I’ve been charged with DUI. What should I do?
The most important thing to do is to immediately speak to a criminal attorney with experience in handling DUI cases. This may sound simplistic and self-serving, but there are certain time periods that begin to run after your arrest and, if action is not taken within those time periods, you could give up some valuable rights and tools to fight the charge.
What rights are affected by a DUI arrest that a criminal attorney can protect?
The biggest one is your right to drive. If you took and flunked the breath test, or if you refused to take a breath, blood or urine test, your license is automatically suspended for a set period of time. An experienced criminal DUI attorney can file challenges to the suspension that will keep you driving for at least awhile in the short run and may be able to overturn the suspension altogether. But action must be taken within ten days or you will have to serve out the suspension that can be for as much as 18 months, in some circumstances.
If I’m arrested for DUI, should I take the breath test?
That is call only you can make at that time and place. If you have not been drinking, then, by all means, take the breath test. It will provide the best evidence that you were sober at the time. If you have been drinking some, the answer is more complicated. In some jurisdictions, the courts have disallowed the breath test from coming into evidence because it is not reliable and the manufacturer refuses to provide evidence of how it works to the courts. In jurisdictions where it is admissible, it can be the worst evidence against you. If you’re sure you’ll pass, then take it. Otherwise, you may want to decline to provide that evidence. But, if the officer thinks you are high on something, even if it’s not alcohol, he may request a urine test to try to support his belief.
Can they force me to give a breath or urine sample after a DUI arrest?
Just as nobody can force you to blow in the tube, nobody can force you to pee in a cup. They can suspend your license for not taking either or both tests if they have reason to believe that you are drinking or high. The belief that you were drinking can come from the officer’s observations, but it is harder to develop a belief that you’ve taken some drugs without you admitting that. Needless to say, it is not a good idea to admit you’ve taken drugs, just as it is not in your best interest to tell the cop you just won the beer-chugging contest at the bar and were on your way home from there.
Can I ask to talk to a DUI lawyer before making my decision?
No. The courts have held that, unlike an interrogation, where you can talk to a lawyer before and during the questioning, there is no right to consult an attorney before you decide whether to take the breath test. It can be confusing because they’ve usually read you your Miranda rights saying you have the right to an attorney, only to be told that you do not have the right to an attorney when it comes to the breath or urine test.
Why is a DUI charge so serious? I thought it was just a misdemeanor.
It is a misdemeanor for the first couple of convictions, but, after that it can be prosecuted as a felony carrying State Prison time. Even as a misdemeanor, a DUI conviction carries significant repercussions, including license suspension, mandatory fines, probation, community service and more. Additionally, a DUI conviction can affect your ability to get insurance, not to mention the price you’ll have to pay for it. And, unlike other misdemeanors, the court must adjudicate you, which means you will have a criminal conviction on your record for the rest of your life.
Randall Grantham is an attorney with offices located in Pasco County, Florida. The above FAQ are intended to be for general informational purposes only and are NOT to be construed as legal advice. If you have any specific questions on these or any other criminal law issues, you should consult an attorney of your choice.