judge. And it is highly unlikely that the judge will have all the information necessary to make a fair and informed decision. Additionally, not having an attorney sends the wrong message to the prosecutor, the police, and the judge. It may be misinterpreted as you not taking the case seriously.
More often than not an attorney can keep a first arrest from turning into a conviction with a deferred prosecution. This option is typically not available to an unrepresented individual.
And most importantly, an attorney can give you peace of mind over the intervening months between your arrest and your court date. An experienced attorney will be able to give you a reasonable expectation of the likely outcome when you get to court.
Remember that a criminal charge does not always lead to a conviction. You may be able to avoid a conviction and the penalties associated with it by taking proper steps after an arrest. A criminal DUI charge is serious, but you may be able to prevent its effects by talking to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.