I got a DUI, what happens now?
What to Do When You’re Charged with a DUI
You see police lights flashing in your rear-view mirror and hear the nerve-racking sound of the siren signaling you to pull over. After a preliminary greeting, you’re ordered out of your car to perform field sobriety tests that are difficult for some people to pass under any circumstances. You’re then placed in handcuffs and taken to the police station for a blood alcohol test. Results aren’t in your favor, so you’re arrested for driving under the influence and booked. You either spend the night in jail or you post bail and find a ride home.
Being arrested for DUI (even if it’s not your first time) is a confusing and frightening situation for any driver. Over a million Americans are charged with DUI crimes each year, many of them unsure how to handle the situation. Many people charged with DUI are not guilty. Understanding what happens in a DUI case can ease the confusion and might also help you explain your situation to a DUI attorney.
Make a Good First Impression
If you see a police car behind you with its lights flashing, pull to the right side of the road at the next safe place. If there is no shoulder, turnout or other safe place to park your vehicle, continue driving at a reasonable speed until you can safely park. Some DUI defense attorneys suggest that you turn on your dome light as soon as you’re in park, and place both hands on the steering wheel so the officer can see them. Now is not the time to go rummaging through your purse or glove box. When the officer asks for it, find your license and registration. Keep in mind that everything you do and everything you say can be used against you, so don’t act suspicious or do things the officer might take as a threat.
Take the Chemical Test
You may be asked to submit to a blood alcohol content (BAC) test, which can be done by taking a sample of your blood, breath or urine. If you refuse the BAC test, your driving privileges may suspended or revoked immediately. If you choose to cooperate and take a BAC test, a BAC result above the legal limit may lead to your arrest, but that is not conclusive proof of your guilt. An experienced DUI attorney will evaluate both your stop as well as the DUI procedures used to administer your BAC test. Your case could be like other cases where positive results have been proven false or inaccurate. A good DUI attorney has access to qualified and credible experts who can review your BAC results to see if there are inaccuracies to use in your defense.
Bail, Hearing, and Arraignment
If you are arrested for DUI and required to post bail to get out of jail, it might help to locate a bail bond service. As a general rule, bail bond services will require 10% of the bail amount from you (this amount is usually nonrefundable) along with some security for the remaining 90%. The bail bond service posts your entire bail amount, so they will encourage you to appear for every hearing. If you decide not to appear for your hearings, the bail bond agent will have good reason to track you down.
During this stressful time, the clock is also ticking on your DMV hearing (also known as an administrative hearing). You may have only a few days to request a DMV hearing to try and avoid a mandatory driver’s license suspension. If you fail to properly request a DMV hearing, you may have limited or no right to drive for as long as a year even if you are later found not guilty!
Entering a Plea of Not Guilty
Your first appearance in criminal court will probably be your arraignment where you will be informed of the charges against you and asked to enter plea. This is an important time to have a lawyer on your side, since your lawyer may be able to talk to the prosecutor and obtain evidence or discuss possible problems with the case. If you do not have an attorney, you should consider pleading not guilty even if you think you are, just to buy yourself enough time to talk to an attorney.
After your arraignment, you should review your case with an experienced DUI attorney if you haven’t done so already. You are innocent until proven guilty. That means you do not need to prove you are innocent. Instead, the prosecutor must prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you plead guilty to a DUI charge, you will feel the ripple effects for years. A DUI conviction can impact relationships, employment, government security clearances, educational opportunities and more. However, if you exercise your right of innocence until proven guilty, you can proceed to trial with an experienced DUI attorney on your side. DUI cases are dismissed or reduced regularly based on technical, procedural or factual errors uncovered by knowledgeable DUI lawyers. Criminal defendants in DUI cases are acquitted regularly because the state cannot meet its burden of proof. Make sure you don’t sell yourself short—talk to a DUI attorney about your case.