Should I Get a Lawyer for My First DUI?
If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol for the first time, it was probably one of the most traumatic experiences of your life. And now, you most likely have a lot of questions. The first one most likely being, “should I get a lawyer?” Even if you boast a perfectly clean driving record going into your arrest, the answer is still YES. Drunk driving crimes are taken very seriously in Pennsylvania, so if you’re a first-time offender, here are some of the main reasons why you need to get a lawyer today.
To Get Answers to Your Questions
Even if you’ve had friends or family who has been convicted of a DUI in the past, every case is different. You’ll have questions that need answers based on your specific circumstances. Without prior experience in the court system, it’s normal to be scared, and an experienced attorney can help ease your concerns by providing you information and guiding you through the process.
As a first-time DUI conviction, you may have more options available to you than in a repeat case, such as a disposition program to avoid a criminal record. It’s important to understand the various scenarios and details of these options, but you’ll be expected to decide quickly. Trying to make these decisions on your own could cost you in the long run.
To Protect Your Rights
By hiring a lawyer right away, they can examine the specific details of your case to determine any possible defenses on your behalf. You have rights under the state and federal law, ensuring that law enforcement handled the initial stop and arrest properly. Your lawyer will be able to catch any of these violations to give you the best possible outcome for your case.
Common defenses involve the following:
- The credibility of the officer who arrested you
- Whether or not the initial traffic stop was constitutional – did they have reasonable suspicion to stop you? Were you read your rights?
- Ensuring the police obtained consent for DUI testing
- The accuracy of the testing equipment used due to lack of maintenance or calibration
- Whether or not the proper testing procedure was followed – observing you for 20 min before testing you, testing within 2 hours of driving the car, etc.
A number of these circumstances could mean for dismissal of the case, so make sure you are working with an attorney who is experienced in DUI crimes.
To Minimize the Consequences You’ll Face
Under state law, the severity of penalties depends on a multitude of factors, including whether it’s a first-time or repeat offense, your blood alcohol concentration level (BAC) at the time of the arrest, and if any injuries or fatalities were a result of the defendant’s condition. While being a first time-offender does help your case, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. It does, however, generally give you more options under the law in terms of your penalties. This may involve Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program which may allow for expungement of the crime from your record upon completion.
Other potential penalties and consequences you may face with a DUI charge include:
Anything over the legal limit could result in fines of $300-$5,000
- Jail Time
A BAC of over 0.10 for a first-time offender allows for up to 6 months in jail
- Suspension of Driver’s License
If BAC is over 0.10 or you refused a test, your license could be suspended for a year; that includes losing a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) or work.
- Insurance Rate Increases or Unattainability
A DUI may result in higher limits of insurance and more expensive coverage
- Employment Implications
Many employers have policies against employing or hiring anyone with a DUI conviction:
- Increased Penalties in the Future
Due to Pennsylvania’s 3-tiered sentencing guidelines, any second offense you face will be much more severe than the first
- Drug & Alcohol Treatment
You may be forced to undergo drug and alcohol education or treatment, as well as community service if a minor was in the vehicle
- More Severe Penalties
If there was collateral damage as a result of your DUI, including injuries or fatalities, you’ll be faced with much more serious penalties, as well as possible lawsuits from the victims
If you’ve recently been arrested for a DUI, don’t wait any longer to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Whether you’re a first-time or repeat offender, our lawyers will fight to protect your rights and minimize your consequences. Contact us for a free consultation today.