Whether your state calls it a DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (Driving while intoxicated) it basically means you are operating a motorized vehicle while under the influence or some type of intoxicating substance.
If is illegal in every state to operate a motorized vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or 0.08% or higher, but you may be arrested even if your BAC is under this level, if you are unable to safely operated your motorized vehicle.
So what happens if you are arrested for a DUI? Most offenders will be charged a misdemeanor, unless they have injured another driver or they are a repeat DUI offender. DUI penalties have increased in recent years and under certain state laws, you may not even have to be driving to be arrested for DUI. Some states have determined it is illegal to be in “physical control” of the car. In these states, being in physical control of the vehicle while drunk is enough.
This means that you can be arrested for just sitting or sleeping in your car after drinking.
What are the consequences of a DUI arrest and DUI conviction?
Legislatures, often influenced by powerful lobbying groups such as MADD (Mother’s Against Driving), have implemented increasingly severe DUI penalties. Even first time offenders can expect severe penalties. Common DUI penalties can include:
• Loss of driver’s license
• Jail time
• High fines
• Mandatory alcohol education classes
• Installation of breathalyzer machines
Steps to Fighting a DUI Arrest
If you have been arrested for DUI, you have the opportunity to challenge your DUI arrest and defend the DUI charges.
• Talk to a DUI lawyer. Even with DUI evidence, a DUI attorney may be able to challenge the collection methods used by the police. Some police fail to follow strict state laws for evidence gathering. Your DUI attorney may be able to suppress DUI evidence that was illegally obtained.
• Schedule your DMV Hearing. If you are arrested for DUI, a police officer has the legal authority to take your driver’s license and issue you a temporary permit to drive. It is up to you to schedule a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles to challenge your driver’s license suspension.
Failure to schedule this hearing within the specified timeframe outlined by your state may result in an automatic license suspension for up to one year.
• Attend the arraignment. The arraignment is your first visit to court. It is your opportunity to plead guilty, no contest or not guilty. If you plead guilty, the judge will impose a sentence. DUI defendants who plead not guilty will be scheduled at a later court date to present their DUI case before either a jury or a judge.
• Attend the DUI trial. The DUI trial is the appointed time when the state, generally the arresting officer, presents their evidence of DUI to the court. Prosecution witnesses may include a chemist or another “expert” who can give information about the Field Sobriety Test, the breathalyzer or blood test and how your estimated level of impairment impacted your ability to operate a motorized vehicle. DUI trials also allow the DUI defense lawyer to present their case and potentially prove you were not intoxicated and you should be found not guilty.
• If convicted, attempt to expunge the DUI arrest from your record. Claimants who are arrested, charged and found guilty of DUI may, at some point, be able to expunge their DUI record. If you meet your state’s requirements, you may be able to petition the court to have your DUI record destroyed or sealed.
Expungement laws vary by state and expungement may not be possible under all conditions. Some states allow a DUI expungement if it is your first DUI offense, you keep your record clean, a satisfactory amount of time has passed since the DUI conviction and you have met the terms of your DUI sentence.
Other states, such as Alaska, do not allow an expungement. Others allow it after a specified period of time. In California, for instance, your DUI record can be expunged after 10 years.
If you have been arrested for DUI, contact a DUI lawyer immediately. State DUI laws vary and a DUI attorney can help whether it is your first, second or third DUI.
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