Being charged with a DUI is a scary experience. Will you lose your license? Have to spend time in jail? What about your job and having a criminal record? All of these scenarios are overwhelming and almost impossible to comprehend if you’re a first-time offender with no criminal record.
But a DUI charge does not mean your life is over. In fact, you have a number of options at your disposal that can help in having a DUI charge reduced or even dismissed completely.
So, what are your options? Learn more about DUI charges and your legal rights in this blog.
What to Do After a DUI Arrest
First and foremost, you need to find a DWI lawyer that has experience in handling DUI dismissals. You must ensure the lawyer you choose has skill, experience, and is aggressive enough to have your DUI charges dropped, or at least reduced.
A DUI lawyer will also help you to understand your legal rights in a DUI case which is extremely important for a successful outcome.
While a DUI charge can be an intimidating experience, you don’t have to plead guilty. In fact, you shouldn’t feel pressured into doing so as there are many ways a DUI charged can be dismissed. An experienced lawyer should brief you on all the possibilities before the prosecution can prove a conviction.
Bear in mind that many DUI cases do not make it to trial. You can enter a plea negotiation with the prosecution who will then decide on whether to dismiss the charge or offer a reduced conviction. Only the prosecutor is able to dismiss or reduce a DUI charge, as well as a judge.
What Are the Consequences of a DUI Charge?
If you’re a first-time offender and have no other criminal charges against your name, this generally plays well in your favor. But this doesn’t mean you won’t face severe consequences. Just some of these include:
- A monetary fine in the range of $500-$2,000
- Potential jail time — up to 6 months
- Community service — up to 50 hours
- The suspension of your driver’s license for 6-12 months
If you are a repeat offender, meaning you’re facing a second DUI charge, the consequences are a little more serious. This could include up to 9 months of jail time, a $4,000 fine, and a license suspension of up to 5 years.
How to Get a DUI Charge Dismissed: Plea Negotiations
You may have heard the term ”plea-bargain” before if you’ve ever watched any crime-based television series. This is the process most DUI dismissal cases go through. So, what does the plea-bargaining process involve?
Generally, the defendant (the person charged with a DUI) agrees to plead guilty to a DUI charge in exchange for reduced penalties. In some cases, a defendant does not have to plead guilty to anything if their lawyer can prove the case is worth dismissal. This means that plea negotiations can also result in a DUI charge dismissal.
In order to guarantee a dismissal, you must convince the prosecution that there is not enough evidence to file a DUI charge with the court system. Some of the most helpful factors that contribute to a DUI dismissal include:
- A clean track-record with no previous DUI convictions
- A low BAC — blood alcohol concentration
- Being a product/good citizen
- Being under the influence of prescription medication and not alcohol
Remember that every single DUI case is unique. There is no guarantee of having DUI charges dismissed or even reduced.
Common Reasons a DUI Charge is Dropped
Some of the most common instances that call for a complete dismissal of a DUI charge include:
- Improper grounds for vehicle stopping — if you know you were following the rules of the road and you were stopped for no good reason, this could be grounds for dismissal
- Illegal search and seizures — police need probable cause or a warrant to legally search your vehicle
- Illegal field sobriety tests — a field sobriety test may not be carried out correctly which could make the test and its results invalid
- Illegal chemical tests — when field testing equipment is faulty or specimens are tampered with, this is grounds for DUI dismissal
- An unconstitutional stop and search — you have to be properly alerted of roadblocks well ahead of time
- Failing to be read your Miranda Rights — before a police officer makes a physical arrest, they are required, by law, to read you your rights. Failing to do so can result in a case dismissal
If your lawyer can prove any of these instances, the prosecution may be willing to enter a plea bargain or completely drop a DUI case because they know their own case is weak.
A DUI vs. Reckless Driving
If the prosecution agrees to enter a plea bargain regarding your DUI charge, there is a chance it can be reduced to reckless driving. However, DUI arrests differ from one state to the next.
The reality is that drunk driving is a major issue across the United States, so sometimes, a charge of reckless driving may be your best outcome. But this is also dependent on the severity of your DUI situation, the prosecution, and the skill of your lawyer.
Just bear in mind that when you enter a plea bargain, you will have to plead guilty to drunk driving. This is generally the only way to reduce your charge to that of reckless driving.
When it comes to reckless driving charges, there are two different types of charges you could be faced with.
Wet and Dry Reckless Driving
When you are charged with wet reckless driving, this is related to liquids. In other words, wet reckless driving is attributed to alcohol. This charge is far less serious than a DUI, but a little more severe than a charge of regular reckless driving.
Dry reckless driving implies that you were not under the influence of a substance, such as alcohol, but were just driving in a negligent manner. It’s worth noting that you cannot be arrested for a charge of wet reckless driving. Its main purpose is to mitigate or reduce the charge of a DUI.
If you enter a plea bargain with the prosecution and they offer a charge of wet reckless driving, this is sometimes a best-case scenario. The reason for this is that the consequences of a wet reckless charge are far less severe than a DUI.
But in order for the prosecution to consider a wet reckless charge, there are a few crucial factors that must play in your favor:
- Your blood alcohol content must measure at 0.08% or lower for the prosecution to consider wet reckless driving
- Do you have any other DUI charges to your name or any other criminal convictions?
- Do you have any other charges that are pending or being filed against you?
- Did you cause an accident or injure anyone in your DUI situation?
If the prosecution is satisfied with all of these factors, they will most likely offer a charge of wet reckless driving. While the penalties are far less severe, you will still have to face certain consequences.
Some of these may include counseling, a chance of license suspension, a monetary fine, and license demerit points (generally, 4 points). It’s not likely that you will face any jail time or have a criminal conviction on your record.
How to Avoid Criminal Conviction
Naturally, the most worrisome part of being charged with a DUI is having a criminal conviction on your record. This can have a major impact on the course of your life. You could lose your job and struggle to find another. You may have difficulty obtaining financial aid, pass background checks for travel, and there’s also the stigma and psychological strain.
In order to avoid a criminal conviction, you have options with a DUI charge. You will have to abide by a set of stringent conditions. This includes attending DUI programs, also referred to as DUI diversion. During this time, you must complete a drug and alcohol education program. You’ll also need to undergo regular drug and alcohol testing.
If you successfully complete this program, the court or prosecution is often willing to dismiss a DUI charge and a criminal conviction.
Brush up on Your Knowledge of the Law
Facing a DUI charge as a first-time offender may be extremely difficult, but it’s important to remember that you always have options. Your best defense is a good offense — so hiring the right expert to represent your case is crucial.
It’s also wise to do your own research and understand the law, because knowledge is power! If you’re looking to brush up on your rights as a citizen and the many laws that could play in your favor, explore the rest of this site for more.