No one means for it to happen. A night out on the town begins with dinner, which turns to drinks, and soon enough it’s time to head home. Behind the wheel, it’s everything you can do to stay focused on the road. You may be giggly, your inhibitions are long gone and you love the song on the radio, so you turn it up. And then you see the headlights in your rearview and the party’s over.
This is the reality for over one million drivers per year arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. It’s hard to think during a moment like this, but if you’re ever in this situation, this is what to do if you get a DUI.
Every state has different rules and regulations pertaining to being charged, but the process is generally consistent no matter where you are. First, you’ll be asked if you’ll submit to a sobriety test. Regardless of whether or not you consent to this, make sure to be courteous and polite to the officer who pulled you over. If you fight or make threats, the process will not go well.
Remember that just because you were pulled over under suspicion of DUI doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be charged. If you do end up failing the test or or refuse to take it, however, you’re read your Miranda Rights, arrested, and brought to the police station for further testing.
This can take several hours, especially if you’ve never been arrested before and need to get fingerprinted and identified through different channels. You may be questioned at this point, and chemical tests such as blood draws or urine tests will be administered, and in most states these can’t be refused. At this point, it’s time to call a DUI defense attorney. They will help establish bail and if you are able to pay it, you can go home. But you are far from done.
Your license will be taken from you at the station, replaced with a pink temporary one. Be sure to read this license carefully, as it has specific instructions for its term limits and what to do next. Generally this is good for 10 days, at which point you lose your actual license completely if you don’t contact the DMV. Make sure to also keep in contact with your defense attorney during this time. Go through each moment of your night with them, from the first drink to when you were let out of the station. The more details you can give them the better the case they can build to defend you against your charges, or the better the plea deal.
The next step is a pre-trial hearing, where they enter your plea of either guilty, not guilty, or no contest. For a guilty or no contest plea, your lawyer will meet with the prosecutor to determine a lesser charge. If a plea bargain can be agreed upon, the sentencing will take place at a hearing in the future. If you choose to enter not guilty, a trial date will be set. Trial lengths vary, but the process is as follows: jury selection, opening statements by both the state and the defense, the state’s case, the defense’s case, closing arguments, jury deliberation, and then sentencing.
You must now follow the judge’s instructions on punishment. It could be something as simple as probation and community service, along with paying the fines and fees for court costs (as well as your own lawyer fees). If this isn’t a first offense, however, the consequences could be more harsh. Time in jail, enrollment into various sobriety programs such as AA, and/or a permanent loss of your driver’s license.
A DUI is a long and arduous process, one that requires a lot of your time and even more of your money. It’s best to avoid it altogether and not drink and drive, but if the worst happens, remember to keep calm, cooperative, and to call a licensed attorney as soon as possible to get your life back on track.