When you are charged with driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, (DUI) you face penalties in two separate systems. There are civil consequences, meaning you stand to lose your license to drive for a period of time. There are also criminal consequences, meaning you face jail time, a fine, and probation. In some cases, you may be facing prison time rather than jail time.
Because of the very serious consequences to DUI charges, having an attorney represent you is essential. An attorney will first examine the charges to ensure the government has established there is probable cause to charge you with a crime. Next, they will evaluate the facts of the case to determine whether there are any other legal challenges that may be brought. These legal challenges include, but are not limited to the following.
- Challenges to the legality of the stop of your vehicle.
- Challenges to the extension of the detention beyond the original basis for the stop.
- A careful review of the conclusions of the drug recognition expert.
- An evaluation of the field sobriety tests, both to assess the performance of the tests, but also to evaluate the police officer's instructions to ensure they comply with generally accepted standards in the industry.
- A review of the basis for asking the driver for a test.
- An evaluation of the steps taken to collect the blood sample, urine sample, or breath sample.
- An evaluation of the instrumentation relied upon for testing.
- A review of the test results themselves.
- Challenges to the chain of custody of the evidence.
- Challenges to the interpretation of the evidence.
- In cases where there is an allegation of being in physical control rather than actual driving, an evaluation of the facts and caselaw to determine whether the allegation is founded in fact and law.
- In cases where there was subsequent drinking post driving, an evaluation of whether the amount consumed post driving would push the driver over the legal limit or impact their ability to drive safely.
However, sometimes, after an exhaustive review of the evidence, there is no legal challenge which will result in the dismissal or reduction of the charges. In every criminal case, the defendant has an absolute right to a trial. However, many people do not wish to put themselves or their loved ones through the emotional and financial costs associated with a trial. In those situations, many people make the difficult choice to plead guilty to the charge of DUI.
Rights One Gives Up When Pleading Guilty
When someone enters a plea of guilty, they are giving up certain rights guaranteed to them by the United States Constitution as well as the Constitution of the state of Georgia. Before entering a plea of guilty, the accused must know what rights they are giving up. These include the following.
- The right to a trial before a jury or a judge.
- The right to be presumed innocent.
- The right to retain the presumption of innocence unless or until the government proves the case against them beyond a reasonable doubt.
- In order to prove guilt, the state must call witnesses in open court, in the presence of the defendant.
- The defendant has the right, through their attorney, to cross-examine those witnesses.
- The defendant may call their own witnesses at trial.
- Finally, the defendant may testify on their own behalf, or choose to remain silent.
- When a defendant chooses to remain silent, neither the prosecutor nor the judge can comment on this choice to the jury. In other words, no one can even suggest to the jury that the fact a defendant hasn't testified on their own behalf is evidence that they are guilty, or that if they were innocent they would have testified to that, or any other similar suggestion.
When a person pleads guilty to a criminal offense, they give up their right to remain silent and agree to tell the judge what they did that makes them guilty of the crime they are pleading to.
DUI Convictions Can Be Used to Enhance Subsequent DUI Cases
A prior DUI conviction can be used to enhance the criminal charges in a subsequent DUI case. In other words, the same conduct may be charged more seriously depending on the driver's prior record. A first DUI conviction is a misdemeanor, as is a second DUI conviction within ten years of the first conviction. However, the law requires more jail time and an increased fine on a second DUI conviction. A third DUI is a “high and aggravated misdemeanor.” This, too, comes with increased jail time and a higher fine. Finally, a fourth DUI within ten years is a felony offense, which could result in prison time. Naturally, each DUI conviction also comes with increased driver's license penalties as well. Additionally, depending on the nature of the offense, you may lose your car to government forfeiture.
DUI Pleas and Plea Bargains
Most of the time, before someone enters a plea of guilty, their attorney enters into a negotiated settlement with the prosecutor. This means that you will know exactly what consequence you will face. For example, on a first-time offense, the maximum penalty is 12 months in jail. However, your attorney can negotiate either a firm number of days of jail time or a cap on jail, with the ability to argue for less time. This gives you the peace of mind of knowing the potential consequences and the ability to plan for those consequences.
Are You Facing DUI Charges?
If you are facing DUI charges, contact our Roswell and Alpharetta DUI attorneys. Together we can review your file. If there is a legal basis to do so, we can challenge your case. If you choose to plead guilty, we can negotiate a settlement on your behalf. Contact us today to discuss your situation at 404.816.4440.