Most people rarely have law enforcement contact, so they don’t think they need a DUI lawyer.
Many people make the mistake of thinking they don’t need a DUI lawyer. A typical person may get pulled over for speeding a few times in life, may be the victim of a theft of some sort, or witness some type of event the police are involved with. However, according to the Department of Justice and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, driving under the influence (DUI) crimes, are consistently the number one offense people get arrested for. In fact, more than 1.5 million people each year are arrested for some type of DUI each year. This is more than property crimes and drug offenses.
Some of these offenders are repeat offenders, but many are not. A typical scenario for my office is that a person who has never been in trouble with the law before, comes in to see me about an arrest the night before. They do not know what to do, nor do they know their rights. They are embarrassed and want to know what to expect.
The typical person will generally make a statement that they just had a few drinks and made a bad decision to drive. They typically say they did not feel drunk, nor did they know they were violating the law. Everyone always says that if they knew they were over the legal limit, they never would have gotten behind the wheel.
So, why does one need a DUI lawyer? Many people ask me this when they come to see me. Most people worry about cost, and some people know that a public defender will be appointed for them. If they are getting counsel appointed for them, why should they hire somebody to do what someone else will do and cost a lot less?
Let’s start with how a DUI typically begins. A peace officer stops a driver, believes that person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, investigates the case, and ultimately makes an arrest. The person who is arrested will typically spend several hours in jail and then released on their own recognizance. This means they are usually given a citation, much like a traffic ticket, with a court date to appear a few months later.
There are two tracks a DUI case takes. One is the administrative side, which is when the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) moves to suspend your driver’s license. The other is the criminal portion which involves the local District Attorney. The two are separate and have different standards and ramifications. A DUI lawyer can help with both.
The DMV only has a few issues they deal with. The standard of proof to prove their case is by a preponderance of the evidence. The results of the hearing either means your license is suspended or it is not.
The criminal portion of the case deals with many more issues. The standard of proof for the District Attorney to prove their case is higher by what is called reasonable doubt. And the results of a conviction can lead to jail time, fines, and probation.
In California, you have 10 days to petition the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to stop any suspension against your license. After a mere arrest, your license is automatically suspended after 10 days! Now, imagine you are not guilty, or that the peace officer made a mistake. Your license would be suspended when it never should have been. This is why having a skilled DUI lawyer to help you through the process is so important.
A public defender will defend you in your criminal case, but they do not represent you in the DMV hearing. In fact, by the time your case gets to criminal court, your DMV case will long be over.
Another purpose of the DMV hearing is that it puts the arresting agency on notice that you intend to fight the case. Before the DMV hearing, the police must have a report prepared and turned over to the defense. If you do not contest the hearing, the arresting agency is under no such obligation, and you automatically lose.
Another advantage to the DMV hearing is that you can subpoena the arresting officer and have that officer’s sworn testimony for future proceedings, more specifically for the criminal trial. There are many times where a peace officer gives conflicting statements either with testimony or conflicts with written reports. This may help getting a better outcome in criminal court.
Plus, a skilled DUI lawyer will be able to find the issues with a questionable DUI arrest. I would say that most of the time, people come to my office for help, the case that they tell me about the day after the arrest is not the same case we end up with months later. The reason is that the average person does not know what to look for and many times, they are not aware of the little things because so much is going on around them. A DUI lawyer can help.
Hiring a lawyer is the only way you will immediately get somebody on your side. You can demand a DMV hearing and fight the driver license suspension. You can prepare for your criminal case before charges are even filed. You will also let everyone know that you are fighting the case. The times after a DUI arrest are daunting and you should not face it alone. Contact our office today for assistance with a DUI charge or to talk to a DUI lawyer.