Being charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) can be a nerve-racking experience. The truth is, many good, professional people make the mistake of underestimating the amount of alcohol in their blood when they get behind the wheel. The scarlet letter of being a drunk driver doesn’t have to follow you around your entire life. Many people who are charged with DWI sort it out, put it all behind them, and get back to their fulfilling and successful lives.
If you’ve been charged with DWI, you might be wondering what to do now. If this is your first offense and there are no circumstances that escalate it (such as having blood alcohol content above .12 or having a minor in your car), you might opt to go through the system without a DWI defense attorney. Here are a few other considerations you should take before going through the DWI process:
Should You Plead Guilty?
If this is your first offense and the evidence points to a guilty conviction (such as having a blood alcohol level higher than .11 and testimony from the officer of your unsafe driving), you might choose to forgo the cost of a DWI defense attorney and plead guilty. Before doing this, research the laws that govern the DWI penalties in your particular state, so that you know what you’re accepting by pleading guilty. Even in this case, obtaining a DWI defense attorney may be helpful, as they can give you advice on minimizing the severity of your sentence.
If your blood alcohol content was higher then the legal limit of .08 but less than .11, there could be room to claim that the reading was inaccurate. Hiring DUI lawyers to fight for your cause instead of pleading guilty is a good idea. Your DUI defense lawyer may be able to get the whole case overthrown, or get you a better plea-bargain than you would be able to get without a lawyer.
Consider Sentence Bargaining
Most states have a process for sentence bargaining. This gives you the opportunity to understand your sentences before you plead guilty, and possibly reduce it in exchange for your guilty plea. This is particularly useful if this is a repeat conviction, or your blood alcohol level was higher than the aggravated drunk driving limit of .15, indicating that you are looking at high incarceration times.
Tips for Finding the Right Attorney
Finding a good attorney to represent you could be the most pivotal factor in your case. A few things you should do before hiring attorney include:
- Look for a lawyer with experience with DUI/DWI cases. An attorney who specializes in DUI defense work will have the greatest knowledge of the DUI court system and how to get the best outcome possible.
- Contact several local DUI attorneys and ask about pricing models. Make sure to ask about any additional fees that could occur, so that you can make a fair comparison between lawyers. If it’s necessary, ask about payment plans or financing options that are offered by each lawyer.
- Schedule a (usually free) initial consultation with two or three lawyers that you are considering. Getting to meet the lawyers in person will help you determine who you will work best with, and who you have the most confidence in to represent you in court.