An arrest for driving under the influence results in some serious short- and long-term consequences. Your vehicle will be towed, and the police will take you to jail. You might have to spend the night in jail to get sober, and the consequences continue to mount after your release. Immediate consequences include the following:
• A judge or magistrate could require that you post a bond to get out of jail
• If you refuse to take a field-sobriety, Breathalyzer or blood-alcohol test, many states will suspend your right to drive immediately
• The average cost of getting a DUI runs $10,000
• You will need to appear in court to answer the charges
• Many states impose mandatory jail time
Other Consequences of DUI Convictions
Conviction could result in losing your license, probation, jail time and driving restrictions, so getting legal representation is essential to safeguard your rights. Your job could be at stake due to a conviction or inability to drive. Most states require that you file an SR-22 to prove that you have insurance, but many companies will cancel your policy or raise your rates if you are convicted of driving under the influence. Other possible results of a DUI conviction include:
• A significant fine, legal fees and costs of posting bail.
• Mandatory driving classes or drug and alcohol treatment
• Liability in automobile accidents caused while driving intoxicated
• Installation of a Breathalyzer device on your automobile to start it
Strategy for Getting Stopped by Law Enforcement
Police can pull you over for a variety of reasons including nonfunctional signals, swerving and other signs of impairment. If you feel you have been targeted unfairly, you can try to get the judge to suppress evidence in court, but you need to cooperate with officers. Every move you make after being pulled over is scrutinized and possibly recorded. If you admit to having a beer or two, then officers may use this common admission to probe further. You must submit to any field or blood-alcohol tests or face additional charges and possible immediate loss of your driving privileges.
The best strategy is cooperation and telling the truth because getting caught in a lie will make things worse. Possible actions of the police include:
1. Searching your car for alcohol or drugs
2. Putting you through field sobriety tests such as walking a straight line, touching your nose with the tip of your finger and counting backwards
3. Taking a preliminary breath test to determine probable intoxication
4. Filming your actions to use in court
5. Taking your pulse if drug use is suspected
Dealing with Defense and the Aftermath of a DUI Conviction
The key to fighting charges is understanding the state’s DUI laws, exceptions and loopholes. Possible defenses for driving under the influence include:
• Challenging a field sobriety test
Police officers almost always feel that drivers fail these tests. The flashing lights and seriousness of the issue divide people’s attention and ruin concentration.
• Challenging BAC machines
Breath machines must be calibrated, and people have different breath-to-blood-alcohol percentages than the commonly assumed ratio of 2,100 to 1. Temperature can also affect the results.
• Proving that the officer’s reasons for stopping you weren’t justified
Officers occasionally stop drivers without legal grounds, and if this is the case, you can ask the judge to suppress any evidence that resulted from the stop.
• Fighting refusal to submit to a test
Refusing to submit to a test can be as fraught with consequences as a DUI, but you can fight the charge by showing that the officer’s explanations were confusing or misleading.
• Proving a sudden mechanical or medical problem
Erratic driving could be caused by a sudden failure in your car’s mechanical systems and/or electronics, or even road conditions. You can provide alternative explanations for bloodshot eyes and slurred speech such as a cold, allergy or sleep deprivation.
If convicted, you face fines, possible jail time, loss of your job and mandatory driving education or drug and alcohol evaluation. Details might include the following scenarios:
• Going to drunk driving school
Most states require some form of education for first-time DUI offenders. You will have to pay for the classes and pass a test before getting your license back.
• Drug and alcohol evaluation
Getting evaluated requires that you answer a series of questions about your lifestyle and how drugs and alcohol affect your life. Counselors might further require that you go through a treatment program.
• Going to jail
The judge might require that you go to jail. You could also get probation or a modified sentence that allows you to report on weekends.
More than 1.4 million people are arrested for first-time DUI offenses each year. They share the regret of getting caught and shame at being exposed, but dealing with the practical issues in an organized way is essential for minimizing consequences and getting your life back in order.
Michael Rothman is a Maryland DUI Lawyer from the Law Offices of Michael S. Rothman. Rothman provides legal representation in Federal and State courts and provides legal advice in the areas of criminal defense.