If you have been arrested for a charge of driving under the influence (DUI), it can be a scary and stressful situation. This is a serious charge, even if no one was hurt and noting was damaged. If someone was hurt (or worse) or there was an accident with property damage, there may be additional charges. Either way, it is position no one wants to be in. There are a number of things you need to do, from posting your bond to finding a DUI lawyer. Here are some of the things you will need to do:
- Get out of jail. When you have been arrested, the police will take you to the jail and book you in. This is scary for most people. The next morning, in most cases, you will be brought before a judge. In some places this is called your “first appearance.” This judge will determine you immediate fate. They have several options. They can let you go to await your arraignment, set a bond or make you stay in jail. If they let you go, great. If they set a bond, you need to do whatever you can to pay it and get out. Some people will tell you that you can do whatever you need to do from jail for your defense but they have no idea what they are talking about. If you can get out, you should.
- Find a good lawyer. When you get out, you may want to meet with the public defender, if you were appointed one, just to get a sense of what they can do to help you. There are times when they are your best bet. If this is your first arrest and your blood alcohol level was on the low side, there may be some pre-trial diversion programs that you can be eligible for. In more complicated or serious cases, you will want to talk to private DUI lawyers.
- Talk to your friends and relatives. More of your friends or family have been arrested for this than you know. This is not something people bring up at most family gatherings or put in their holiday letter but you should start your real search for a DUI lawyer with the people in your life whom you trust. One of the best ways to find good product or service is to get a recommendation from someone you trust.
- Interview law firms. Criminal defense law firms offer free first consultations with prospective clients, take advantage of this. Remember, being charged with a DUI is not the same thing as being convicted of a DUI. When you are looking for a DUI lawyer, you should interview at least three law firms to make sure you know what your options are and so that you can find an attorney with whom you can connect. This is important when you are working on any legal matter.
- Ask the right questions. You should have a list of questions that you bring with you to the DUI lawyer’s office. Here are a few:
- What made you go into criminal defense? You want a lawyer who is passionate about what they do. They are going to have to be willing to fight for you and plead your case.
- How many DUI cases do you handle? You need someone with a decent amount of experience with this kind of case. Not all criminal cases are the same. The DUI penalties can be severe and hard to live with. You need a DUI lawyer with a lot of experience helping people who were in a similar situation to you.
- How long have you done this? You want someone who has been working in criminal defense law for a while. The majority (more than 96%) of all cases are settled without a trial. You need a DUI lawyer who is good at negotiating and good in the courtroom.
- What is the fee structure like? You need a good lawyer but you also need to be able to afford them.
For most people, being arrested can feel like the end of the world. The right lawyer can make the process much better.