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What Happens When You Get a DUI?

5 min read
Francesca Toledo, J.D.

by Francesca Toledo, J.D.

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.

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.

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. For example, you’re driving erratically, law enforcement will likely stop you to begin investigating the cause.
  • Law enforcement asks questions: Officers will generally start an interaction by asking questions, including where you’ve been, how your day 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.

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. 

Defenses for DUI Charges

You will have the opportunity to raise a defense to a DUI charge depending on the details of your case. Some of the most common defenses for DUI charges are:

  • Improper stop: 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.

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 address 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.

While DUI lawyers are your best chance at a fair result, they can come with a large price tag. Traditional DUI lawyers can take between $3,000 and $5,000 to start on a case. However, Unbundled Legal Help specializes in affordable representation and realistic payment options.

The DUI attorneys in our network generally start a case for $1,500 to $2,500 and up. Let us match you with a local DUI attorney for a free consultation today.

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