The First Steps to Take After You’re Charged with a DUI
A DUI can have a long-lasting effect on your life. When you get charged with one, it’s important to focus on taking the steps that will get you back to a normal lifestyle.
Write down the facts.
In a legal case, details matter. As soon as you are able, write down everything you remember about what happened when you got charged with a DUI. You may not remember as many details later on after a little time has passed. Include details like names, location, conditions, things said, etc. You never know when these things might impact your case.
Importantly, be honest. If you know that you had a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level at the scene, don’t try to deny it. Instead, focus on correcting any exaggerations of your state. For instance, if the BAC is reported to be higher than what would be expected from the amount of alcohol you drank, that would be something to contest. (A BAC of 0.08% or higher is subject to much higher consequences.) Or if you were reported to have inebriated behavior and a disheveled appearance that were much worse than what you recall, you could contest that as well.
Find a lawyer.
Don’t just find a lawyer—find a good lawyer! Yes, the court will provide a public defender who may be available to you at no cost or at a lower cost, depending on your financial situation, but a public defender is also responsible for lots of other cases. He may be overwhelmed with cases and may have a limited amount of time to spend on your case or even a cap on the amount of time he can spend. Your chances of getting proper representation are much higher if you get a private DUI lawyer. Even if you plan on pleading guilty, a lawyer can work on getting a lower settlement or less harsh sentence for you. The financial investment is worth your freedom and future.
Contest the suspension of your driver’s license.
When you get a DUI, you are not only facing the court, but you are also facing the possible loss of your driver’s license. At the scene, the officer will take your driver’s license and give you a temporary license for 30 days. If you want to contest the suspension of your license, you’ll need to request a hearing with the DMV within 10 calendar days of your DUI. This part of your case is not related to the criminal charges issued by the court—it is only concerned with whether or not you get to keep your driver’s license.
However, the loss of your license can seriously impact your life. It could affect your career options, in addition to your general mobility. If you can, find a DUI lawyer within the 10 days so he can help you with your DMV hearing. He may be able to help you prove that your BAC was lower than 0.08% or that the alcohol test was faulty or something else.
Show up in court.
There is no benefit to avoiding a court hearing. Show up every time you’re asked to do so. Show up 10 to 15 minutes before your time of appearance and wear appropriate clothing. Dress up in business clothing, if possible, and avoid wild outfits, mini skirts, tank tops, open shoes, and T-shirts.
Always conduct yourself respectfully in court. Inappropriate behavior can result in you being held in contempt of court. Refrain from yelling, arguing, interrupting, and engaging in other disruptive behavior. Even chewing gum or yawning can be taken as contempt of court if an attitude is being exhibited.
Comply with sentences.
If you’re found guilty, the judge will assign one or more of the following sentences:
- Fines. These may be used to cover the cost of property damage and injuries as a result of your driving.
- Points to be added to your driver’s license.
- Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license.
- Attendance at a drunk driving school on your dime.
- Participation in an alcohol evaluation (to find out if you need help kicking an alcohol addiction).
- Community service.
- Jail time.
While none of these consequences are fun, the consequences of not complying are worse. Focus on your goal of completing all the requirements so that you can move on to better things sooner.
Find the right insurance.
Many times, your existing car insurance company will drop you when you get a DUI. When this happens, you’ll need to find an insurance company that is willing to cover you. You’ll also need to obtain an SR-22 form from your insurance company and maintain it for a minimum of three years. The SR-22 is necessary to keep your driver’s license from being suspended.
Getting a DUI is a big deal. Find a skilled DUI lawyer to help you get through the legal process so that you can get on with your life as soon as possible.