Do I really need a DUI lawyer?
Drivers, who are arrested for DUI, should do research to understand what they can expect after their drunken driving arrest. Many DUI offenders have gone to the arraignment on their own, received a copy of the police report, reviewed their field sobriety and breathalyzer tests, found out their blood alcohol concentration level and done some preliminary research to determine if they have a chance to win their DUI case. These steps can be done by all drivers immediately following a DUI arrest.
Next, you may want to consult with a DUI lawyer to have them evaluate the strength and weaknesses of your DUI case. If you feel like you need help evaluating your case you might contact several lawyers to find out if they will provide information to you for a reasonable fee.
After you have reviewed the DUI evidence against you and talked to a DUI lawyer you are now in a better position to determine whether or not you have a chance to win your DUI case or whether it is simply better to plead guilty to DUI. In many first time DUI cases, where the prosecution has clear evidence you were intoxicated, the conviction rate is very high and hiring a lawyer may not do any good.
For instance, if the state has chemical evidence that your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% to .11% the conviction rate for offenders may be as high as 90%, with or without a lawyer. If the chemical evidence shows your BAC is higher than 0.11%, the conviction rate could be even higher. So under these conditions, if you plan to plead guilty, you may not need a lawyer.
Can a DUI awyer help me with a plea bargain?
Now there are cases which are not as clear cut, and the prosecution may be willing to negotiate a plea bargain. In this case, hiring a DUI lawyer can be a very good idea. For instance, if your chemical test is near 0.08% and the field sobriety test is not conclusive, the state may be willing to negotiate a lesser sentence, such as reckless driving or a wet reckless. In fact, downgrading a DUI charge to a reckless driving charge is common when the state does not feel they have sufficient DUI evidence to win a DUI case.
The good news is in many states the fines and penalties for a wet reckless is much less severe than a DUI conviction. For instance, in California, if you are convicted of a wet reckless instead of a DUI you will have to pay much lower fines, you will not have your license suspended (unless the DMV suspends it in through an administrative license suspension), and you will not lose your commercial driver's license.
Hiring a lawyer to help you plead to a lesser charge can have substantial pay-offs. A prosecutor may not mind taking the case to court if they know you do not have a lawyer representing you. On the other hand, they may be more willing to offer a plea bargain to avoid a trial if you have hired a skilled defense DUI lawyer. Additionally, the DUI lawyer may have a working relationship with the prosecutor or have the legal knowledge, experience, and skills to negotiate a plea agreement.
So do you need to hire a DUI lawyer? The answer is generally yes, especially if you think the state would be willing to offer some type of plea bargain, you wish to plead not guilty and challenge the DUI charges, or you think the state's case is weak and you want to fight the charges in court.
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