Facing a charge of driving under the influence in California can be overwhelming. When people take a chance and go to court without adequate representation, they are forcing themselves to navigate a complex legal system alone. A DUI arrest carries significant penalties and life-long ramifications. Having a skilled, experienced DUI defense attorney by your side is the best way to protect your rights and mitigate the consequences.
Do I Need a DUI Defense Lawyer for My First DUI Charge?
Any DUI conviction can have serious and lasting implications for your future. While a third and fourth DUI offense may carry the harshest penalties, even a first-time DUI conviction can result in time in prison. Having a skilled DUI defense lawyer by your side is critical.
Protect Your Rights
While a California DUI lawyer has many advantages, one of the most important duties is to protect your rights. Most Americans understand their fundamental rights. However, keeping up with the various nuances of the law and changes to the statutes requires a great deal of time and study.
Having experienced representation during a first DUI charge can help guide you through the process and explain your rights and how they are affected during each step. For example, your attorney will likely go over the circumstances of your arrest to make sure it was lawful. Some questions they may investigate include:
- Was the traffic stop constitutional?
- Did the officer have reasonable suspicion to pull you over?
- Was the chemical test administered and obtained properly?
- Was the breathalyzer well-maintained and in proper working order?
- Did the officer conduct the field sobriety test according to standard, or were there inconsistencies?
- Can the credibility of the arresting officer be questioned?
You have certain rights under the California State Constitution. There is never an excuse for an officer of the law to violate those rights. If a DUI attorney in Los Angeles can find any irregularities in the arrest, they may be able to have evidence suppressed, or the charges dismissed.
Motion to Dismiss Charges
The number one goal of a DUI defense attorney is to have your charges dismissed. Even a lesser DUI conviction or plea deal can damage your reputation, career, and future prospects. However, your record will remain clean if a lawyer can have the DUI charges dismissed.
An attorney can file a motion to dismiss charges under certain circumstances, including:
- You were unlawfully detained
- Your constitutional rights were denied or violated
- There was no probable cause
It should be noted that the successful dismissal of charges does not necessarily mean you are in the clear. For instance, if you are charged with multiple offenses, the judge may only dismiss one or two of the charges. In addition, the prosecutor could choose to gather more evidence and file the same charges against you in the future. Having a skilled lawyer able to negotiate with the prosecutor could prove crucial to your case.
Negotiations with the Prosecutor
Criminal cases have many variables. While most people would prefer DUI charges to simply go away, that is not always possible. In some cases, it may be in your best interests to plead guilty.
If the prosecution has a particularly strong case, a defense attorney can negotiate to mitigate the consequences. For example, suppose you have multiple DUI offenses and are facing the following penalties:
- More than a year in state prison
- Life as a convicted felon
- Thousands in penalties and fees
- Years of driver’s license suspension
A DUI lawyer in Los Angeles may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the charges. By mounting a strong defense, the prosecutor may be encouraged to negotiate a felony DUI down to a misdemeanor.
What Happens if I Go to Court for a DUI without a Lawyer?
Navigating the court system without representation is never recommended. Even the founding fathers believed self-representation was not advisable and included the right to representation in the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is severely punished in California. A first DUI offense can result in time in jail and a misdemeanor on your record. Higher offenses can be charged as a felony and require sentencing in state prison.
In California, DUI conviction rates are high. According to the annual report from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for the state, DUI conviction rates for the last three reporting years are as follows:
With such high conviction rates, it is in the best interests of offenders to seek experienced representation.
What Should I Do Before I Hire a DUI Defense Attorney in California?
There are important steps to take before hiring a DUI defense lawyer in California, including:
- You do not have to plead guilty: Never assume that a DUI case can be proven. Regardless of what the arresting officer says, you do not have to plead guilty. Wait and speak to an attorney.
- Know your arrest facts: The more knowledgeable you are about your arrest, the evidence, and how DUI charges work, the better. Do not hesitate to ask for the police report, gather evidence, and research online.
- Timing is key: In any criminal case, the sooner a defense attorney can be involved, the better chance you have of a successful outcome. Take advantage of consultations and choose a Los Angeles DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.
- Get a case evaluation: Every DUI arrest is different. A DUI attorney can analyze the details of your case and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses to better strategize a defense or negotiate the charges down.
Your Best Bet Is to Contact an Attorney Today
It is worth getting the legal advice of an experienced DUI lawyer in California. The decisions made early in your case can have profound implications for the rest of your life. Seek the counsel of our California DUI defense attorneys today and schedule a consultation.