After a DUI, there are a myriad of questions and thoughts running through your head. You’re wondering about the effects this will have on your life and what you should be doing to resolve this problem. Through all of the chaos of the arrest, there are some common questions that most people have when charged with a DWI.
- How much is this going to cost?
When assessing the cost of a DWI, there are a lot of costs that contribute to the mountain of fees and penalties. There are both expressed and implied costs. While you need to consider implied costs, such as missing work and operated with a suspended license. However, the main costs are “expressed” or obvious. Fines are determined state-by-state, but can expected to be anywhere from $100-$3,000 on the first offense.
Add that to the court fees, which will be a couple hundred dollars and attorney fees, which typically run from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Plus you need to add in potential conviction penalties, such as the cost of ignition interlock, parole officer, driving and substance abuse education, etc. At the end of a DUI, you could end up paying several thousand dollars, just on a first offense.
- Will this stay on my record?
A majority of states keep a DWI/DUI conviction on record for around 5-15 years, which normally starts on the day of the offense rather than the conviction. As long as a DWI/DUI is on your record, it can be used in other trials or cases against you, particularly with sentencing and jail time. Several of these states have “lookback” periods which is the amount of time a DUI can be used in sentencing. Nine states hold a drinking and driving convictions on a person’s record forever, including Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Texas and Vermont.
A standalone, first offense DWI/DUI will likely be a misdemeanor; however it could be elevated due to more severe cases such as manslaughter or property damage. After the 1st offense, it becomes likely that a DWI/DUI conviction is automatically considered a felony. All but 5 states consider a DWI/DUI conviction a felony after the 4th offense, including Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Colorado and also DC.
- Do I need to hire lawyer?
If you are planning on pleading guilty to a first offense, non-elevated DWI and are aware of every penalty and fine, then you may be able to represent yourself. However, a lawyer can advise you through additional penalties and details of your DWI charge. In many cases, a lawyer will increase your chances of having a positive outcome and fighting injustice in your case. If you are not able to hire a lawyer due to financial reason, a court will assign a public defender to your case. While a public defender is adequately licensed and qualified, they are often overworked and deal with a tremendous work load.
So if you are able to hire an attorney, that is one of the best ways to fight your case from the beginning of the trial. A hired attorney should handle your case directly and be devoted to finding the justice in your case.
- Can I represent myself?
Yes, you have every right to represent yourself in a DWI case. However, you might want to consider your options and case before making that decision. First, as a part of your rights, you have the option to be assigned a public defender, who has the licensing, knowledge, and experience of DWI cases that most people do not. Your chances of a better turnout and shorter trial are higher with a licensed attorney. Another thing to consider is the severity of the case. A standalone 1st offense DWI is a lot simpler than a case where there are additional charges and penalties due to the severity of the case.
While you can represent yourself, a lawyer will be able to understand your case and advise throughout the trial on making a plea and with sentencing and plea deals.
If you’re dealing with the chaos and confusion of a DWI, then you need to get answers specifically for your case. Find an attorney who can help you through every portion of your DWI case to find the justice you deserve.