If you have been arrested for DUI, you are likely wondering if you will need a lawyer to help you navigate the complicated legal matters you face. Hiring a Riverside DUI attorney is a choice that many individuals make due to the expertise these lawyers have. The legal nuances they may be able to employ can reduce their clients’ stress and potentially the severity of their punishment. So, just what does a DUI attorney do?
These skilled legal professionals are technically criminal defense attorneys who have specialized experience and training in cases involving drivers who have been accused of DUI. These experts in their field know the specifics of the unique DUI laws in the state in which they practice. In short, a DUI attorney helps their client understand the specific charges they are facing, help them to decide on a legal strategy, handle any administrative tasks involved with the case, and represent their client in court.
Some clients choose to plead guilty to DUI charges against them, but a skilled DUI attorney can often advise their client on the possibility of getting some of the charges lessened or dropped early in the legal process. In a pre-trial conference, the lawyer will negotiate the case’s specifics and sometimes recommend that their client enter into a sentence bargain or plea bargain. Other actions that take place in this phase include filing motions to overthrow clients’ statements if arrested and scheduling evidentiary hearings. The purpose of these hearings is to uncover any evidence that the prosecution may hold against the client. In the trial phase, a Riverside DUI attorney may assist with jury selection and gather expert investigators and witnesses that may be necessary to testify for his client. The lawyer will also attempt to bring any discrepancies in their client’s charges or the police actions used as a basis for the charges to light.
The primary benefit that most clients find in hiring a DUI attorney is that they offer peace of mind through their thorough understanding of DUI laws and have the necessary communication skills to negotiate with prosecutors while keeping the client informed of their options and rights. It is often difficult for an individual to handle all of the legal details of their case on their own, as there are many evidentiary details to consider and organize, as well as decisions to be made that an experienced DUI lawyer has the critical thinking skills to handle in the moment.
What Can I Expect From a DUI Attorney?
Many individuals decide to hire a DUI attorney because they don’t feel comfortable handling decisions that affect their freedoms without proper advice from a skilled professional. If you are debating whether you should hire a Riverside DUI attorney, consider why most clients feel more comfortable with legal representation.
- Negotiations with prosecutors. Attorneys typically have years of experience working with prosecutors, which most of their clients do not have. They are able to work with the prosecutors to find alternatives to jail time and decide on plea bargains that lessen the burden on offenders. When a client represents himself or herself, the prosecutor will rarely offer any options to the highest level of prosecution.
- Keeping on top of deadlines for legal filings. Failing to file requests for certain evidence of police misconduct and other legal motions in a timely manner may result in a defendant’s inability to make these requests. A skilled DUI attorney knows how to get all of the paperwork filed in time so that their client’s options are not limited.
- Knowledge of the local courts. Many DUI offenders have little to no experience in their local court system and don’t feel comfortable facing hearings and courtroom procedures alone. A Riverside DUI attorney knows the local courts and has experience with the judges and court rules that may prove to be invaluable for the case.
- Letting you know when it is best to remain silent. DUI lawyers know when it is best for their clients to keep quiet. They can also advise clients on taking the stand in their own defense, which can be disastrous if they are grilled by the prosecution.
- Getting a conviction expunged. One of the lingering negative effects of a DUI conviction is how it can affect future employment opportunities and even credit. A DUI attorney may help you get your conviction expunged from your record so that it has a less harmful effect on your future. The process of getting a conviction expunged can be difficult, but a skilled attorney has the knowledge to easily complete the procedure.
If you face DUI charges and have legitimate fears about your punishment and how it will affect your life, choosing a knowledgeable DUI lawyer to represent you is a decision you won’t regret.
Should You Get a Lawyer for a First DUI?
In most cases, a first DUI offense is a misdemeanor charge, which means that the courts will often assign a standard sentence. It may be difficult for an individual to determine if they have any chance for a reduced sentence if there is evidence against them such as failed field sobriety tests, proof of a blood alcohol content (BAC) that was over the legal limit, and witness statements. In these cases, many offenders choose to plead guilty. However, if you are facing severe penalties or have evidence of your innocence, a Riverside DUI attorney may be able to help.
If you feel insecure about how to proceed with your case or feel that there are aspects of your DUI like procedural errors or misconduct during your arrest that may decrease your punishment, having an attorney on your side is a great way to achieve the best result. There may be influential factors in your case as well, such as an accident while DUI or an excessively high BAC, that a DUI lawyer can sort through the details of to help reduce your sentence. When an individual has a DUI attorney, they often enter the courtroom with a sense of confidence in their legal strategy that they can’t achieve on their own. The following circumstances detail the reasons that individuals hire a DUI lawyer.
- Free consultations. Individuals who have not been involved with the court system in the past often feel that they don’t know where to turn when it comes to hiring a lawyer. However, most DUI attorneys offer free consultations where you can explain your case and get their opinion of your legal options. This will help you decide whether it is worthwhile to hire a lawyer, and your level of comfort with that particular attorney. You can choose to have an initial consultation with multiple attorneys, but check that it is free. Some DUI lawyers charge a fee for the consultation and then apply it to your legal fees if you hire them. Choosing another attorney in this situation will result in the additional expense of paying for that consultation.
- Getting advice and going to trial. One of the most important aspects of having a lawyer on your side when you face a DUI is turning to them for legal advice. However, keep in mind that after the initial consultation, any time that the attorney spends helping you evaluate your options may contribute to your total legal fees. If you choose to represent yourself in court, you are legally able to do so. If you have no legal experience, it will be difficult to attain plea bargains and navigate your way through the complicated trial procedures. Judges will not be lenient simply because you don’t know the details of the legal process.
- Plea-bargaining decisions. A plea bargain is a legal maneuver in which a defendant pleads guilty with the understanding that their charges will be reduced by the prosecutor. A Riverside DUI attorney knows the specifics of state laws and the likelihood of local prosecutors to offer plea deals. Circumstances that may contribute to this likelihood include improper arrest procedures (like the police not “advising you of your rights”), questionable BAC accuracy, and questionable results of field sobriety tests. If any of these factors create doubt about the validity of your DUI arrest, a skilled attorney may be able to plea your DUI charges down to a lesser charge, such as reckless driving. Sentence bargaining is another skill that DUI lawyers possess, and most clients are unaware of it. Since most judges hand down a standard DUI sentence, many individuals don’t realize that they may be able to get a lesser sentence if they negotiate with the judge.
- Attorneys are skilled in extreme circumstances. If you are facing a DUI that is more complicated than a typical case of being pulled over after having a few drinks, it is beneficial to have a DUI attorney on your side. There are situations in which a DUI may not be classified as a simple misdemeanor, and even a first-offense may actually be a felony. Some factors that may create this dilemma include DUIs that result in injuries, involve a child in the vehicle, or the driver has an extremely high BAC. Some of these cases may result in significant prison time and severe penalties. A DUI attorney is vital to ensure the best outcome in these cases.
There are various reasons that individuals choose to hire an attorney for their first DUI. Some want to minimize the damaging effects that the charges will have on their personal and professional life, while others feel that they were wrongly accused and simply want to do everything in their power to win their case. DUI attorneys reduce the stress that defendants face when going through a DUI because they are backed by experience and knowledge that most individuals do not have. The comfort lawyers provide when clients are struggling through such a difficult time makes it worthwhile for their clients.
Can a First Time DUI Be Dismissed?
In some situations, DUI charges may be dismissed before the case goes to trial. There are times that defects in a case result in the prosecutor dropping the charges on their own, but it is more common for a skilled DUI attorney to get the charges dropped through persuasive motions and arguments. It can be beneficial in some circumstances for the defendant to plead not guilty, as it may be difficult for the prosecutor to prove guilt. The district attorney may lack sufficient evidence to back the charges, or the police may have failed to follow standard procedures. If charges are dismissed by a judge or a prosecutor, the defendant may carry on without criminal charges on their record. Some of the common reasons for dropping charges in a DUI case include:
- A DUI stop is illegal or unconstitutional
- The defendant was not informed that they have the right to speak with an attorney upon arrest
- Issues with chemical tests, including broken chain of custody, failure of officers to explain the defendant’s rights, or failure of authorities to comply with testing machine inspections
- Illegal or invalid field sobriety tests
- Failure of officers to have probable cause or a warrant to search a vehicle for signs of DUI, which is a violation of the Fourth
Amendment, also known as illegal search and seizure
- Traffic stops in which the police did not have a sufficient reason to pull you over
DUI attorneys can sometimes get chemical test results thrown out or provide another defense that gets charges dismissed. This benefits clients, as it may help them avoid license suspension, increased auto insurance rates, jail time, and other penalties.
How Likely Is Jail Time for a First DUI?
Every DUI case is different. The details of your case, along with a strong defense, will determine whether or not you are sentenced to jail time. A typical first-offense DUI in California is a misdemeanor charge, which means there are standard punishments that judges typically try to adhere to with each case. Some of these include:
- License suspension. In most first-offense DUIs, the defendant will lose their driver’s license for six months. In some cases, a driver may lose their license for a year if they refuse a blood alcohol test. There are circumstances in which an individual may apply for a restricted license that allows them to drive for essential reasons like school or work. If this license is granted, the individual will have to get an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle before driving. In cases where the defendant loses their license, they will be required to have this device installed for up to six months upon reinstatement of their license.
- Fines. The standard fines in a DUI case range between $390 and $1000, but penalty assessments added by the courts typically add up to thousands of dollars that the driver has to pay.
- Probation. The informal probation period that is typically assigned in a first DUI case is three years, although it may be up to five years. During probation, the individual will need to complete a 30-hour, three-month DUI school program. In situations where the individual’s BAC was higher than .20%, DUI school will be a 60-hour, nine-month program.
- Jail time. If an individual is sentenced to jail time for a DUI, that sentence may range from two days to six months. A skilled DUI attorney can help to ensure that a judge assigns probation instead of a prison sentence.
Should You Plead Guilty to a DUI?
As mentioned above, every case is unique, but individuals generally find that it is in their best interests to not plead guilty to a DUI charge. Many factors may influence your DUI case, and an experienced DUI attorney can help you sort through the details of your arrest to plan the most effective strategy for your defense. DUI cases are often won by defendants who have the knowledge of an experienced attorney behind them. Many times, individuals choose to plead guilty because they know that they did, in fact, drink alcohol before they got behind the wheel. Simply put, they plead guilty because they feel that they were guilty. However, the defendant’s actions alone are not the only influences on the outcome of a DUI case.
The actions, or in some cases, police officers’ inaction, is another powerful influence on the result of DUI charges for the defendant. Factors that the courts must consider when a defendant pleads not guilty to a DUI charge include:
- Whether the officer who administered the breathalyzer test was properly trained and whether the breathalyzer was correctly calibrated and maintained
- An arresting officer who provided the defendant with bad advice or misleading information such as that regarding whether or not they can refuse a breathalyzer test
- Factors affecting the proper conduct of field sobriety tests, including:
- A driver who lacks the physical coordination to pass a test due to physical handicaps or health issues
- A defendant wearing improper footwear, bad lighting, poor surface conditions, bad weather conditions, and officer intimidation.
If these or any other factors apply to a DUI arrest, a skilled Riverside DUI attorney may be able to fight for a case dismissal or reduced charges for their client. For this reason, guilty pleas are often discouraged in DUI cases.