What are the steps after my first DUI?
Gone are the days when a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction would have resulted in a slap on the wrist. Increased pressure on legislatures by powerful lobbying groups, not to mention the increased focus on DUI deaths and injuries, has led to changes in DUI laws, which allow for more severe DUI penalties and fines for offenders convicted of DUI.
If you are arrested and convicted of DUI, even as a first-time offender, you can expect to pay high fines, often for several years, and face severe penalties, such as jail time, probation, community service and an extended license suspension.
With this in mind, it’s important to take the right steps after your DUI arrest.
1. Talk to a DUI lawyer
Some drivers are tempted to simply plead guilty to the DUI charge. Often, however, this is a mistake. Talk to a DUI lawyer. They can provide information about whether the police officer had probable cause to make the initial DUI stop, whether the procedures for the arrest were properly followed, and whether or not you may be able to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
Make sure to find a DUI lawyer who has expertise in handling DUI cases. Talk to all potential attorneys in person and realize that price is not the only consideration.
2. Understand the DUI laws in your state
Most drivers have very little knowledge about the DUI laws in their state. Often, their ignorance can hurt their DUI case, especially if they have made incriminating statements during their arrest. While there is not much that you can do about mistakes you have already made, understanding DUI laws after your DUI arrest can also help ensure that you make the right decisions moving forward.
Before pleading guilty for DUI, find out the penalties for a DUI conviction. How long is the possible license suspension and probation? How high are the penalties? What are the other long-term ramifications of a DUI conviction? Can the DUI conviction ever be expunged from your driving record? Does the state have enough evidence against you to get a conviction?
Knowledge is power. Get the right information and you can make an informed decision about how to proceed with your case.
3. Prepare yourself emotionally for the case and act
Although it’s easy to wallow in self-pity and become overwhelmed with the shame and embarrassment of a DUI arrest, it’s important to understand that you are not alone. Thousands of drivers are arrested for DUI each year. While this does not make it okay, self-loathing, depression and anger will not help your case.
Find friends and family members who can offer emotional support. Get the information you need to make good decisions, talk to a lawyer and act now. Doing nothing is not an option.
Finally, make sure that you do not discuss the case on social media. Although it may be tempting to comment about your case on email or Facebook, it’s never a good idea. Statements can be used as evidence against you.
4. Contact the DMV
Drivers who refused a chemical test or took a chemical test and had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than 0.08% will have their license immediately suspended (in most states).
In many states, however, this administrative license suspension can be challenged if a hearing is requested within a specified time frame—often as little as 10 days. Failure to request a hearing and win your case will result in an automatic license suspension.
Remember, the administrative license suspension is a separate action from the criminal case; the state can file against you and will proceed even if you are ultimately found not guilty of DUI.
5. Gather evidence for your DUI case
After your DUI arrest, it’s important to write everything down. Believe it or not, it’s often the small details that can help you win your DUI case. Talk to witnesses, document the type of questions the officer asked, your responses to those questions, what types of tests you took, and the reason you were stopped.
Talk to anyone who was with you the night of the arrest. Find out if they can provide information about how many drinks you drank or your physical state. Document the names of any witnesses who witnessed the traffic stop and arrest. Statements from witnesses can bolster your defense.
6. Consider whether or not you have a problem with alcohol
For many drivers, a first-time DUI is their last. Unfortunately, however, for other drivers, it is the first time they have been caught. If you have been arrested for DUI, it’s time to consider whether you made a one-time mistake that will not be repeated, or whether you have a more serious issue with alcohol addiction. If you have a problem, now is the time to get help.
Bottom line: A DUI is a serious charge and steps should be taken immediately after a DUI arrest.