If you have been arrested for a DUI for the first time, it is crucial to understand that your actions after the arrest can affect your case--as well as your ability to obtain the most favorable outcome possible. Unfortunately, many people who are new to the criminal justice system make simple mistakes that have a negative impact on their case.
Several common mistakes people make after a DUI arrest include the following:
- Ignoring your charges - Since drunk driving is a misdemeanor crime in Alabama, many people fail to take their charges seriously. Unfortunately, the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach will only make matters worse. The maximum penalties for a first-time DUI conviction are a county jail sentence of one year, fines no larger than $2,100, and license suspension for 90 days including DUI school courses. If you fail to fight your charge, you will serve the harshest consequences.
- Pleading guilty - Although an arrest is bad in itself, it doesn’t mean you are automatically guilty of drunk driving. If you plead guilty at your first court hearing, you give up your right to make the state prove your case and fight the charges against you. There could be potential errors law enforcement committed or weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. However, pleading guilty means losing the opportunity to discover those possibilities.
- Telling “your side of the story” to law enforcement - While it may appear that the police is on your side, encouraging you to “clear your name” by disclosing as many details as possible in your case. Unfortunately, officers can use any statements you make against you at trial. To avoid potentially incriminating yourself, invoke your right to remain silent and have a lawyer present when speaking to law enforcement officials.
- Failing to obtain a hardship license - Whether you failed your post-arrest chemical test or refused to take one, your driver’s license will be suspended, which can make it difficult to commute to and from work, make important appointments, and conduct daily activities. Frequent tardiness and absences can result in losing your job. You may be eligible for a hardship license, which gives you the ability to drive back and forth from work to a DUI school class. Failure to obtain a hardship license means relying on public transportation or ridesharing services for rides. If you attempt to drive without a valid license, you will face additional criminal penalties.
- Not hiring an attorney - To avoid making any of the mistakes above and more, it is imperative to hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer to fight your charges and protect your rights. Your attorney can review your case, gather evidence, and determine any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case to help you get your case dismissed or reduce your penalties.