There’s a first time for everything, and sometimes, unfortunately, that includes a criminal charge for driving under the influence (DUI) of a chemical substance. Many first-timers often ask, “Should I get a lawyer for my first DUI?” You will quickly realize that a first-time DUI can be scary. Many times the alleged DUI offender succumbs to the fear and thinks that pleading guilty is the quickest way out of the problem. Other times, first-time offenders think they can go it alone, thinking that a DUI charge isn’t significant enough to pay an attorney for representation.
Neither of those choices is a good one, though. If you plead guilty, you are looking at a sentence more severe than if you had fought the charge. A first-time DUI conviction also means that if you are ever charged with a DUI again and are subsequently convicted, you face harsher punishment. You can quickly and easily get lost in the process if you try to fight the DUI charge on your own.
Hiring a qualified DUI defense attorney is to your benefit. Here’s an overview of how an experienced DUI defense attorney can help you beat your first DUI.
How a DUI Attorney Challenges the State’s Case
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt two basic elements of a DUI charge (though it can vary from state to state):
- You were driving a vehicle
- While unlawfully intoxicated.
The State must prove both of these elements, which is harder than it appears. Absent one or the other, the likely outcome is dismissal or an acquittal. Much of it turns on the technical and scientific aspects of the DUI evidence.
An experienced DUI defense attorney will be able to identify technical or scientific issues that could be used to challenge the state’s case against you. Described below are four of the most common challenges.
No Probable Cause (Illegal Stop)
Police officers do not have the authority to pull someone over whenever they feel like doing so. Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the police must have probable cause to pull someone over. If you were stopped for an illegal reason, your attorney should file a motion to suppress evidence. As a result, the prosecutor may not have enough evidence to satisfy the burden of proof.
Innocent Reasons for Physical Signs of Impairment
In some cases, drivers are arrested on DUI charges because police officers notice “signs” of physical impairment. Some examples include slurred speech, red/swollen eyes, and flushed skin on the face. Of course, these physical conditions are not always associated with impairment. Red eyes, for example, may simply be a result of allergies or fatigue. If there is a valid reason for impairment, your defense attorney can use it to weaken the state’s case.
Breathalyzer Test Errors
For most drivers (aside from minors and CDL drivers), the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is 0.08. When a breath test shows a BAC level at or above 0.08, officers may make an arrest for impaired driving. However, breathalyzer tests are not nearly as accurate as many people assume. A thorough investigation can reveal problems that can be used to challenge a “positive” result. Without the breath test results, the state may not be able to support a DUI charge.
Problems With Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are notoriously inaccurate. Studies have found that the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, the One Leg Stand, and the Walk and Turn, all have significant error rates. One of the primary issues is that police have no baseline assessment of a specific driver’s performance. If relevant, your attorney can challenge the validity of a failed field sobriety test to help beat a DUI charge.
To be successful, the above and any other challenge requires a combination of skill, experience, and resources.
Should I Get a Lawyer for My First DUI?
At Restorify by DUI.org, we can tell you that you are almost never likely to beat a DUI if you represent yourself. The same is true if you hire an inexperienced attorney. On the other hand, your chances of beating the DUI charge increase exponentially with a fully vetted DUI.org defense attorney.
So, to answer your question: yes, you should get a lawyer for a first-time DUI. Contact us at (866) 974-1241 to access all the information you need to beat your DUI charge.