If you've been charged with a DUI, you might wonder how this charge will affect you. DUI convictions can have lasting consequences, so it's important to get a lawyer to help you navigate your way through the legal process. There are a number of factors that can affect whether or not you are convicted and what your punishment will be. This guide can help you know what to expect if you are a first-time DUI offender.
Take the Charge Seriously
First, it's important that you take the DUI charge seriously. Many states and judges are cracking down on operating vehicles while impaired, which means that even first-time offenders might see harsher punishments than in times past. Even though most DUI charges are considered misdemeanors, they still hold a stigma in the legal system because of the damage that you could have done on the road while impaired.
Taking the charge seriously and showing remorse will only help your case in court. People who show they are sorry and willing to change can have alternative sentencing or lighter punishments. Remember that the lighter sentencing is an operation of good faith on behalf of the legal system. You need to be careful not to repeat the offense, because you could see even harsher punishments since your earlier remorse was false or not enough to effect a change in your behavior.
Most people also don't realize that it's possible to serve time in prison even for a first-offense DUI. Probation is the typical legal response, but probation can include incarceration time. However, your lawyer will try to help you avoid prison if at all possible.
Know Your Rights
Even if you are arrested and charged with a DUI, you need to recognize that you have rights. Your lawyer can fight the charge if you were not treated properly during the arrest, if the officer made a mistake, or if you were arrested on superficial evidence.
Know the Typical Punishments
You will almost always lose your license if you are convicted for your DUI charge. Your lawyer can help you argue that you need to drive in order to work or to go to the doctor. In these cases, you might have to get a steering wheel lock with a breathalyzer that allows you to drive after you blow into it. You also might have a restricted license, which might allow you to only use your car for work and for no other purpose. If you use your car for recreation or even to get to church on Sunday, you could face harsher punishments for violating the terms of your probation.
Other normal punishments for first offenders include providing community service and steep fines.
Understand Why Some Cases are More Severe than Others
Sometimes, even a first offense can be handled as a more serious case. Your charges might be elevated or the situation might be considered more serious if:
- You had a child in your vehicle while impaired. You would then be guilty of child endangerment, and you could face felony charges instead of just a misdemeanor.
- You had an open container in the car. This shows that you were drinking while driving, or intending to drink more, knowing the risks of being impaired on the road.
- You were drinking and using illegal drugs. Using illegal drugs while driving can also bring additional drug charges, which makes your case more serious.
- You damaged property or harmed others in a car accident. Whenever someone or something sustains injury from your actions, the case is more complicated.
You can talk to a DUI attorney in your area about your charges and what to expect.