If you have been arrested on charges of driving under the influence, here are some of the most common mistakes for you to avoid:
- Not taking the matter seriously. This is a charge that could follow you for years, and the Department of Motor Vehicles will keep it on your driving record for the rest of your life. You can lose your driver’s license, and the additional insurance charges alone could cost you thousands of dollars. If your license is suspended or revoked, you will have to prepay for an SR-22 endorsement on your insurance policy. Your insurance company must notify the DMV in advance if you do not maintain your insurance, and you will have to pay higher premiums based on your conviction.
- Not hiring an attorney. The law is complex, and you need skilled representation to raise the right defenses at the right time or you will most likely lose the case. Evidence can disappear, memories fade, and witnesses vanish. A winnable case can quickly become a loser. What should you do? You need an attorney who knows how to resolve the charges you face.
- Hiring an attorney based on the amount of the fee alone. The State has almost unlimited resources when it comes to prosecuting your case. You need to hire an attorney and pay a fee, which will allow him to put time and effort into your case to counter the prosecution. Attorneys must earn enough in the time they spend on your case in order to keep their doors open and make a living wage. If you go too low, you may end up with an attorney who specializes in guiding his clients to accept unfavorable plea bargains. Look for a reasonable, predictable fee, but not the lowest.
- Not obtaining a temporary license and requesting a DMV hearing within 10 days. If you do not request a hearing, you will not be able to drive until after a hearing or for 90 days to a year. Driving during this time is a serious traffic offense, and a misdemeanor carrying mandatory jail time, regardless of whether you need to drive for work or personal reasons.
- Driving after your license has been revoked. Driving after your license has been revoked is in many ways a more serious offense than your original charge. There are no provisions for you to drive for work or personal reasons, though after a period of time you may qualify for an interlock device. If arrested for driving while your license is revoked, you may have to post a $10,000 bond just to get out of jail. If convicted, you face significant time behind bars.
- Not requesting that the arresting officer be present at your motor vehicle hearing. If you do not request the officer’s presence, you will have to seek a subpoena or waive the option of having the officer at the hearing. The hearing will be based on the officer’s report only and the officer will not be called upon to testify. Having the officer present at the hearing gives your attorney the opportunity to learn a great deal about the case and can not only make it easier to fight the license suspension, but also provides valuable information for the criminal case. If the officer fails to appear or justify what was done, you may get your license back.
- Taking the District Attorney’s first offer. The first offer is not a bargain; it’s just to get rid of your case with the least amount of work. Very few cases are dismissed or reduced to a non-alcohol charge at this stage. You do not give the judge an opportunity to rule on Constitutional challenges. You give up your right to raise these issues and to make the State prove its case.
- Failing to appear in Court. The Court will issue a bench warrant for your arrest and revoke any bond. The next time you are stopped for a traffic infraction, you will be taken to jail and have to post a bond for your future appearances.
- Talking to anyone but an attorney about your case. You will get advice, some of it good, some of it bad, some of it based upon personal experience in other jurisdictions, or years ago, that may not apply in your case at all, from your family and friends, even co-workers. Don’t listen to anyone except an attorney experienced in DUI law. You can either choose a lawyer or risk the consequences of representing yourself. By hiring an attorney immediately following your citation, you are less likely to miss any important deadlines in your case. You will have someone to guide you through the court process. Judges won’t know whether they should protect your rights unless someone defends you. For example, overworked prosecutors may use reports from inexperienced or over-zealous police officers to prosecute a case. Defense attorneys are aware of these tendencies and are trained to handle such situations. If you ask the judge to let you be your own attorney, he or she must allow this in most cases, but this is not advisable. The best advice is to get a lawyer, and do it quickly. Remember, you must request the DMV hearing within ten days of your arrest.