If you have been charged with driving under the influence (DUI), one of the first decisions you have to make is whether to represent yourself or retain an attorney. This is an important decision that can determine how much of your resources you spend on the case, and your chances of getting a favorable outcome. Use these three guidelines to make up your mind:
Definitely Hire a Lawyer If…
There are two main situations in which you shouldn't approach your DUI case without an attorney's help. The first is if there are aggravating circumstances that make your case a felony. Felonies attract harsh penalties, and in many cases, include jail sentences. Even if you lose the case, having an attorney may help you to mitigate the penalties or avoid going to jail and face alternative sentencing.
As a general rule, DUIs are considered misdemeanors. States have different laws on what elevates a DUI from a misdemeanor to a felony. In many states, your DUI will be classified as a felony if:
- It resulted in an accident where somebody died or was hurt.
- You had children passengers when driving under the influence.
- You were driving with a suspended license.
The second situation in which you should hire a lawyer is if you are a commercial driver. The penalties for commercial drivers convicted of DUIs can be devastating. You can lose your commercial driving license, as well as your job and means of livelihood. Getting another commercial driving job with a DUI on your driving history can be extremely tough, too.
Strongly Consider Hiring a Lawyer If…
The severity of a second DUI conviction depends on your state laws. The period between your first and second DUI conviction also determines whether you need to hire a lawyer or not. Evaluate these laws and determine whether you need a lawyer or not. For example, in California, a second DUI conviction received within ten years of the last one results in a license suspension for at least one year, but it can be more. In this case, you should seriously consider hiring a lawyer to represent you and mitigate the potential penalties.
It's a Good Idea to Hire a Lawyer If…
It's a good idea to hire a DUI attorney anytime you feel like you need one. What is your experience with the criminal (and specifically DUI prosecution) process? Do you understand your state's DUI laws? Do you abhor a DUI conviction, even if it is the first one? Answer these questions to guide you in your decision to hire a lawyer or represent yourself. As a general rule, don't approach the case on your own if you aren't confident in your abilities to handle it. Contact a drug defense attorney for more information.