You’re out with friends or co-workers for happy hour. You get in the car and begin to drive home. Police lights flash and you pull over. A light in your face. License, proof of insurance and registration. A roadside evaluation and a Breathalyzer test. You are Mirandized and put in the back of the squad car. Mug shots, fingerprints, jump suit, drunk tank.
You’re charged with driving while intoxicated. Do you call a lawyer?
A number of factors
The easy answer is yes, you should call a lawyer. You are in legal trouble. An attorney can help you parse through the details of the arrest, booking, even the tests performed to determine if you can avoid the charge and punishment.
An attorney can help you argue down any potential penalty by highlighting mitigating circumstances such as questionable field sobriety tests, improper reading of your Miranda rights, or questions about the accuracy of the blood alcohol test.
An attorney may be familiar with local prosecutors and judges and can help you massage your case. An attorney can even be a sounding board for your anger and humiliation at being charged with DWI.
If you can’t afford an attorney, you will be assigned one typically from the public defender’s office. While these lawyers have a large working knowledge of DWI cases, they are often overworked. They also are assigned, meaning you won’t get to choose which lawyer will represent you.
A standard offer
If you have no previous DWI convictions and there were no aggravating factors to your arrest – injuries, property damage, endangering others, a high blood-alcohol concentration – prosecutors will likely offer you a standard DWI plea offer:
- Loss of driver’s license for six months
- Installation of an ignition interlock device
- Completion of an impaired driver program
- Potential jail time
- Fines of between $500 to $1,000
Many prosecutors and judges see similar DWI cases come across their desks every day. It’s easy for them to offer a standard plea deal.
If you have no other circumstances involving your DWI arrest and you don’t believe you can get a better offer from the prosecutor or judge, then you might accept the plea and avoid contacting an attorney.
However, if there is anything about your case that is special, unusual or if you believe you are innocent, then consulting a qualified, experienced attorney is the best course of action.