Knowing if you need a DUI lawyer can be confusing. After all, the consequences of drunk driving are severe, so it makes sense that many people might assume they need a lawyer. But not every DUI charge results in a conviction, and you don’t need to hire a lawyer for every step of the process.
Here’s what to keep in mind when you’re deciding whether you should hire an attorney to help with your DUI case.
Your BAC Level
In most states, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08% or higher. If your BAC is between .05 and .079%, you might still be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), but this is called “driving while impaired” (DWI). Some states have set the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers under 21 at just .02%.
If your BAC was below these levels when you were charged with a DUI, you may have a better chance of fighting the charge without a lawyer. That being said, having an attorney on your side is always advantageous, even if your BAC was below the legal limit.
Determine How Serious Your Case Is
Some states have mandatory minimum prison sentences for those convicted of a DUI. This means that a judge must sentence you to prison for a certain amount of time, even if it’s your first offense and no one was hurt in an accident as a result of your driving under the influence. Other states do not have mandatory minimums, but instead give judges wide latitude in determining sentences based upon the facts of each case and the defendant’s prior criminal history. If you face possible jail time, then it’s imperative that you speak with an experienced DUI lawyer right away. The right attorney may be able to reduce the charges or secure lesser penalties than what might be imposed by a judge or jury if you represent yourself at trial or plead guilty without legal counsel.
Get Positive Results From Negotiating With Prosecutors
A DUI attorney understands how to negotiate with prosecutors to get the best deal possible for their client. They may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether depending on the facts surrounding your case and if this is your first offense.
A DUI lawyer knows your rights. If a police officer asks you to submit to a sobriety test and you refuse, they may place you under arrest. However, if they do not have probable cause to believe that you were driving while under the influence, they cannot arrest you or test your blood alcohol content level. A DUI attorney will know if there was probable cause based on the facts of your case and help defend your rights.
A good DUI lawyer, can explain the charges against you and what they mean for your life. For example, he or she can tell you how much prison time you will serve if convicted and whether or not jail time is mandatory in your state. He or she can also explain the possible fines and other penalties you may face if convicted of drunk driving charges.