We all know we shouldn't drink - even a little - and drive, but yet many of us have gotten behind the wheel of a vehicle after having had a drink or two. Indeed, in any given day, there are almost 300,000 drunk drivers on the road and sadly fewer than 4,000 are ever arrested, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Drunk driving also makes up the highest percentage of car crash fatalities (the others are due to speeding, driving distracted, and weather-related crashes). So what happens if you have a drink or two that puts your blood alcohol content above the legal limit and get stopped by a police officer? The most likely scenario is that you're going to get a DUI, in which case you'll want to seek out a DUI lawyer or a criminal defense attorney.
What Are the Penalties That Accompany a DUI?
Most states have extremely strict laws about driving under the influence and the penalties tend to range from state to state. However, in Virginia, even if it's your first offense, you could be penalized with a fine ranging anywhere from $25-$2,500. You can also expect to have your license suspended for a year and if your BAC (blood alcohol content) is higher than .15, you could also face jail time. Additionally, if your BAC was over .15, you'll need to install an ignition interlock device once you're cleared to use your license again, which forces a driver to be breathalyzed before they can even start their vehicle. A DUI will also go on your permanent record.
If this happens to be your second or third DUI, the fines will be much harsher - you could face up to a year in jail, a minimum fine of $500, and your license could be suspended for as long as three years, according to the Virginia DMV website.
How Can DUI Lawyers or a Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
A criminal defense attorney or specialized DUI attorney can help try and mitigate your sentence. In some cases, he or she may be able to get your charge down to a misdemeanor, which wouldn't go on your permanent record. If this is your first time with a DUI, this could be immensely helpful.
You're hiring a DUI lawyer or more generalized criminal defense attorney for their knowledge of the courts, these types of cases, and what rules to play by. They're well versed in the laws and what defenses might work, given your particular kind of case. They're also well aware of the consequences and what alternatives might be available to you.
They'll also be aware of specific areas of your case to pinpoint and/or challenge. For example, a regular lawyer might not know they could challenge a breathalyzer or sobriety test or be as up to date with the DUI technology used as a DUI lawyer.
Their intimate knowledge with the kind of prosecutors and judges you'll face during your hearings can also be fantastic inside knowledge you wouldn't receive otherwise.
How Do I Find a Top Notch DUI Lawyer?
Talking to friends and family is a great way to find a qualified lawyer in any circumstance. If they've used the lawyer's service before and been satisfied with it, that's a good endorsement - and you can also find out a bit more about the procedures involved and what the overall cost looked like.
Talking to your State Bar Association is another good way to go - they'll be able to offer recommendations to you and suggest potential attorneys in your area to choose from.
Once you've decided on a few, you'll want to give them a call and review their qualifications, experience, and ethical record, among other things. And lastly, you'll of course want to schedule an in-person meeting to suss them out, find out your level of comfort, and hear what their strategy is going to be.
If you should find yourself with a DUI charge, it's important to get a good DUI lawyer for your case, to help you navigate the process.