The right DUI attorney can make all the difference in your case. The best attorneys have an in-depth understanding of DUI law and defenses that the average person and even other attorneys don’t have. The ideal DUI attorney knows everything from what to do when you’re initially pulled over, what motions to file, what programs may be available and what options you may have if a conviction is going to be inevitable. In most cases having the right DUI attorney will lead to more satisfactory results such as better plea bargain or dismissal of the charges altogether.
The Initial Stop
When you’re initially stopped for a potential DUI violation you’re generally on your own. Law enforcement isn’t going to give you a chance to contact an attorney. It is important to know that you do not have to answer any questions or be made to undergo field sobriety tests. Admitting to any wrongdoing or giving the officer evidence of a failed sobriety test could severely damage your case.
At this point it is best to remain calm and politely refuse to answer questions or undergo testing that could be used against you in the future. Hopefully the officer will respect your choice to exercise your constitutional right against self-incrimination and proceed with his investigation.
Most likely the officer will next want you to take a blood or breath test in order to determine your blood alcohol content or BAC. If you’ve never been charged or convicted of a DUI before it would be advisable to comply with any request to test for BAC. There are two main reasons why it would be advisable:
- PennDOT will immediately suspend your driver’s license for one year for a first time refusal and 18 months if you’ve previously been convicted of a DUI or if you have previously refused testing
- Steep penalties can usually be avoided for a first time offender and tacking a yearlong driver’s license suspension onto an otherwise short suspension is detrimental to your everyday life
If you have previously been charged and convicted of a DUI in the last ten years things can be a little tricky. Someone facing second or subsequent DUI offenses are at risk for much steeper penalties, including the very real possibility of incarceration. Thanks to recent court decisions, the government can no longer punish you criminally for refusing a warrant-less blood test. In Pennsylvania’s three tiered DUI system, a refusal could result in your case being charged in the lowest tier. You would still be facing a license suspension of at least 18 months but you could also be trading 90 days incarceration and 5 years of probation for 5 days incarceration and 6 months of probation. There’s a big difference and the difference is even bigger for a third and subsequent offense.
Unfortunately the rules that protect us from being punished for not voluntarily allowing blood testing do not apply to breath tests or if the officer gets a warrant to test your blood. If you refuse a breath test or a refuse a search warrant for a blood test you will automatically be placed in the highest tier and still be subject to the additional license suspension for refusing. At this point it is generally advisable to comply with testing since your charges cannot get worse and you’d only be subjecting yourself to an extra suspension.
Court and Hearings
Prior to any court appearances it is extremely important to have already contacted an experienced DUI attorney. Unlike when you were stopped initially, at this point you do have an absolute right to legal counsel. It is here that the experienced DUI will look at the facts and pursue motions, programs and plea bargains that could benefit your case.
The prosecution needs to prove very little to gain a DUI conviction, they only have to prove that you were driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle and that your BAC was at a certain level or that you were intoxicated to a level that you were incapable of safely driving. This is where it is important to have the right attorney and why you’ll be glad you have the right attorney. Pretrial motions can be very important. A police officer cannot just pull you over because he feels like it, he has to have a reason to pull you over, and the best attorneys look at the initial stop and look to bring the fight there.
If the officer was law abiding and did not violate your constitutional rights and it’s not possible to challenge the stop other options may be available. Many courts have programs and each county is different. The experienced attorney will know these programs and how to get you into the right program. In addition, it is possible to get a plea bargain that will reduce the license suspension and avoid jail time or lengthy probation sentences. There are too many options to cover in one article but suffice it to say only the best DUI attorneys will know all of them.
If pretrial motions and plea bargaining have failed, you could be faced with the decision of whether or not to go to trial. Again, only the experienced attorney will be familiar with the rules of court and the rules of evidence. For example, allowing a prosecutor to introduce evidence that should not be admitted can be fatal to your case.
If your attorney fails to object to certain questioning or to the introduction of certain physical evidence, it will be too late to argue later that a judge or jury shouldn’t have seen or heard certain that evidence. Additionally, your attorney should be prepared to argue against the evidence that will be admissible. Again, the complexities of a trial are too much for one article but the right attorney is ready and able to challenge the evidence against you.
Collateral Consequences of a DUI have previously mentioned driver’s license suspensions, this is the most common collateral consequence of a DUI but there are others. The criminal court handles the adjudication of the case and subsequent punishment, other consequences of a DUI such as license suspensions or the possibility of losing the right to purchase or possess firearms are handled in the civil courts. It is extremely important that your attorney understand the difference and is capable of handling both sides of the case. Having the same attorney work on both aspects of your case can lead to a better outcome all around.
What if I Hold a Commercial Driver’s License?
This advice is doubly important for motorists holding commercial driver’s licenses. The stakes can be much higher for a CDL holder. Even the best plea bargain or program can lead to the suspension or revocation of a CDL. This is true regardless of the type of vehicle you’re driving at the time of the DUI.
Good Advice is Invaluable
Most people are going to feel more comfortable with their case and the process when they get all their questions answered and concerns addressed. It is always best to talk to talk to an attorney before you hand them your money. If you find an attorney struggling to answer your questions or address your concerns, you need to look elsewhere. Your rights and your life are too important to put them in the hands of someone who isn’t sure of themselves. If they’re unsure of themselves in their own office, imagine what it will look like in the courtroom under the pressure of a prosecutor or judge.
COUNT ON MOONEY
Why count on Mooney? The Attorneys at Mooney and Associates have the in-depth knowledge of DUI law and have used this knowledge to help countless individuals. The law is constantly evolving, the right attorney, the experienced attorney, keeps up with the evolution of DUI law. On the criminal side this means the legality of traffic stops and blood draws and options and programs such as house arrest, ARD or treatment courts. On the civil side this means the length of license suspensions and knowledge of the new interlock device laws that could get you back on the road much sooner.
Early involvement of experienced and competent counsel could be the difference for your case. If you find yourself facing a DUI, DUI related charges or any criminal matter, you can count on Mooney and Associates to be the right attorneys, the experienced attorneys, the attorneys that you know that you can count on.
If you have been charged with a DUI, or any criminal offense for that matter, you know you can count on and trust the Mooney Criminal Team. We have 16 offices throughout Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland. Don’t just trust anyone. The consequences are too important. Count on Mooney. Call today for a consultation at 717-200-HELP.