Imagine this scene: you’re having happy hour cocktails with friends from work, and the night is winding down. You’re a little buzzed, but don’t feel drunk. You know you should probably not drive, but home isn’t far, so you decide to go for it.
You only get a few miles down the road when you see the police lights in your rearview mirror. The next thing you know, you’re being booked at the local police station for a first offense DUI.
It only takes a few critical decisions to join the ranks of 1.5 million people who are arrested for drunk driving every year.
When getting a DUI, it’s important to know what steps to take to ensure your rights are protected. Here are 5 steps you should take right away.
1. Stay Level Headed
If you get pulled over, it is crucial to keep your calm. While you probably won’t be able to talk your way out of a first offense DUI, being rude to the officer certainly won’t help your case.
Make sure to cooperate with the officer’s requests and directions. Legally, you have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test and the field sobriety test. Keep in mind, however, that the officer may still decide to arrest you for a DUI charge.
Refusal of these tests may eliminate certain evidence against you.
2. Contact an Attorney
After you have been charged with a first offense DUI, you will probably have to make court appearances. This is where you will face sentencing, and could be charged with fines, probation, or even prison time.
You will have the option to represent yourself in court, but this is not necessarily a good idea. An attorney will better understand your unique circumstances and can navigate the legal process.
Also, you should make sure to contact an attorney who has experience with DUI cases. Just because your buddy went to law school does not mean that they know how to help you with a DUI. With the consequences that are at stake, it is crucial to be represented by someone who knows how to get the best outcome for you.
Depending on the incident that led to the DUI, the case could go on for a long time. For instance, if there was a collision that involved another vehicle or property, you could be sued for personal injury or property damage. If this happens, the case could drag on for several years.
3. Get Your Story Straight
If you are facing a case that could take several years to resolve, you should make sure to get your story straight as soon as possible. You will likely be asked to give statements and multiple depositions. If details change from one deposition to another, it can make your testimony look weak.
Write Things Down
Do you remember what you were doing three weeks ago tonight? Probably not off the top of your head. You would likely need to consult your calendar or people who were with you.
For this reason, you should never rely on your memory to help you keep your facts straight when it comes to legal issues. You may forget minor details that seem minor to you, but that opposing counsel can latch onto.
Write things down like where you were, who you were with, what you did, etc. This will help you ensure that you are telling the truth with consistency.
Talk to Witnesses
If there were witnesses the evening you were out or in the vehicle at the time of the DUI, make sure to speak with them as well. Their testimonies will also be important.
In the best case scenario, what they remember can help you. But even in the worst-case scenario, it’s better to hear a testimony that will hurt your case before the fact.
Whenever you are dealing with legal issues, it is important to be circumspect about who you share details with. For example, your coworkers do not need to know everything about your case. You should also avoid discussing details in public places.
Additionally, be mindful of what you share on social media. Even something that seems harmless, like sharing photos of nights out with your friends, could hurt your case. For instance, if your pictures frequently have alcohol in it, opposing counsel could use that as evidence against you, perhaps imply that you’re an alcoholic.
4. Understand the Consequences
As you get started with your case, it is important to know what kinds of consequences are at stake. Depending on the severity of the charge, you may face hefty fines or prison time.
In most cases, your license will be suspended for some length of time. You may also need to take an alcohol education or driver education course.
If you are mandated to do these things, you should always follow through. The more compliant you are, the more smoothly the process will go.
5. Talk to Your Insurance Company
Often, after a DUI, you will see your insurance rates go up. This is because insurance rates are based on how the insurance company evaluates the risk of having you as a client. If you are charged with a DUI, that will make you seem at higher risk of causing an accident.
Reach out to your insurance company to see what kind of rate increase you can expect. Also, find out if there is anything you can do to bring your rates back down. Sometimes a driver education course may help to lower your rates again.
Know What You Should Do After First Offense DUI
Even a first offense DUI can have serious consequences. But, if you know how to navigate the next steps, you can make sure that you get your life back on track.
Need help with your DUI offense? Contact us today to speak with one of our expert attorneys about your case for a free consultation.