What Happens After a DUI Arrest & How Can You Navigate the Process?

Being arrested for suspected drunk driving is a scary process, with potentially life-altering consequences. The following information will help you plan your course of action, to hopefully attain the most positive results for your case.

When You Plead Guilty

If there is overwhelming evidence against you, or if you and your attorney feel it's in your best interest to plead guilty, you still have options available to you. Pleading means being able to negotiate with the prosecuting attorney's office, depending on the severity of your offense(s) and the consequences related to your drunk driving. You should be able to relay your remorse, not just for any damage or physical harm, but for your failure to follow the law.

Additionally, offer to enroll in a rehab program or join Alcoholics Anonymous, voluntarily. This will demonstrate your desire to change and learn from your mistakes. It could also show the prosecutor that you're not likely to be a repeat offender, since you are prepared to take actionable steps to prevent alcohol abuse in the future. When seeking any degree of leniency from prosecution, be prepared to take full responsibility for your actions and to actually commit to the rehabilitative process.

If Your License Is Suspended

Depending on the laws of your state and whether or not this DUI is your first, you may face losing your license. While this is typical of most drunk driving convictions, specific circumstances might permit you to circumvent suspension:

A Hardship License: If you have no other means of getting to and from work, school, necessary doctor's appointments and other important places than driving, ask your DUI lawyer about applying to your state's Department of Motor Vehicles for a Hardship License, which would allow you this vital transportation, but nothing more. If you can show the need to drive and agree to limit your time behind the wheel to only these necessities, you might be granted these special driving rights.

Temporary Driver's Privileges: According to due process, you might be allowed to drive between the time of your arrest and the time of your conviction or during an appeal; however, pleading guilty is likely to include a voluntary surrender of your driving privileges unless otherwise fought for and won by your attorney. Therefore, consider this aspect of your case as you prepare your plea, to include the driving that is necessary to your ability to survive and sustain yourself.

If you must face suspension, it should be for a finite period of time and you may be required to pass a test and pay fees to have your license reinstated once that period has passed.

Fight to Prove Your Innocence

If you are innocent or otherwise, simply wish to fight the charges against you, there are many ways in which you can accomplish this goal. While it all starts with an experienced attorney, consider taking the following steps to aid in the process of fighting charges in court:

Gather Evidence: Obtain the testimony of reliable witnesses, including those who may have been at the scene or your arrest and those who can attest to the fact that you're a responsible person, one who doesn't drink (if that's the case) or one who may have been on prescription medication at the time of the incident. A doctor or other medical professional can demonstrate the effects of certain drugs, sleep deprivation, stressful times or even pre-existing conditions that may lead law enforcement to erroneously conclude a person is intoxicated, such as Tourette's Syndrome, seizures or some physical disability or impairment.

Scrutinize The Steps Taken By Officers: Your lawyer will ask you about the arrest process, the paperwork involved, breathalyzer, field-sobriety test and more; it's important that you accurately relay all the details of the event in a factual manner. While it can be difficult to question the validity and valor of police, it's certainly not impossible, but the only way to successfully do so is to work cooperatively with an attorney.

Request A Copy Of Police Video: The police may have recorded material from their encounter with you, either on the road or in the station, which could be helpful in proving your innocence. However, they may not retain that material indefinitely and it behooves you to obtain this video in advance of court proceedings. Maybe your actions were misinterpreted or some violation of your rights took place that can help your lawyer win the case; either way, getting your hands on all materials, including video, should be immediate.

Successfully fighting a DUI charge means working in symphony with a good lawyer, as well as being on your best behavior. Avoid any location or circumstance which could be perceived as irresponsible by a prosecutor, such as hanging out at bars, with people who consistently disregard the law or bragging about your case in public. Be on your best behavior at all times and act like you have a lot on the line, because you do. 

Future Driving

Hopefully, you can put the DUI incident in your rear view mirror quickly, whether you choose to fight it or not. In the future, it's crucial that you drive in such a manner as to avoid even the suspicion of misconduct:

  • Vehicle Maintenance: Don't drive with a taillight out, for example, and be sure to turn your headlights on at the first sign of dusk.
  • Designated Drivers: Above and beyond the threat of legal prosecution, designated drives save lives and should always be utilized when alcohol is consumed.
  • Social Media Responsibility: Particularly if you live in a small town where you're often under close scrutiny, avoid posting "funny" memes about partying on your social media as these can easily be misconstrued by others as glorification of alcohol and disregard for the consequences of abusing it.
  • Moderation of Alcohol: If you were guilty of driving under the influence, reflect on how this situation came about and what you should do now because of it. Over 23% of American adults admit to one or more heavy drinking days per year, but it only takes one night to destroy your life or even to end it or someone else's. If your drinking is cause for concern, do something about it.

A drunk-driving arrest can easily turn your entire life upside down, perhaps even irreversibly. Take a good look at the situation you're facing, seek the advice of a qualified attorney and understand the gravity of it all before planning your next move.

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