This is a very common question that most people have. Do I really need an attorney if this is only my first DUI offense? The quick answer to that question is, it depends. Some will say that because DUI offenses are common and straightforward, you don’t necessarily need an attorney to handle your case. However, even if circumstances that point to clear guilt, you may still want the assistance of a DUI attorney to walk you through the procedure and make sure you’re not receiving penalties that are unjust or outside of the realm of common DUI consequences. While hiring an attorney under these circumstances may seem optional, there are other scenarios when an attorney is considered necessary. In this article, we explain a few circumstances that you should hire an attorney for if this is your first DUI offense in NY.
Eligibility for a DUI Plea-Bargain
Some cases are considered open and shut. Let’s say your blood alcohol level was way over the BAC limit of .08%. You were driving recklessly and there were multiple witnesses. In addition, you failed the required field sobriety tests. Your best bet in these cases might be to plead guilty and move on. However, if any of the factors that resulted in your first DUI offense appear questionable, that’s another story. Here are a few different examples of reasons to hire a DUI lawyer and shoot for a plea bargain:
- The field sobriety tests weren’t conducted properly
- You noticed the officer struggling with the breathalyzer device
- You felt the breathalyzer device could be faulty or had technical issues
- Your blood alcohol reading was under .08%
- There were issues with the arresting officer. For instance, he or she failed to read you your Miranda rights or there was physical harm done to you during the arrest.
If any of these examples seem similar to your experience, you’ll definitely want to have an attorney for your first DUI offense. An attorney can work with the prosecutor to reduce your charges to a reckless driving charge or have your charges dropped completely if your evidence is clear.
Reduce Your Penalties or Sentence
Another option is for you to plead guilty in an exchange for a lesser sentence. In this scenario, you’ll also want to hire a DUI attorney to help you negotiate with the prosecution. Experienced DUI attorneys will be able to tell you if the judges in your jurisdiction are open to the idea of reducing sentences in exchange for sentence bargains. While this may be rare, since most judges see DUI cases so often, it’s still a possibility.
If Aggravated Circumstances Were Involved
Sometimes a DUI is more than just a DUI. If there were special circumstances involved that made your first DUI offense more than just a misdemeanor, you’ll want to have a DUI attorney by your side. A first DUI offense can quickly turn into a felony if:
- You were charged with your first DUI offense with a child in the car
- Your blood alcohol level was extremely high
- If there was an accident involved that caused injuries
- If an unregistered weapon or illegal drugs were found in the car at the time of the arrest
The state of New York considers these and circumstances like it to be very serious. You could face extremely harsh penalties that go way beyond common DUI penalties. For instance, you could spend up to one year in prison if you’re charged with a first DUI offense with aggravating circumstances.
If Your Case Goes to Trial for Your First DUI Offense
It is possible to take a DUI case to trial if you decide not to accept a plea bargain. An important point to remember is that if your DUI case goes to trial and a jury finds you guilty, a judge can enforce the maximum penalties upon you. This makes taking a DUI case to trial very risky. The procedures for taking a DUI case to trial is much more complex than simply making a plea bargain. However, it’s not impossible to get the results you want, especially if you have a good amount of evidence supporting your case. Remember, it’s never recommended for you to take your DUI case to trial alone. In this circumstance, you’ll want to have an attorney.
Public Defenders Vs. Private Attorneys
You may qualify to have a public defender represent you if your income is considered low. Be sure to do your research and make sure you’re being represented by someone with experience in DUIs. If you’re assigned a public defender that has a bad reputation or little experience, you may want to invest in a private attorney. A trustworthy DUI attorney with experience can assist you with many of the scenarios described in this article. If you’d like more information about your first DUI offense, contact a private attorney today for more information.