Being arrested or charged with Driving Under the Influence can feel like a mere inconvenience, but DUIs are genuinely serious charges that can dramatically impact your life and future. DUI Defense attorneys have their work cut out for them shielding drivers from the worst of these legal consequences. This article contains important information and advice from such an attorney, including:
- When is the best time to hire a DUI defense attorney and what you need to share with them.
- How you should plea (or not) in a Virginia DUI case.
- Possible defense strategies and tactics to reduce the penalties and consequences of your DUI charge in Virginia.
When Should I Hire Or Contact A DUI Defense Attorney?
You should always get an attorney as soon as possible. Typically, most people call after they have been arrested and prior to their first appearance in court. That is good, but it is even better to hire one before talking with the police.
As soon as you are arrested and you talk to the police, you are making statements that they can use against you at trial. You want to make sure you say nothing to the police officer after you have been arrested. You have an absolute right to remain quiet until you speak to an attorney and you should exercise that right as soon as possible.
What Important Information And Details Should I Share With My DUI Defense Attorney?
To start with, you should tell your attorney everything that happened, where you were, what you were doing, the circumstances that led to your arrest, and the conditions at the time of your arrest. Every detail can be important, and you should leave nothing out, no matter how insignificant or irrelevant you think it might be. Let your experienced DUI defense attorney be the judge of what matters.
For example, you should speak to your attorney about timing. This includes how much time passed between when you were arrested and when you were given a breathalyzer, as well as the details of the process you went through while you were in the police station. These timing issues are critical when coming up with a defense.
Can It Help My Defense To Start Any Sort Of Alcohol Or Drug Program While My DUI Case Is Ongoing?
Whether you need to start a drug or alcohol counseling program before the end of your case will depend on the specifics. If you have an alcohol or drug problem, it is always recommended to go seek counseling.
If you have an issue and are seen to be addressing it, the court will take that into consideration when working on settlements or plea agreements. On the other hand, if this was a one-off incident, you might just need to take a driver improvement course, and the prosecutor will consider that when making a plea agreement.
At What Point In My DUI Case Will I Have To Enter A Plea Of Guilty Or Not Guilty?
After a DUI arrest and charge, you make your plea, guilty or not guilty, at the arraignment that usually takes place within a week or so of your first arrest. By that time, you should have your attorney hired. If you don’t have an attorney at that time, you can ask the court to delay until you hire a lawyer, or until one is hired for you if you cannot afford one.
The arraignment will generally be delayed if that is the case, and the next time you appear with your attorney, that is when you make your plea.
Will My DUI Defense Attorney Have All The Discovery Before We Have To Make The Plea Decision?
Discovery means gathering and reviewing all the evidence, including the evidence the other side plans to use against you. Generally, discovery will not be fully complete by the time you need to make a plea choice. That usually doesn’t occur until much later in the process.
Request for discovery has to be made and in most of the Virginia counties in this area, such as Fairfax County or the Prince William area, the prosecutors will provide the defense attorney discovery prior to trial. Usually, they will do so when you make a decision as to whether or not you are going to make a plea settlement or go to trial.
After I Enter A Plea Of Not Guilty In My DUI Case, What Are The Next Steps As We Prepare My Defense?
Once you make your plea at the arraignment, it is time to begin preparing your defense.
The first step will be gathering all the relevant evidence through discovery. Doing so will allow you, and more importantly, your attorney, to begin crafting the ideal defense for your particular case. That strategy will determine what the best course of action will be moving forward.
What Are Possible Defense Strategies Against DUI Charges?
Defense strategies vary based on the case, and no matter what your situation, there will be something worth trying. Some of the defenses you can use depend on the timing of the testing done to assess your blood alcohol content.
Other strategies might discuss any medication you may have been on at the time you were arrested. Finally, others will rely on assessing and calling into question the testing equipment that was used to assess your alcohol content at the time.
When And What Kinds Of Plea Deals Will A Prosecutor Offer DUI Offenders In Virginia?
A plea offer is usually made prior to the trial and heavily depends on which offense you are charged with. If this is your first offense, you are more likely to get a more favorable plea agreement.
On the other hand, if this is a second or third offense, the penalties increase dramatically with each offense. You are less likely to receive any type of plea agreement for DUIs you are arrested for.
What Criteria Or Circumstances Can Help My DUI Attorney Get My Charges Dropped To A Lesser Offense?
Your best chance to have your DUI dropped to a lesser offense is certainly on a first offense. Additionally, the prosecutor will look at your behavior with the officer. That can be a huge contributing factor toward making a plea agreement.
If you were polite and cooperative with the officer while maintaining your right to remain silent, that’s a consideration. The prosecutor will also, of course, take into consideration the blood alcohol level that you are charged with. For instance, if you are just barely at or over the limit, you are much more likely to get a favorable plea or charges dropped than if you had double or triple the legal limit.
Is It Always A Good Idea To Settle My DUI Cases With A Plea Deal?
Any criminal case is always inherently specific, so the factors that determine whether you do or do not want to make a plea agreement depend on what happened in your particular case.
One of the reasons having an experienced DUI defense attorney on your side is so helpful is that they can help you identify what outcome is in your best interest. If a plea agreement is in your best interest, your attorney can advise you to take it, if it is not, then they will advise you to go to trial and help you beat the charges there.
It may be in your best interest to make a plea agreement, but it also might be best to move forward and try the case. There is no one size fits all policy in law, and an attorney’s job is to identify the strategy which will work best for you.
What Criteria Help Determine Whether Or Not I Should Take My DUI Case To Trial Or Plea?
Every aspect of your case ultimately plays into that decision, which is why having an experienced DUI defense attorney is so important. Some of the most significant factors in determining your ultimate strategy will be your blood alcohol level, and when and how it was tested. Other mitigating factors may include your age, whether it was your first offense, and so forth.
Without a strong DUI defense attorney to guide you, you might very well end up making the wrong choice, the consequences of which could continue for months, even years to come.