After a DUI Arrest, How do You Help Clients Face their Fears?
How Do You Tackle a DUI Case?
What are people’s reactions to being arrested and prosecuted for DUI?
Most people come to me scared. A lot of times, this is the first time, other than a traffic ticket, that they ever had negative contact with law enforcement. A lot of people are scared.
They have a lot of DUI questions: How is this going to impact my life? How is it going to impact my freedom? How is it going to impact my license, my job? How is this going to affect me in the long run?
Getting back to people who are first-time offenders, it becomes an inconvenience a lot of the times when they have to go through the ARD program. However, it goes away.
For people who have been arrested more than once or twice, it becomes a lot more serious. Their questions are: Am I going to do jail time? Am I going to do house arrest? How much jail time am I going to do?
Is there a particular backstory you hear from a lot of DUI arrestees, such as, “I only had two beers.”?
Most of the back stories I hear are very similar. I mean nobody usually intends to go out, get drunk, drive, and get pulled over or into an accident. Most people say: “I was at a restaurant;” “I was at an Eagles game;” or “I was at a wedding and I had a couple of glasses of wine, a couple of beers.”
Most of my clients come in and are obviously very concerned about what is going to happen to them. Very few come in and say, “Yes, I planned this out. I got rip-roaring drunk, and I hit somebody and hurt somebody.” Most of the back stories are, “Whoops. I made a mistake. Please help me.”
Once someone is arrested and charged with DUI, what consequences do they face?
It is serious. DUI in Pennsylvania is taken very seriously. It is a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania if you get arrested for a DUI law. In a lot of other states, they are just traffic offenses. However, in Pennsylvania they fingerprint you. You get a mug shot. You get booked. You have an arrest record. The consequences are severe.
If you get convicted and your blood level comes in above the legal limit, there is mandatory jail time. There is mandatory minimum jail time the judge has to give you.
For example, this is a first offense and your blood level is in the highest level- over a 0.16. The law says to the judge he has to put you in jail for a minimum of three days. He is free to give you more. However, by law, he cannot give you less.
A lot of times, if the person winds up getting convicted, the judge’s hands are tied. Jail time has to be given. Really, the only discretion the judge has is where you serve the sentence, whether it is in prison or on house arrest.
A lot of people say, “Well, it is my fault. I did drink and drive. I just want to get it over with. I am thinking about just pleading guilty.” What is wrong with this approach?
People come in and say to me, “I am guilty. I did this.” My response is always, “Well, you may feel guilty. I am more concerned, as a defense attorney, whether they can prove you are guilty.”
There are a myriad of defenses you could use for Driving Under the Influence. The most common is whether the police have probable cause to stop your vehicle. That is the most common defense to a DUI.
There are situations where the police officer did not see the person driving. That certainly makes our case better if the officer did not actually view any unsafe driving behavior.
Should You Ever Plead Guilty to a DUI?
As far as pleading guilty, I tell clients, “You might not have to. You might be eligible for ARD.” I say, “You might have a great defense;” or “We could go to trial and potentially get you acquitted.” A very experienced criminal defense attorney looks at the evidence, requests discovery and determines exactly what evidence they have against the client.
I will never tell somebody to plead guilty; unless I am 1000% sure there is no other alternative.