Do I need to hire a lawyer after a DUI?
Getting pulled over on suspicion of a DUI can be an intimidating experience, and it is not entirely uncommon. Alcohol is a big part of our culture, and although it is highly recommended to avoid it when you plan to be driving, it doesn’t always happen. While nothing is guaranteed, you can generally avoid a DUI arrest and/or conviction by understanding your limits when it comes to drinking. In all states legal intoxication occurs with a blood alcohol content of .08%, impairment starts at .05%. There’s a chart that gives a general idea of what should be safe, but the only absolute is abstaining completely.
A drink is drink, and the chart reflects the typical alcohol content in beer, wine or hard liquor. The thing that matters isn’t which beverage you drank, but how much alcohol was in it. A single drink is considered to be
- 12 ounces of beer containing 5% alcohol
- 5 ounces of wine containing 12% alcohol
- 1.5 ounces of hard liquor containing 40% alcohol
The amount of alcohol is based on an average, not an absolute. Most beer contains 4-6% alcohol, but certain types can have as much as 17.5%. The alcohol content range of wine can go as low as 8% and as high as 21%. The alcohol in hard liquor ranges between 30% and 60%.
It is important to note that it is your weight, not your perceived tolerance that determines BAC. Impairment starts at .05%. Those under 120 pounds are impaired, by their 2nd drink according to the charts. Charts on BAC aren’t always accurate, but they do offer a general idea. Variables such as how much time has passed and food consumed play a role as well when it comes to how you metabolize alcohol. Erring on the side of caution is best.
It’s also important to note that not all DUIs are created equal. One thing that is always important is to know and assert your rights. Here’s some things to know
It’s not like you see on TV
The typical scene shows a driver swerving a bit, and getting pulled over. The officer asks a series of questions, and the driver politely answers everything and blows into a roadside breathalyzer. Soon he’s listening to his Miranda rights, a tow truck is being called, and he’s headed to the backseat of the squad car. If you get pulled over, you don’t want to be that guy. To avoid this, it’s important to remember that cooperation is relative, and not always required.
Here are situations where you do or do not have to cooperate
- Pulling Over When a Officer Asks You to Pull Over–
Yes, you must comply with the request and give the officer your license and registration if requested.
- Answer questions that speculate why you were pulled over–
No. As far as the officer is concerned you have no idea why you were stopped. Someone chipped the paint on your car? You’re invited to the annual police department gala? You didn’t want to hit that squirrel in the road? Beats you.You don’t want to suggest any of these possibilities to the officer, but you don’t want to give a play by play of your evening either. Don’t mention that you popped into happy hour or had dinner with friends or that you had tickets to the ball game. You haven’t been arrested so far. Your life is your business and the constitutes guarantees your right not to incriminate yourself. Just say no. Don’t elaborate. The officer might get irritated, but that’s his problem. Not yours.
- Answer questions that outright ask if you have been drinking —
No. Again, you haven’t been arrested and the assumption should be that you are innocent. Admitting to drinking relinquishes this right, and gives the officer probable cause. Actually lying isn’t a good idea, but you can tell the officer that you have nothing to say. Legally, you don’t have to say a word- before or after the arrest.
- Comply With a Roadside Sobriety Test–
No. The scene on TV has the driver trying to walk in a straight line, or standing on one foot, or touching his nose. Maybe he is blowing into a roadside breathalyzer. None of this is required, even if the officer says it is. The science behind it is also a bit on the shoddy side — a lot of people couldn’t pass these tests sober, and who drives while standing on one foot anyway? If you are told that you have to cooperate, be sure to make note of it. It is important information your attorney can use if you are arrested.
- Cooperate With an Actual Arrest —
Yes. Assert your rights, but still play nice. Don’t say anything rude, or anything at all. The right to remain silent is nothing to mess with. Keep quiet and follow the bouncing ball.
- Cooperate with a Breathalyzer or Blood Test After an Arrest —
Yes– Not cooperating at this point is a crime in itself, just wait until you have actually arrived at the station. The test will be more accurate, and the more time that passes the lower the actual reading will be.
Should You Hire a Lawyer?
Whether or not you retain a lawyer depends a lot on your situation. If you happen to be a victim of being hit by a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you would need to contact a car accident lawyer instead of a DUI lawyer. Consider these scenarios
- First Offense- Barely a DUI —
You may not need a lawyer if you’ve never had a DUI before and your BAC was just barely over the legal limit. Ask yourself if the arrest was really a fluke. Was driving after a couple drinks something that you normally never do, but made an exception because of a very special occasion or have you just managed to luck out.? Some people know they have been on the road impaired at times, and have just been lucky enough not to get caught. Hiring a lawyer is a judgment call. Some people prefer to plead guilty, fulfill the court’s requirements, and make sure it never happens again. If you aren’t completely confident you can do this, you might still want a lawyer.
- A DUI you were arrested for after your rights were violated —
In some cases, a person’s rights are violated by the police when an actual arrest occurs. A DUI attorney can often use these infractions to get the charges against you reduced or dropped. Ask yourself these questions
- Did the officer demand you answer questions you did not legally have to answer?
- Did he force a roadside sobriety test?
- Did he behave in any way that might constitute unnecessary force?
- Were you singled out based on your race or other reason not related to the charge?
If you answered yes to any of these, hiring a lawyer may be beneficial.
Your DUI comes with a higher BAC or one that is accompanied by other charges
Just a DUI is one thing, but if other things are tacked on such as
- Reckless driving,
- Driving with a minor in the vehicle,
- Resisting arrest
- a BAC over .12
you should involve a DUI lawyer who has an understanding of how the system works and has the skills to properly defend you.
It’s not the first time
Penalties for DUI increase in severity for those who are repeat offenders. An attorney can help you fully understand your options and can suggest ways to minimize your sentence as much as possible. This might include taking steps such as undergoing voluntary alcohol treatment, or it may be possible to retain limited driving privileges for the purpose of commuting to work. Your lawyer will look closely at your situation and make suggestions tailored to you.