Have you been arrested for drunk driving? Now that the possibility of a conviction hangs over your head, there are some facts related to DUI charges and the legal process which you need to be aware of.
Let’s go through five of the most important points.
- Terms used for DUI cases
Some states use the term “driving under the influence” (DUI) and others use “driving while intoxicated” (DWI). Many states allow you to be charged with DUI and “DUI per se” – driving with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit even if your driving is not affected. If you plead guilty or if your case goes to trial, it is likely that one of the charges will be dropped.
- Pleading guilty or not guilty
The first step in most DUI cases is the arraignment where you appear before a judge to formally answer the charge. Regardless of whether you plead guilty or not guilty, you have the option to change your plea at any time in the case.
You can attend the arraignment on your own, but it is wise to seek legal representation for the rest of the proceedings. DUI laws are complicated and you will need someone on your side who has experience dealing with the laws in the state in which you are charged.
- Different approaches to your DUI case
Your DUI attorney will go over the options open to you after your arraignment. If you are unable to afford an attorney, then the court can appoint one for you – called a public defender.
He or she will outline your options as either pleading guilty to the charges as they stand or entering into a plea bargaining arrangement with the prosecution. Your attorney will also explain the benefits of either requesting a trial by jury or a trial before a judge.
- Plea bargaining options
The law allows you to enter into a plea deal at any point in the proceedings. One option is pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for less severe penalties. If there are multiple charges, you can bargain to plead guilty to one charge if the prosecution agrees to drop another charge.
You can also agree to accept the charges as they stand with the assurance that the sentence will not involve a suspension of your license or a high fine being imposed.
- Possible DUI penalties
The law takes DUI very seriously and the penalties imposed in a DUI conviction are meant to deter you from a repeat offense. These include jail or prison time for up to one year; thousands of dollars in fines; and having your driver’s license suspended.
You may be required to attend an alcohol treatment and prevention program or to participate in a victim impact program. Another penalty is having an ignition interlock system placed in your car to prevent you from driving while intoxicated.
DUI laws and details differ by state but the basic steps remain the same. By working with an attorney who understands the processes involved, you should get through your DUI with as little stress as possible and be able to move on with your life.