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How should I handle my first DUI?

Driving under the influence is a serious offense in the United States, and many states have implemented first offense sentencing standards that are more severe than was once the case. If you're arrested for a DUI and it's your first offense, make sure you understand the process to navigate the courts and the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) effectively.

What to do first
Following your DUI, the first thing you should do is request a hearing with the DMV. You will have a limited amount of time following your DUI arrest to request this hearing, and though it varies between states, it is usually between 7 and 10 days.

At a DMV hearing, you may either be temporarily allowed to retain your license or you may be granted a temporary work or emergency license that allows you to commmute between certain hours, but restricts driving at certain times or outside of a certain area.

If you do not request this hearing, in most states the DMV will automatically suspend your license.

What about insurance?
Following a DUI conviction, you will be forced to apply for SR-22 insurance, a form of high-risk auto insurance for DUI offenders. Premiums are usually high, but it can be extremely difficult to get auto insurance if there is a lapse in coverage following a DUI.

Getting an attorney
If this is your first DUI, it's a good idea to look for the advice of someone with experience in the system. DUI attorneys will have the expertise necessary to properly manage your DUI case in criminal court, and can also tell you what to expect.

Many DUI attorneys say that you should not be discouraged by chemical tests or what you may believe is a rock solid case against you. There is a lot of nuance in DUI law, and experienced attorneys can ensure that you get a fair trial.

Attorneys can access and interpret arrest records and BAC tests, and can ensure that equipment was functional and that you were properly charged. They also have experience with sentencing, and can help you minimize or suspend jail time by advising you the best DUI trial practices.

What to expect
Some states have mandatory sentencing penalties for a DUI conviction. These can include fines and fees, jail time, community service and alcohol awareness training and rehabilitation. Take your DUI arrest seriously. Many DUI lawyers and law enforcement officials work to dispel the myth that a first-offense DUI amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist. Consequences can be serious, but you can minimize the damage by following proper procedures after your arrest.