July 10, 2007
DUI/DWI – What You Should Know
Driving under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is one of the most serious driving offenses in the United States of America. Although there are several driving offenses, the charge of DUI/DWI results in serious consequences and is likely to have grave implications on your future. Driving with a blood alcohol level of or above 0.08 % is a crime and your driver’s license can be revoked or suspended if you are found guilty. It can also make life costly and difficult through increased insurance costs and hefty fines.
The United States takes the DUI/DWI offense very seriously. Drink Driving in states like California are set forth by a statute and California DUI Law can be incredibly complex. The consequences vary with different circumstances and in different states. But the basic punishment under the DUI law tends to remain almost the same.
Besides the above mentioned, there are other circumstances that will make your punishment even harsher – if you are speeding while driving under the influence, if you have a child in the car, refusing to comply with the tests when asked, damage, injury, accident and loss of life. The greater the alcohol content, the greater the penalty under the DUI Law. If you are under age and have prior convictions for the same offense can also lead to immense problems.
If you are a first-time offender, you may end up with a fine, possible jail time or community service with a suspension of your license under the DUI Law. You may be asked to attend, compulsorily an alcohol education program to avoid further such occurrences. In the event that you are a repeat offender, hefty fines and jail time is ensured. Your participation in the alcohol abuse program will also be longer and mandatory; moreover your license will be suspended or revoked and vehicle impounded.
To determine whether you are under the influence of alcohol, law enforcement officers conduct various field tests, like the Horizontal Gaze, Walk and Turn, One Leg Stand tests which are a part of the standardize procedures under the DUI Law. These tests help to verify the driver’s ability to follow instructions as well as demonstrate balance and coordination. Additionally, they also conduct a chemical test or the Breath Analyzer test which records the alcohol level in your blood stream. If reading shows you to be over the required limit, then you are presumed to be driving under the influence and will be charged with drunk driving. You will then have to appear in court to defend the charges.
Once charged with the DUI/DWI offense, under the DUI Law, there inevitably will follow a long drawn out process of legal involvement. The first step is the Preliminary Hearing at the district justice level. It will allow the judge to decide whether there is enough evidence against you. The next step is your arraignment that helps you to know what you are being charged with and whether you understand those charges. You will also be required here to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. First time offenders may get away with a fine, community service and alcohol awareness programs.
If you are deemed ineligible for the above programs or believe that you are not guilty, you can request for a trial by jury. In such a case, ensure that you have a good lawyer, as there is much legality that you may be completely unaware of. At the end of the case, the jury will find you guilty or innocent and will have to prepare yourself for sentencing.
There are many lawyers and attorneys in the United States, but there are only a few that are well experienced in DUI or DWI law cases. Ensure that you choose a good and experienced lawyer for your defense. These lawyers know every aspect of defense to get an acquittal or at best a reduced sentence. The attorney needs to be well informed of the different tactics that can be used to make a client’s case have a good outcome. Good and honest communication is necessary between the lawyer and the client to ensure a comprehensive knowledge of the events that have occurred. He needs to go over each item that can be used in their client’s defense. When the police stop drivers, the drivers automatically feel guilty if they have had just one drink. Sometimes they are dealt with unfairly and this is what a good lawyer will pick up on. The defense that the lawyer will use relate to matters such as:
- Whether your constitutional rights have been breached
- Whether the officer concerned followed the correct procedures
- Whether you were read your rights when the officer made the DUI/DWI arrest
- Whether the blood and alcohol level tests were properly carried out
- Whether the equipment used to monitor blood alcohol levels was maintained and in good working order
The charge for drunk driving is an extremely serious offense. The consequences not only affect you for that moment but the charges will remain on your record permanently. It is thus important that you choose your lawyer wisely to fight your DUI/DWI case as it can affect your entire life and lifestyle forever. Many cases of DUI/DWI get dismissed by experienced DWI lawyers on simple technicalities. An experienced legal expert in this field of DUI Law will know exactly what to look out for, and will be aware of the various loopholes that can mean the difference between a successful charge or dismissal of charges.