There is no legal requirement retaining a lawyer when you are being charged with DUI or DWI. In fact, most courts would prefer that the defendant just enter a guilty plea and let the court act as they please, especially in obvious cases when the associated blood alcohol content is well above the .08 national standard. However, this is still rarely a good idea and should be avoided in any DUI case whenever hiring an attorney is possible. A conviction for impaired driving is serious business, and any chance at a reduced plea bargain can make a big difference in case adjudication. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that anyone facing incarceration should have legal representation, so needing a lawyer depends on the severity of the charge or the involvement of a multiple offender drunk driver.
First Offense DUI Charges
First offense drunk driving convictions rarely result in a jail term unless state law mandates incarceration on all intoxicated driving convictions. Even so, the first conviction carries very little in terms of a jail term unless the arrest also includes aggravating circumstances. One aggravating circumstance in particular for a first offense is a BAC in excess of .14. In addition, receiving a DUI or DWI conviction for drunk driving with a minor child in the vehicle is also considered as aggravation. Even having a DUI attorney in a strong first offense case can very often render a better outcome, especially when there are factors such as illegal arrest and inadmissible evidence. A solid criminal defense attorney will force the state to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Second Offense DUI Charges
Convictions for second offense of driving under the influence carry a mandatory incarceration period in every state, but this may range up to 10 days minimum in jail. Most states have set a standard of seven days in jail. Unless the defendant pleads guilty before requesting an opportunity to speak with an attorney, the required jail term means that an attorney should be involved to ensure all of the defendant’s legal rights are respected. In addition, an attorney may be able to negotiate a one-step charge reduction in questionable cases, often resulting in a reckless driving charge that avoids the multiple offender class. This is an important consideration because multiple DUI offenders receive much harsher penalties. Retaining an attorney may be an investment in the remainder of your life.
Third Offense DUI Charges
A conviction for a third offense for impaired driving is where the need for an attorney is obvious, as all states have enhanced incarceration periods for even a conviction on borderline evidence. Any chance that a case may be reduced or dismissed is crucial to any jail term received by the defendant. There is no requirement that prosecutors charge defendants based on state minimums, and many courts regularly set a standard court policy above the standard. Third offense convictions always carry six months to one year in jail, and because this is still a misdemeanor class, the jail will be local.
It is important to understand that fourth offense DUI charges are classed as felonies in all states, which means the incarceration period will be served in a state facility. An attorney will be a requirement in any felony DUI charge, regardless of extenuating circumstances.