If you have been charged with driving while under the influence, you may be realizing the potential penalties that you could be facing. From fines and other fees to jail time and the loss of your driver’s license, a DUI can have long-lasting impacts on your life.
Does this mean that spending the money on a DUI attorney is worth it? For many people, the advantages of hiring professional legal counsel outweigh the negatives. To make an informed decision, you will need to understand more about DUI penalties and how a DUI attorney may benefit you.
DUI Penalties in Virginia
In Virginia, driving under the influence is a Class 1 misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, up to $2500 in fines and court costs, or any combination of one or all three of those. Your driving privileges will be suspended for 12 months; the court costs and fines do not include any costs to the Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain a restricted license, if applicable, or to reinstate. Also not included in any of those costs, are the fees to attend and successfully complete an alcohol education program.
Is an Attorney Mandatory in Cases of Drunk Driving?
You are not legally required to have an attorney represent you when charged with a DUI; if it is your choice to do so, you may represent yourself in court. The skills necessary to adequately present your case, rebut any evidence against you and achieve a positive result typically require years of experience.
Success will also depend on a full comprehension of the law, knowing what questions to ask and what elements the Commonwealth is required to prove. In an attempt to save the money you would have spent on an attorney, you could end up paying up to $2500 in fines in addition to the court costs and alcohol education program fee.
Hiring an Attorney Provides Years of Experience
The ability to adhere to courtroom procedures and present a case as it evolves are skills that are developed through education, training and experience. By choosing to work with an attorney, you are given the advantage of this knowledge, which will include awareness of the potential pitfalls that could derail your case, especially if you were to represent yourself.
Attorneys with experience in presenting DUI cases are familiar with many of the common legal points and how to navigate them. More importantly, they may have existing knowledge of potential means to have your penalties reduced, or to have your charges dismissed entirely.
Mitigating the Requirement to Appear in Court
If you choose to represent yourself in court, you are required to attend each court date in person. This can dramatically impact your life, from work absences to the added expense of hiring childcare or a variety of other challenges.
However, having an attorney to represent you, may reduce your requirement to appear at certain court dates. This will depend upon the jurisdiction in which your case will be tried, and the specific circumstances unique to your case. An attorney will advise you as to when you are, and are not, required to appear ensuring you comply with any mandatory appearances.
Private Attorney Knowledge
Another advantage of hiring an attorney experienced in DUI cases is that you are paying for access to legal knowledge. In addition to the years of experience in the courtroom, attorneys are required to maintain an established level of education on an annual basis in order to stay current with ever changing laws and procedures. Attempting to represent yourself may lead to an erroneous oversight of new laws that could have otherwise positively impacted your case.
Circumstances Where Attorneys Are Advantageous
It can be very important to retain legal representation if you feel that you have been incorrectly charged with DUI. This error could occur in a variety of ways, such as failing a breathalyzer test even if you have not been drinking; however, one of the most common reasons for being charged with a DUI when you have not been drinking is by failing a field sobriety test.
If you have not consumed alcohol but still fail to correctly navigate a field sobriety test, you may still be charged with a DUI. Certain medical issues or other aggravating factors can cause an inability to sufficiently pass field sobriety tests.
Trust the Professionals to Help You Navigate Your DUI Case
If you have a pending charge of driving while under the influence and are not sure what options you may have, bring your case to a legal professional for guidance. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Kermit A. Monge would be happy to help you understand your options and outline a plan based upon the specific circumstances of your case. Contact our offices to schedule a consultation to discuss the ideal strategy for your case which may reduce your penalties, reduce your charges or have them dismissed entirely.