Have you or someone you love been caught driving under the influence of impairing drugs or alcohol? Driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) is one of the most common offenses in all states and the District of Columbia. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that alcohol and other impairing drugs are responsible for roughly 40% of the deaths that occur on US roads.
What it means to be impaired
Many people charged with DUI ask what it means to be impaired and if they actually qualify to be charged with DUI. The term ‘impaired’ in the case of DUI law means that you have consumed alcohol, prescription or illicit drugs to a level that has affected your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.
Drunk driving laws vary from one state to another. However, the method of judging impairment is similar. All states enforce the use of a portable meter to measure the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of the individual to determine just how impaired they are. A BAC limit of 0.8% was set by Congress in 2000 and the drinking age limit at 21 years of age. However, some states have set even lower BAC limits.
The Consequences of DUI charges
Many people charged with DUI offenses attempt to represent themselves in court. Many of these people are only considering the short term effects of a DUI conviction, which in many cases include fines and short jail terms.
Some people may consider these a slap on the wrist. However, the effects of DUI are more far reaching than you think. DUI charges will affect various aspects of your life including:
1. Keeping your current job
If you happen to have a job that involves some aspect of driving, you may lose your job as a result of a DUI. This is especially true for those working in transportation and logistics. It is also true for those who may need to drive themselves to and from their jobs or as part of their work e.g. driving to meet clients. You may not be able to fulfill various tasks that require driving with a suspended or tarnished license and may therefore lose your job.
2. Getting a job
Are you seeking employment? You may be seeking a new job or a promotion at your current job. You should know that DUI charges are considered a permanent criminal record. They will affect your chances of getting employment now and in the future. Any time anyone carries out a background check on you, your DUI record will pop up. This cannot only be embarrassing but will probably deter future employers from giving you a chance.
3. High insurance rates
Your driving record plays a vital role in determining what you pay as insurance. Insurance companies will consider you a high risk to ensure if you’re convicted with a DUI. They are therefore likely to charge you much more on your premiums.
If you had auto insurance before the DUI, you may end up having your insurance terminated as a result of the conviction too. You may therefore have to search for alternative providers who may charge you much more for cover.
4. License revocation
In some states, DUI convictions can result in the revocation of your driver’s license. First time offenders can have their licenses revoked for up to 2 years. Repeat offenders can have their licenses revoked permanently. This takes away your freedom to drive. Running simple errands, visiting family and going to work may become a challenge when you can’t drive yourself. You’ll be at the mercy of other drivers or public transportation, which can leave your feeling frustrated. It can also cause your performance to suffer at work as a result of being late.
5. Background checks
Background checks are often a requirement when applying for jobs, apartments and many other opportunities. The discovery of a criminal record can hinder your prospects. A DUI conviction can interfere with your chances of getting a better job, a housing application or even admissions to certain educational programs. DUI convictions can mean the difference between getting to where you want to be and living a mediocre life.
6. Professional and educational certifications
Are you hoping to apply for a competitive educational program? Do you need a scholarship in order to achieve your dream? Perhaps you’ve completed your training and are seeking certification or registration with your profession’s regulatory board.
A DUI conviction may be the only thing that stands between you and achieving your dream. Many scholarship programs, competitive educational programs and licensing boards may close you out when they discover that you have a criminal record.
7. Your freedom
You may end up spending some time behind bars if you’re convicted with a DUI. The length of time you spend incarcerated will depend on the state you’re in and the severity of your offense.
Even if you get away with no jail time, there are other freedoms and liberties that you enjoy that a DUI conviction can take away from you. These include your right to vote, purchase a firearm or even get a passport. You may never be able to apply for federal housing or be eligible to apply for government assistance in the future.
8. Personal relationships
An arrest or conviction for DUI can have far reaching effects on your personal relationships. Your loved ones may suffer embarrassment or shame as a result of the whole incident. This can put a strain on your relationships. You could end up losing some of the people who you care about as a result of the strain that the conviction has put on both of you.
If you want to avoid the long and short term effects of a DUI conviction, avoid drinking and driving.
What to do when arrested for a DUI
No one goes out to drink with the intention of being arrested for DUI. In fact, a DUI arrest is often a surprise to the offender. While you may be unprepared for the situation, what you do next will have a great impact on your case.
a) Seek legal counsel
The first and most important step when you’re arrested for DUI is to seek a DUI lawyer. A DUI lawyer experienced in handling DUI cases will help you understand the law and give you a better chance of avoiding conviction.
b) Report to court on the set dates
You will be given set dates on which you are required to appear before a judge. If you fail to appear before the judge on these set dates, you risk fines and other legal problems such as jail time. Be sure to make your appointment with the court.
c) Accept and carry out the court’s punishment
It is most likely that you will be given some sort of punishment whether you are convicted or not. This may include community service, paying fines or other such punishments. The severity of the punishment will depend on how severe your offense was. Abide by the sentence the court has issued to avoid further legal consequences.
Why you need a DUI lawyer
DUI charges aren’t as straight forward as they may seem. As pointed out earlier, convictions can carry long term consequences. If you want to have the best chances of being convicted, you’ll need to dispute the charges. You’ll need a DUI lawyer for this.
You may think that hiring a DUI lawyer would be expensive. However, there are several benefits that outweigh any costs including:
- DUI cases aren’t as straight forward as many people think. Some cases can be easily thrown out with the right approach. A DUI attorney understands the law better than you. They also have a great deal of experience defending people charged with DUI. They are therefore in a better position to represent you in a court of law.
- Proving a DUI isn’t easy. However, this burden rests on the prosecutor’s shoulders. An experienced attorney will help to break down the prosecutor’s arguments by applying the right defenses and laws. They’ll increase your chances of avoiding a conviction.
- State laws are becoming stricter when it comes to DUI. Penalties are becoming stiffer and sentencing much harsher. However, an experienced attorney can help you avoid these penalties and fines. They can also negotiate for leniency from the court when it comes to sentencing.
- Court cases today are no longer as straight forward as they once were. There are various simple mistakes that defendants make that can jeopardize their case. A simple comment on social media can result in conviction. An experienced attorney will help you avoid these mistakes and advise you on the best way to approach your case.
It pays to have an experienced attorney in your corner. A good attorney will do all the hard work including seeking information and any paper work involved in the case. They will fight to ensure that you don’t lose your license or end up with a DUI conviction. You can avoid the high costs of DUI by engaging a skilled and experienced DUI lawyer.