Why You Need an Attorney When Charged With Driving Under the Influence (DUI)?

During my time as a prosecutor, I was surprised by the number of defendants charged with driving under the influence (DUI) who did not hire an attorney and attempted to represent themselves. Admittedly, some of those defendants ended up with a result that, in my opinion, was substantially similar to the result that would have occurred had they hired an attorney. On the other hand, I saw many defendants stumble into the many pitfalls they could have avoided had they hired an attorney. Thus, anyone charged with driving under the influence should understand the benefits of hiring an attorney experienced in DUI-related law.

Consequences

The punishment for a DUI offense can vary greatly depending on the circumstances. Important factors include:

  • The blood alcohol content of the individual at the time of arrest
  • If the individual has any prior DUI convictions and how long ago those convictions occurred
  • Was there any damages or injuries from a related car crash
  • If the individual is underage
  • The type of substance the individual was under the influence of

In a previous post I outlined the various penalties under the DUI statute, and those penalties can range from six months of probation and a $300.00 fine to several years in state prison and thousands of dollars in fines. An experienced DUI attorney can assess your charges and the relevant facts to determine what penalties you could face if convicted.

 Prosecution Issues

An attorney can also help determine if there are any problems with the prosecutor’s case against you. For example, if the charges arose from a traffic stop, the prosecutors must prove that the police officer had probable cause to pull you over. Additionally, the equipment used to test your urine or blood must be calibrated and meet certain legal requirements. If there is a problem, your attorney can raise these issues and seek to have any illegally obtained evidence excluded from your case.

Representation

An attorney will represent you in the various court proceedings you will face, including preliminary hearings, arraignments, pre-trial suppression hearings, ARD hearings, guilty pleas, evidentiary hearings and trial. An attorney knows the rules of the court and, can help you understand how the proceedings will unfold. A lawyer will tell you exactly where and when to appear, substantially reducing the risk that you miss a court appearance and have a bench warrant for your arrest issued against you. Your attorney will also help you determine if you should consider a plea and help you negotiate with the prosecutor.

Alternative Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) 

The ARD program offers three primary benefits. First, ARD involves no jail time. Second, ARD will result in a substantially shorter driver license suspension. Third, after you successfully complete the ARD program, you can have the DUI charges expunged and they will not count as a conviction against you, leaving you with a clean criminal record. An attorney will be able to assess whether you qualify for the ARD program and help you meet all the timelines and filing requirements required by the ARD program.

Hiring a lawyer to represent you in a DUI matter will cost some money up front. However, considering how dramatically the consequences can affect your life, having legal counsel can give you peace of mind by knowing that you will be advised by someone who understands the law, procedures and nuances surrounding a DUI case. Obtaining legal representation may also protect you from additional costs, penalties and punishment down the road.

Matthew Grosh is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Villanova University and practices in a variety of areas including DUI & ARD.

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