A first DUI can be a devastating experience. It can cost you thousands of dollars in fines, jail time, probation, license suspension and more. It can also be a red flag for addiction and suggest that you may need professional help.
A conviction can also hurt your career, personal reputation and future job prospects. This is why it’s crucial to seek out experienced legal representation.
What You Should Know About the Penalties
Intoxicated driving is dangerous and creates a high risk for other people on the road. The state has enacted harsh penalties to discourage drunk driving and to protect others. A conviction can lead to a jail sentence, hefty fines, license suspension and other serious consequences.
A first DUI offense is typically a misdemeanor. The standard plea deal includes a minimum 24 hour jail sentence, fines, fees, urinalysis fees, probation and monitoring, counseling and/or education, Aftercare, a BAC IID and vehicle forfeiture in some cases.
An experienced attorney can help you avoid a guilty plea or get a lesser charge by showing weaknesses in the prosecution case and mitigating factors. It’s not possible to get a DUI dismissed in every case but it is very common for top attorneys to find ways to reduce charges and costs. The best way to increase your chances of having a DUI charge dismissed is to hire an affordable, local lawyer right away.
What to Expect on Your Arrest
The penalties for DUI vary from state to state. But even a first-time offense can lead to fines, license suspension or probation and/or community service. And depending on the circumstances, you may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle.
Upon your arrest, the police will give you a ticket or summons to let you know when to appear in court for an arraignment hearing. At this hearing, the judge will read the formal charges against you and you will have an opportunity to enter a plea.
The fines you will be facing for a DUI conviction will add up quickly. And if you are convicted, you will also be looking at significant car insurance rate hikes and costs for an ignition interlock device. An experienced local attorney will be able to help you consider your options for a plea deal that minimizes fines. They can also help you prepare for trial without costly surprises.
What to Expect at Your DMV Hearing
When a driver is arrested and charged with DUI, they are immediately given the opportunity to request an administrative hearing with the DMV. This will allow them to avoid an immediate license suspension.
During the hearing, the hearing officer (the person who decides your case) will consider evidence such as the results of any chemical tests or blood samples, and an officer’s testimony about the encounter. The officer will likely recount observations such as the motorist smelling of alcohol, having slurred speech, or performing poorly on field sobriety tests.
A first DUI defense can question any witnesses or rebut evidence presented by the DMV. It is important to note that because the DMV hearing is not in a court of law, there are certain types of hearsay that are not admissible in court. Your attorney will be able to evaluate any written discovery and make decisions about issuing subpoenas if necessary. This will include requesting sworn documents and witnesses.
What to Expect at Trial
Unless you waive your right to a jury trial, both the prosecution and your defense attorney will have an opportunity to question and select potential jurors. Both sides will also give opening statements.
The prosecutor will present evidence, such as the police report, blood or breath test results, and notes made by the arresting officer during your field sobriety tests. The prosecutors will argue that you had alcohol in your system and couldn’t safely operate a vehicle. They will also argue that you exhibited symptoms of intoxication such as slurred speech, unsteady walk, flushed face and erratic driving behavior.
You will have an opportunity to enter a plea at your arraignment. It is generally advisable to enter a plea of not guilty. If you hire an experienced Charlottesville DUI attorney, they may be able to persuade the prosecutor to drop the charges or accept a favorable negotiated plea agreement. If the case does not settle, you will be scheduled for a pretrial hearing.