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DUI Charges and Trials

What Are Enhancements?

If you are charged with driving under the influence, or driving while intoxicated, you may hear your DWI attorney talk about enhancements to your charges. An enhancement is any aggravating circumstance that can be used to heap more penalties on you if your DUI defense fails and you are found guilty.

Felony charges are often complicated by enhancements. In DUI cases, these enhancements can include things such as the presence of minors, prior convictions, prior DUI-related offenses, refusing a chemical test, and many others. Your drunk driving defense depends in part on minimizing these enhancements.

What Can I Expect From a Jury DUI Trial?

Depending on the laws of your state, a DUI trial can resemble a good many other kinds of jury trials. Once you have secured the services of a DUI attorney, or other legal expert in the state where you reside, you can get specific advice on what the procedures may be for your state. In general, your DUI lawyer will take part in jury selection, make opening statements, and ask may questions of the arresting officer. Evidence will be called, and your DUI defense may well depend on contesting that evidence and demonstrating that it was either inaccurate, poorly handled or administered in the case of breath tests or other sobriety checks.

Your DUI attorney will give a closing argument, the jury will be given instructions, and then they will go behind closed doors to decide the verdict. A California DUI defense may be successful, but in the event of a guilty verdict, you may have to await sentencing at a later date. Your California (or other state) DUI lawyer may be allowed to make an appeal or will be given instructions on when you are to appear to receive a sentence.

More Questions to Ask Your Attorney

Going in to a DUI trial, you need all the expertise and legal experience you can get. Your lawyer should want to fight tooth and nail to have you cleared. Your DUI defense depends greatly on how tough-minded the lawyer is. That said, your DWI attorney should be realistic with you about your chances with a "not guilty" plea. Your drunk driving defense depends on having a reasonable expectation of success.

If your attorney can't paint you a realistic picture of how the trial could go given the details of your case, fire the lawyer and move on. Don't be fooled by an excessively optimistic or unrealistic explanation from your DUI lawyer.

If the facts of your case clearly warrant a different outcome that a "not guilty" verdict, you will need counsel that can negotiate a plea or reduced sentence; in other words, someone who can expertly argue in your favor even if the verdict is not ideal.

DUI Convictions and the Washout Period

Many states have something called a "washout period" for people convicted at a DUI trial. The period varies from state to state, but the washout period is basically the length of time when another drunk driving offense is considered a second or third offense. After this time is up, the original conviction "drops off" and any new DUI incidents are treated as a first offense.

Some states keep that first offense on the books a long time. The California washout period is 10 years, calculated from the date of the first offense to the date of the second. If you find yourself in need of a California DUI lawyer, one of the first things a competent lawyer will do is check to see if you are affected by the washout period. Be sure to mention that you want these dates checked, no matter what state you live in.

The Hidden Penalty

One of the "hidden" penalties of a DUI trial, a felony charge, and the need for a good drunk driving defense is elevated insurance premiums or canceled policies as a result of a DUI trial, felony charge, or DUI conviction.

Many insurance companies don't know right away when a DUI is entered onto your record. Once they do find out, you may be placed into a high-risk category, or have your insurance cancelled altogether.

A good DUI attorney will tell you that you will probably be required to furnish proof of insurance to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a proscribed period of time following a DUI trial. Ask any professional legal expert and they will tell you that insurance companies usually have a limited time to act after a DUI conviction to raise your rates or cancel your policy.

That is good news for those facing a DUI trial, but if your company does cancel your insurance, you will have to try to get another policy with that blemish on your record.

An Alarming Trend?

Some DUI lawyers report an alarming trend of overzealous charges filed against people accused of driving under the influence of alcohol. In some cases, this type of "over-filing" is used to bring felony charges where none are warranted, up to and including murder charges in cases that clearly warrant manslaughter charges instead.

If you fear a felony conviction based on over-filing of DUI charges, your best possible DUI defense is to hire a lawyer skilled in fighting DUI charges. However, this is not enough. Your DUI lawyer will need any ammunition you can bring to court. Do you have eyewitnesses who can attest to your actual state behind the wheel and are willing to testify as to the facts of the incident in question? Do you have photographic evidence of any kind that can prove you were doing what you claim to have done? Any kind of evidence, no matter how unimportant it may seem to you now, could be of great importance.

One particular kind of witness that is often overlooked? Bartenders. If you have a bartender as a witness for the defense, your lawyer may be able to convince the jury of your innocence based on such "expert" testimony. You may think it's grasping at straws to call the bartender as your witness, but in a DUI case, especially one that carries a felony charge, you'll want all the help you can get. If they can vouch for you in court, get the testimony on the record.

Why Does My Lawyer Want Me To Plead Guilty?

Many DUI lawyers, upon reviewing the facts of a particular felony charge, will advise a client to forgo a "not guilty" plea. You may be angered when you first hear this advice, but try to keep an open mind. Your drunk driving defense may not stand up in court, or the DUI lawyer has seen the outcome of your particular DUI defense, and knows a better way to go.

Pleading guilty may be your best bet for a number of reasons. If you have no issues with a DUI washout period, or other state DUI laws, a first-time offense may be plea-bargained for a reduced punishment. Your DUI lawyer or other state counsel could get you into alcohol counseling, driving school, or community service as an alternative to incarceration, heavy fines, or other punishments. A guilty plea may actually work in your favor in a DUI trial. Being found guilty will bring much stronger punishment!

What to Tell Your Lawyer

When you decide on a lawyer, there is one major factor that can help you avoid a felony conviction for DUI. A DUI lawyer can't assemble an adequate California DUI defense (or any state, for that matter) without absolute honesty from the client. Never hold back information, mislead, or distort the facts in your case.

If you hold back information, the lawyer can't give you proper counsel. Your plea depends on your entire story, as does your defense. Tell your DUI attorney everything you can remember, and let the DUI lawyer decide how to assemble a drunk driving defense that can realistically hold up in a DUI trial.

Finding a DUI Lawyer

It seems like common sense, but when you need the services of a DUI lawyer, or any other state-certified legal expert, there are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for a DUI trial.

One of the first things you should do when preparing to retain an attorney is to ask about his or her track record when it comes to handling a potential DUI felony conviction. Have they won cases similar to yours? Do they have the right amount of experience?

Some will try to put on a very confident front while avoiding a very direct question. If your potential DUI lawyer can't or won't answer a very simple and direct question, such as "How many DUI cases have you won?" you should move on. Don't feel guilty or bad for refusing to hire someone who can't answer your questions. You are paying a lot of money to fight a possible felony conviction; you have the right to the best defense you can find.

What is a Felony DUI?

Many states will elevate a drunk driving case to a felony charge if the driver has a prior offense on the books. A felony DUI conviction can be the result. A felony DUI charge can also come if there is sufficient property damage, injury, or death as a result of the incident.

Ask any California DUI attorney, Florida DUI lawyer, or any other trained professional; you'll soon learn a felony conviction for DUI can bring as little as three to five years or probation, or as much as jail time and the suspension of your license. There are also thousands of dollars in fines, court costs, and lawyer fees to contend with.

These penalties are only for the first offense! If you find yourself in need of a DUI defense, it is critical that you get a competent, experienced drunk driving attorney immediately.

Drunk Driving in Maine - OUI

In the state of Maine, a drunk driving case is referred to as OUI (Operating Under the Influence). Operating under the influence is a serious crime in the State of Maine. In Maine, an OUI arrest can result in two separate charges:

• A court case that may result in fines, rehabilitation programs, license revocation, and possible jail time
• The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles files separate charges to suspend a person's license after an OUI

Being charged with OUI in Maine can forever change a person's life. Do whatever you can to drive safely and never operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

DUI Tests Unfair to Women?

Scientific studies on DUI and women have concluded that breathalyzer tests may be harder on women than men. Studies show women registering as being above the legal limit of .08 on a breath test even when the actual blood alcohol levels were well within the legal range. Even though no drunk driving occurs, the breath test says "guilty!"

While it may seem an unfair part of life, women should be particularly careful with regards to driving under the influence in light of these scientific studies. Don't be unfairly charged. If you are pulled over as part of a DUI sweep, request a blood test rather than risk being inaccurately measured because of your gender.

DUI Tests and Birth Control

Women and DUI breath tests are being called an unfair combination, according to some DUI lawyers. Some legal experts point to studies that indicate oral contraceptives can give false positives for .08 or higher blood alcohol content.

The reason? Oral contraception elevates the level of certain substances the breathalyzer detects, which can lead to the false reading.
These contraceptives can also be responsible for a faster "spike" in blood alcohol content, which the driver is unaware of, which will cause a "legitimate" higher reading. Either way, women get a raw deal when it comes to the breath test. Unfortunately, you may not be able to rely on this as a defense in court until legal precedents are established to provide guidance in this gray area.

Drunk driving laws currently make no distinction for men and women, nor do they provide separate tests based on gender. If you are unsure whether you should get behind the wheel in light of information such as this, it is best to call a taxi instead.

Driving While Intoxicated

The definition of DWI or DUI is not limited to alcohol and illegal drugs. Any substance that can affect your judgment falls under the law.

If you are stopped under suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer may ask you to participate in a chemical test. Some drivers may confuse this with a field sobriety test and try to refuse. What these drivers don't realize is that chemical test refusal will be used against them in court as proof that the driver was conscious of his or her illegal actions. In a drunk driving stop, never refuse the chemical test. You may have the option to request an impartial tester or go to the station house to be tested instead of "in the field". These options depend greatly on the drunk driving laws of state you are in, but if the option is there, exercise it and give yourself the best possible chance at having a test administered by a fully trained technician.

The Felony DUI

A felony DUI charge comes in several ways. A fourth DUI charge is automatically a felony. If excessive speed and very high blood alcohol content were involved, you may find the drunk driving case being charged as a felony, and the same goes of there was personal injury or property damage as a result of the DUI.

A felony DUI is a very serious thing, but the good news is depending on your circumstances, you may be able to later request a reduction of your charge to a misdemeanor. You will need to enlist your lawyer's help to do this, and you may be required to wait until after sentencing before applying for such reduction. You may be required to plead guilty or no contest to the charges. A not guilty plea should only be entered if you are dedicated to fighting the felony DUI charges.