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What Happens when You Get a DUI?

8 min read
Unbundled Legal Help

by Unbundled Legal Help

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a DUI, the stress and frustration of clearing your name can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, taking on your DUI charges can be more difficult than it seems.

After you get a DUI, you can expect to face many penalties, including possible license suspension, fines, and jail time. A DUI lawyer can provide the best chance to minimize or even eliminate these penalties. We can connect you today with a local unbundled attorney to discuss your best options.

Don’t face your DUI charges alone. An unbundled lawyer is ready to help you.

What Is a DUI?

DUI stands for “driving under the influence.” It is illegal to operate a vehicle if you are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Some states have other names and acronyms, including Driving While Impaired/Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). 

If you are under the influence of any alcohol or substance that mentally and physically impairs you and you get on the road, you are endangering yourself and others. DUIs are very serious, as they can result in significant accidents, injuries, and even death. 

DUI charges can have life-altering consequences. If you’re facing a DUI charge, discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

What Tests Are Used To Establish Someone Is Driving under the Influence?

When law enforcement suspects you are under the influence, they cannot simply look at you to determine you’re impaired. Officers can employ several sobriety tests to help assess whether you are under the influence, and to what extent.

First, law enforcement may ask to conduct a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are conducted on the side of the road, testing your balance, attention level, and physical abilities. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has endorsed a standard field sobriety test, consisting of a walk and turn, a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and a one-leg stand.

The walk and turn test requires you to walk nine steps, heel to toe, in a straight line, turn around, and do the same thing in the opposite direction. This test gauges your ability to follow instructions and balance.

Your eyes usually jerk when following an object side to side. However, when you’re impaired, the involuntary jerking movement of the eye is exaggerated. Officers perform the horizontal gaze nystagmus test to test your ability to follow an object and measure the amount of eye-jerking.

During the one-leg stand, officers will ask you to stand upright with one leg lifted off the ground in front of you for 30 seconds. Excessive swaying and an inability to remain balanced can indicate impairment. 

Other field sobriety tests are commonly used, including reciting the alphabet backward and closing the eyes while touching the tip of your nose with your index finger.

In many cases, law enforcement will want to test blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels. Testing your BAC will allow officers to determine how much alcohol is in the bloodstream and whether it’s above the legal limit. Every state has a set legal limit. 

To test BAC, law enforcement uses the breathalyzer test, having you blow into an instrument to determine your BAC level.

In other cases, officers may request additional testing to determine your BAC, including blood tests or urine samples. 

Law enforcement uses many ways to get concrete evidence that you are under the influence. However, these tests are often not foolproof and, at times, do not hold up in court.

The Process of Getting Charged with a DUI

The specifics may vary from state to state, but for the most part, the process of getting charged with a DUI involves the same steps:

  • You get stopped by law enforcement: Officers need a reason to stop you. If, for example, you’re driving erratically, law enforcement will likely stop you to begin investigating the cause.
  • Law enforcement begins asking questions: Officers will almost always start by asking questions, including where you’ve been, how your day/evening is going, and whether you’ve had any drinks or taken any drugs. Based on the answers to these questions and your behavior, officers will determine whether they need to proceed to the next step.
  • Officers ask you to step out of the vehicle and engage in sobriety tests: If they feel it is necessary, law enforcement will ask you to exit your vehicle and perform some field sobriety tests. 
  • You’re arrested: If officers determine you are impaired, they will proceed to arrest you.
  • Officers may ask for additional testing: Depending on the situation, law enforcement may want more tests to determine your BAC levels.
  • You’re booked: While at the station, you’ll be processed. This includes fingerprints, mugshots, and a background check. 

What happens next depends on your state. You may have your license automatically suspended, you might be released right away, or you may have to spend time in jail until your arraignment.

If you’re unsure of what to do after a DUI arrest, contact a DUI attorney as soon as possible for assistance. 

Penalties for DUI

The penalties you face for driving under the influence will depend on your criminal history and whether this is a first-time offense. 

Most states classify a first-time DUI offense as a misdemeanor. This may include a minimal jail sentence, ranging from 30 days to no more than a year. However, in some states, first-time offenders are not at risk for any jail time.

Once you’ve been charged with two or more DUIs, the consequences often become more severe. Penalties can include longer jail sentences.

In some cases, a DUI charge is considered a felony. Commonly, a DUI is a felony if the defendant injured or killed someone, or if they are a repeat offender. 

Fines are also common after a DUI. The same factors that affect jail time, including the number of offenses, can also affect the fine amount. 

Additionally, many states suspend the offender’s license after a DUI arrest. In some states, it’s done in every case, but a license suspension may also be tied to a refusal to take tests to determine BAC levels. Certain states offer “hardship licenses” allowing offenders to drive to and from certain places, such as home, work, and school, while their license is suspended.

Some states go a step further and cancel an offender’s car registration, whether temporarily or permanently. 

Penalties for DUI can be severe, causing major life changes and hassles. 

Defenses for DUI Charges

Depending on the details of your DUI case, you may have the opportunity to raise a defense. Some of the most common defenses for DUI charges include:

  • Improper stop: When law enforcement stops you, they must have a valid reason. If an officer lacked probable cause when they made the traffic stop, this can raise an issue with the prosecution. 
  • Inaccurate field sobriety tests: You may have been improperly arrested if the field sobriety test was not administered correctly or yielded inaccurate results.
  • Faulty breathalyzer: It is very common for breathalyzers to produce inaccurate BAC levels. Breathalyzer equipment must be calibrated, and if it is not properly calibrated or maintained, it can give incorrect readings.
  • Chain of custody issues for blood or urine tests: When blood or urine samples are collected, you might be able to raise a chain of custody issue for mishandled or tampered samples.

Coming up with a defense strategy is one of your most important steps after a DUI. A criminal defense lawyer can review the details of your case to help build your case and create a defense.

Do I Need an Attorney after Getting a DUI?

You do not need a DUI lawyer, but in most cases, you will find having a qualified attorney on your side produces better results.

A DUI attorney can provide the following support:

  • Review your case and evidence against you
  • Formulate a defense strategy
  • Guide you through the process
  • Build a strong defense against your charges
  • Represent you in court

You only have one opportunity to fight the charges brought against you—be sure you’re giving yourself the best possible chance at a favorable outcome. After a DUI charge, consult with a criminal defense lawyer right away.

An Unbundled Lawyer Can Help

While DUI lawyers are your best chance at a fair result, they can come with a large price tag. Criminal defense attorneys often require expensive retainers and hourly fees. For this reason, many choose to go without quality legal representation. Fortunately, an unbundled lawyer, who will handle only some areas of your defense, while you do the more common tasks, can help. We can connect you today with an unbundled DUI attorney in your area.

An unbundled lawyer offers “pay as you go” services. If you’re willing to handle parts of your case, they will take over the most important tasks you need assistance with. Unlike traditional lawyers, unbundled lawyer’s services start at $500-$1,500.

Unbundled Legal Help strives to make high-quality legal aid accessible to everyone. We have a network of the best unbundled lawyers ready to help you take on your case and protect your rights.

If you’re facing a DUI charge, contact Unbundled Legal Help today. We can connect you with an unbundled lawyer in your area.

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