After a DUI arrest, you may wonder if you need a lawyer to represent you. You may also have questions about the benefits of hiring a drunk driving defense attorney. Hiring a lawyer may be expensive, and you must weigh the benefits versus the cost of retaining counsel.
How can a lawyer help before trial?
Soon after the drunk driving arrest you will form a series of questions that you may not know the answer to. While most of these questions may certainly be answered online, each case is different. You want personalized information about your particular set of facts and the laws of the state in which you were charged.
Consulting with an attorney can be helpful in answering those questions and getting the best information to guide you through the process. Each DUI and DWI case is different. Your DUI lawyer will be able to prepare your defense to the specific facts of your case.
Hiring an attorney can protect your license to drive
All states impose some sort of administrative sanction if you are arrested under the suspicion of drunk driving.
This may include a suspension of your license or a requirement that you participate in an ignition interlock program. However, you may be able to challenge these sanctions with the help of an experienced attorney.
Your DUI lawyer may raise technical issues with the administrative tribunal or court that may prevent your license from being suspended or revoked.
Yet, you still may be required to participate in an ignition interlock program depending on your blood alcohol content level at the time of arrest, or if you refused to take the breath or blood test at all.
Your lawyer may also walk you through the process to ensure that you comply with the rules and regulations of your state and that you are able to continue driving.
What might you have to do before trial?
After you’re arrested, the police will send the paperwork to the court system. The courts will then schedule a trial date or a preliminary hearing.
Preparing for these hearings or trial appearance may require you to take certain classes and complete other tasks to ensure a successful outcome in your case.
For example, a lawyer may suggest that you complete an alcohol education program or a substance abuse class to mitigate the consequences you may face in court.
How does a lawyer help at my court appearance?
As your trial date approaches, you want to start making some decisions about how you want to proceed with your case. You generally want to have a couple of options when you appear in court.
You may request a postponement, but you have to provide good cause as to why the court should postpone your case.
Or, you make a decision to either plead not guilty or guilty. If you plead not guilty, you’ll have to make a decision as to whether you want a jury trial, a jury of your peers, or a bench trial, where a judge determines your guilt or innocence.
And if you decide to plead guilty, then you will be offered a plea deal by the state or prosecutor. In a plea deal, the penalty is generally less severe because you are admitting guilt without going to trial.
While most judges take the state’s plea deal as a recommendation, the judge will ultimately decide the sentence in your case. A lawyer will negotiate a plea deal, which will typically be better than what you may be able to negotiate yourself with the prosecutor. If you choose to plead not guilty, then you have to try the case before a judge or jury.
All Maryland courts follow “rules of evidence” that dictate what evidence is allowed to be presented in a case and what can be excluded. The rules of evidence are complicated and only a seasoned attorney may be able to use them efficiently.
It is not advised that Pro Se litigants, meaning unrepresented individuals, attempt to utilize the rules of evidence themselves.
How can a lawyer help me if I plan on pleading guilty to my DUI charges?
If you plan on pleading guilty to drunk driving charges that means you are admitting that you were driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or some other substance. This is the highest form of admission, and you’re telling the court that you did it and you’re willing to take responsibility for your actions.
So if you’re going to plead guilty, do you really need a lawyer? You may be surprised that having a lawyer is more beneficial than you may think if you do plan to plead guilty.
A lawyer will prepare you for your trial date by advising the best classes and courses to take to mitigate the consequences. Going to court prepared will better the outcome. That may mean you will receive a potentially lower sentence, less restrictions during probation and possibly a shorter period of probation.
A lawyer will more or less do all the talking for you in court. You may be afraid to speak in public or be worried you will say something wrong to the judge or the prosecutor. The lawyer will speak and make all of the statements on your behalf.
This will certainly be beneficial because it sounds much better to have a lawyer explain your background history, as well as why you found yourself in this circumstance than if you explain it by yourself. In addition, the lawyer will ensure that you take all the necessary steps after you go to court and are sentenced for the DUI.
How will an attorney help if I plan on pleading not guilty and going to trial?
If you plan on pleading not guilty, you’re telling the court that you did not drink and drive. You then have to make a decision whether to have a bench trial or a jury trial.
A bench trial means that the judge will be the trier of fact and determine if you are guilty or innocent.
Your lawyer may even have a mock trial before your actual trial in court to prepare you for the questions that may be asked by both the prosecutor as well as your attorney.
At a DUI trial, the state or prosecutor will start. They will call their witnesses and present their evidence at the beginning. After the state has completed their case, it will then be your attorney’s chance to call witnesses and present evidence on your behalf.
Your lawyer will know what type of questions to ask the state’s witnesses as well as the use of the rules of evidence to exclude evidence that may not be relevant or may be prejudicial to you and your defense.
You will have a decision to make as to whether you will testify on your own behalf or remain silent. You have a constitutional right to remain silent and the judge cannot hold that against you.
Even if you decide to have a jury trial, the judge will advise the jury when making a decision to not hold the fact that you remain silent against you.
Either way, having a lawyer if you plan on pleading not guilty may make the difference between you being found guilty or not guilty.
What are some other ways a lawyer can help my drunk driving case in Maryland?
Since most DUI attorneys have handled hundreds if not thousands of cases, they understand the collateral consequences of certain decisions you can make throughout the process.
For example, a conviction may preclude you from possessing a firearm, or it may lead to a lengthy period of probation.
Lawyers are also aware of certain tendencies of judges and prosecutors. For example, an attorney may know that a particular judge is usually strict about DUI and DWI charges and therefore may try to get you a new judge.
Or, your DUI lawyer may be aware that a certain prosecutor is tougher on drunk driving cases; then your attorney may suggest that you postpone the case with the chance of obtaining a different prosecutor on the next draw date.
Should I hire a DUI lawyer?
Since drunk driving cases are complex and the laws and procedures surrounding the process are complicated, is always beneficial in the short-term and long-term to hire an attorney for your charges.
This is not to say that you can’t do it alone, but you may not receive certain benefits or you may make common mistakes the lawyer could avoid.
If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence, speak with DUI lawyer as soon as possible and learn the costs, benefits and advantages of hiring an attorney.