By Colin Maher
Every U.S. state treat driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs like a criminal offense. Penalties differ, but first-time DUI offenders in just about any jurisdiction can expect to have their license suspended and to spend time in jail or some type of rehab program. Large fines and fees are also standard DUI penalties for convictions.
Effective DUI defense strategies do exist. Hiring a lawyer as soon as possible after getting charged with driving under the influence increases the chances of avoiding an unfair conviction and harsh penalties. No two cases go according to the exact same script, but anyone facing a DUI charge should expect to go through most of the following six steps.
Plead Not Guilty at Arraignment
This first appearance before a judge usually happens within five days after a DUI arrest. A night in jail is standard for accused drunk drivers who cannot find a sober ride home because police do not want to release someone who they do not believe is sober.
At the arraignment, the judge states and explains the charges being made against the defendant and asks for an initial plea. If the case involves more than alleged drunk or drugged driving, those other charges may be included in this arraignment or handled separately.
The best choice is to plead not guilty to every charge. Doing this allows the defendant or defense attorney to look at the evidence the prosecution has collected. This also allows time for the defendant or Columbus DUI defense attorney time to put together a case for getting the charges reduced or dismissed.
Pleading guilty at arraignment will move the defendant straight to the penalty phase of the case. He or she will not be given a chance to prove innocence or negotiate pleas to lesser offenses.
As a final note, all defendants need to know that they can hire a defense lawyer after their arraignments. A person can also change his or her legal representation at a later date.
Appeal Any License Suspension
In Ohio, where I practice as a Columbus DUI lawyer, many DUI suspects appear at their arraignments already having lost their personal driver’s licenses and CDLs. State law authorizes police officers and state troopers to instantly seize licenses from suspects who refuse to provide breath, blood, and urine samples for alcohol and drug testing. Registering a high blood alcohol concentration will also lead to what Ohio state law calls an administrative license suspension.
In states where this happens, suspects should appeal their license suspensions during their arraignments. Preparing for a DUI trial, keeping a job, and providing for one’s family will all be greatly complicated by the loss of driving privileges.
Investigate Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause
Police officers and state troopers must have valid and legally defensible reasons to pull drivers over and for starting to assess drivers for driving under the influence. Even at a DUI checkpoint, where an officer or trooper can stop anyone and start asking questions, reasons must exist for suspecting drunk or drugged driving.
A defense attorney will press for answers as to why the officer contacted the individual. If, for example, an officer says that he noticed the lawyer’s client weaving, the lawyer will ask for dash cam video. Witness statements can also help call the officer’s reason for contact into question.
Reconstructing the actions of the police officer or state trooper who charged my client is particularly useful to me as a Columbus DUI lawyer. Law enforcement officials in my state must follow strict rules when conducting field sobriety tests and when collecting breath, blood, and urine samples. Then, another set of rules applies to how alcohol and drug tests are performed and to how test samples are handled, transported, and stored.
Any violations of these rules can potentially serve as grounds for asking a judge to throw out a DUI charge. The same is true in other states.
Contest Test Results
By law, the prosecutor for a DUI case must give the defendant and his or her defense attorney access to all the evidence that police collected. Among other things, this means that the samples taken for alcohol and drug testing can be retested. The defense can also look into whether the testing equipment was in good repair, properly calibrated, and used correctly. Problems with the test result greatly weaken the prosecutor’s case.
Consider a Plea Agreement
As the date of a DUI trial approaches, it often makes sense to inquire if the prosecutor will accept a plea deal. A jury’s verdict can never be predicted with 100 percent accuracy.
The defendant is certainly not required to accept a plea, but it can be a good option for those wanting to avoid the risk of a trial.
Author Bio –
Colin Maher is a lawyer at The Maher Law Firm, LLC. He represents clients in DUI/OVI, drunk driving lawyer and other crimes. Colin is one of the top Criminal Defense lawyers in Columbus, Ohio.
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