You messed up. You were drinking and then you decided to drive. You shouldn’t have done it, but now you’re here. You got pulled over and were charged with a DUI or DWI. Your license was physically taken, and you’ve received a temporary permit for the time being.
Now what? What’s going to happen? Will you face jail time? Community service? How about your record? Will you need an ignition interlock device in your vehicle?
What about your license?
When many people receive a DUI, their first question is: is there a license suspension? How long? If so, do I get a temporary license? What does a temporary driver’s license look like?
If you’re stressed and worried, beating yourself up over driving under the influence and fearing what the future may hold, just know you’re not alone. Before you begin to fret over license suspension, possible jail time, and other aspects of a DUI arrest, seek legal counsel.
Seasoned DUI attorneys and pro bono drunk driving lawyers may be available to you immediately after your arrest.
What Constitutes a DUI/DWI?
Once you lose your license after a DUI, you are issued a temporary permit. But what if you don’t believe you committed a DUI offense? What if your DUI or DWI arrest were not properly conducted or errors led to an unlawful arrest?
Before you stress over your DUI charge or DWI charges, before you even think about the criminal court date, make sure that you understand what constitutes a DUI and DWI.
Because federal laws do not delineate the difference between a DUI and DWI, it is largely up to the states to make their determinations.
Generally speaking, a DUI means Driving Under the Influence, and a DWI means Driving While Intoxicated.
Again, it all varies depending on the state. In some cases, a driver may be charged based on driving behavior alone, or simple suspicion of substance use, even in the absence of a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading.
The federal legal limit for one’s BAC is 0.08 but some states may level charges for reading as low as 0.01%. In some states, a DWI requires a higher level of blood concentration, while in many a DUI is more severe. In many states, a DWI refers to drugged driving and not drunk driving at all.
Some states even have zero-tolerance protocols and view both DUIs and DWIs the same. Regardless, if a driver fails a field sobriety test without a proportionate chemical test reading, he or she may still be charged.
Whether you receive a DWI or DUI charge, there are important considerations that should be at the forefront of your mind.
Will You Lose Your License Immediately After a DUI Arrest?
If you’re worried that you’re going to lose your license immediately after a DUI, remember one thing: your driver’s license is not revoked by your state until you’ve had your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) revocation hearing within 30 days of your arrest.
Fortunately, there are several actions you and your legal representative can take to possibly prevent the administrative driver’s license suspension or contest the DUI charge.
What is a DMV Driver’s License Suspension Hearing?
Although the laws vary from state to state, for the most part, a state agency such as the DMV will suspend your driving privileges following a DUI arrest. There is a difference between a DUI license suspension and a DWI license suspension. In some states, a DUI carries a stricter punishment, whereas in other states a DWI is a more severe event.
A breath or blood test will typically determine the percentage of alcohol in the blood. The results of breath or blood tests will put the DMV license suspension into action. If an individual refuses to take the test, this may also cause DMV action.
The administrative license suspension typically takes place within 30 days of the arrest. However, drivers have options. You can request a DMV revocation hearing which will temporarily hold the driver’s license suspension in place.
Failure to request a summary suspension hearing (usually within 10 days) will result in your forfeiture of the right to contest the administrative license suspension period. In other words, this is an automatic suspension.
If the DMV summary suspension hearing results in a loss, you will lose your license immediately. To avoid this administrative suspension, ensure you align yourself with an experienced legal professional who can help with your DUI case or DWI arrest.
How to Win a Drunk Driving DMV License Suspension Hearing
The first thing you need to do when facing a DUI conviction is to understand how to protect your driving privileges. Although potentially rare, there are various procedural errors, reporting mistakes, and paperwork inaccuracies that may invalidate the DWI or DUI arrest.
Through forensic science laws, you may be able to get off scot-free on a technicality. There are currently three main ways that drivers facing license suspension can have the whole DUI charge dropped before it becomes a DUI conviction.
Getting DUI Charges Dropped Through Technicalities
Clerical errors, equipment malfunctions, and procedural omissions can mean the difference between a suspended license, thousands of dollars in fees, jail time, and more, and having nothing to worry about.
A skilled DUI attorney can help determine if everything went according to protocol. Crucial aspects of the arrest include:
Proper Blood Test
Blood is complicated. If you’ve ever watched a show about blood spatter analysis or simply seen blood test results printed out from a doctor’s office, you know a lot is going on in there! As such, it’s probably not surprising that a blood-alcohol test can also be more complex than initially thought.
Many factors may affect the results of a chemical test, including alcohol peaking in the blood sample, contamination of that sample, improper sample storage, and even the fermentation of the sample.
Alcohol takes time to be absorbed by your blood. This means that your blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time the arresting officer pulled you over may be significantly lower than the BAC taken hours after the fact. The blood test levels reached later would misleadingly indicate that you were more intoxicated at the time the law enforcement officer arrested you.
If proper handling and storage protocols are not followed as well, the chemical test results may be completely invalidated and inadmissible as evidence.
Before you potentially lose your driving privileges, face an ignition interlock device installation, jail time, or hours of community service, you should consult a DUI attorney about your blood test.
Proper Breath Analysis
There are various reasons that drivers face criminal charges for drunk driving. Sometimes, the equipment is faulty and gives an exaggerated reading. Other times, the individual arrested may have a gastrointestinal condition or other anomalous health conditions that trigger a faulty reading that exceeds the legal limit of the breath test.
Occasionally, the arresting officer makes a simple or egregious mistake on the breath test. Because breathalyzers measure the breath and not your blood, alcohol in your mouth may cause a higher than actual reading.
Fortunately, a top DUI lawyer will know to look into these critical aspects as you face a potential license suspension and more. If the law enforcement officer did not properly use the equipment, your charges could be completely dropped.
Proper Police Reports
It is also important to consider what is documented during and following the arrest. There are certain police behaviors, paperwork, and procedures that must be followed.
Issues may include:
• Improper Mirandization
• Officer Attitude and Demeanor
• Accuracy of Police Reports, Paperwork, and Testimony
As the individual arrested, you are entitled to Mirandization by the arresting officer. Whether the police officer was not justified in pulling you over or did not properly communicate your rights, you may be able to make the most of this technicality.
Even an improper, unmerited, or unjustified attitude or demeanor of the officer may help your case.
Whether dealing with a breath or blood test, analyzing paperwork and documentation, or simply trying to make sense of the overall picture, you should hire a legal professional to help.
Having a Solid DWI Defense or DUI Defense Team
It is also critical that a top DUI defense lawyer review the various documents submitted following your arrest. Differences between an officer’s testimony, deposition, and a police report may present technicalities leading to charge dismissal.
Outright lies will get the charges tossed immediately after a DUI arrest.
Having a criminal defense attorney, public defender, or another legal advisor may be critical in preventing a restricted license or driver’s license suspension. If you are about to lose your license, a DMV hearing may be the difference maker.
How You May Lose Your License at a DMV Hearing Or In Court
As you face an administrative suspension of your driver’s license, you need to know what you’re up against. A lawyer can explain these important details in a free consultation. Having a suspended driver’s license can significantly complicate your daily life.
If you refused the alcohol or blood test or were found guilty of having a particular concentration of alcohol or drugs in your blood, you may lose your license as well as face other penalties and punishment.
Before you plead guilty, discuss with a DUI lawyer the likelihood of certain charges and what you face in full. The state has to prove that it is more likely than not that several crucial aspects occurred in your case.
The Preponderance of Evidence in DMV Hearings
This is called proving by a preponderance of the evidence. It means that there is over a 50% chance that the claim is true (i.e., that you were driving intoxicated). Fortunately for the driver, this standard of proof is lower than both standards of clear and convincing evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt.
Whether you face full license revocation, want to have all driving privileges preserved, or expect to receive a temporary license, the state will aim to demonstrate all three of the following points to revoke your license:
- The officer had reasonable grounds for believing you were driving or physically controlling the vehicle while influenced by drugs and/or alcohol.
- You were arrested lawfully.
- You had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least .08% or refused to undergo a chemical test after being told the repercussions of refusal.
At this administrative court date, the DMV hearing officer ultimately determines the fate of your license. This individual reviews evidence such as chemical test results, observations of inebriation or intoxication, and other results such as field sobriety tests.
If there are no disqualifying technicalities and all necessary aspects are proven by a preponderance of the evidence, your license will be suspended.
However, if you can win your hearing, you can continue driving even while your DUI or DWI charges are pending. Sometimes, the arresting officer may not show up, which could be great news for preventing license suspension.
This hearing is also a precursor to criminal proceedings as your case moves forward. With a DUI lawyer at your side, you can better prepare for potential criminal charges that may arise later.
You can also have an actual judge review the administrative suspension.
Important Aspects of a DUI Arrest that Can Save Your DUI Case
When you’re facing potential license suspension, there are several key factors you and your attorney must consider. Whether you’re at the DMV hearing or in court facing criminal DUI charges, the circumstances of your arrest must be presented fully and transparently.
The police officer or police officers involved must conduct themselves properly. This doesn’t simply mean that they follow the law, but that they don’t mistreat you, verbally or physically harass you, or engage in uncalled-for behaviors.
In some cases, police officers may manhandle a driver without need. It’s one thing if the driver is being belligerent and threatening. It’s another if the driver is calm and compliant and the police officers use excessive force.
Whether you’re pleading guilty or challenging all aspects of the case, your attorney can review the following facets of your DUI arrest.
Circumstances of the DUI Arrest
So what happened when you got arrested? Consider who was involved, what happened, where you were pulled over, and how it all occurred. Were you swerving? Driving with friends? At a red light? On a busy street mid-day, or a deserted road early morning? How and why did the police officer pull you over?
All aspects of the setting and circumstance should be analyzed to determine if there was anything untoward, improper, or inexplicable.
Were you given your rights? Was the device working properly? Did the officer know how to operate it? Did it detect an accurate level of BAC? These are all important aspects when considering if things went appropriately.
Also, consider any blood testing done later. Was it accurate and properly stored? Did the field sobriety test yield the results stated in the police reports? Did your demeanor, state, condition, and behaviors align with what was documented and/or tested?
Were the necessary documents and paperwork filled out completely and accurately? Did the officer ensure the police reports were honest, transparent, and representative of the scenario? Do you dispute anything in the paperwork? Is there any missing? Anything dubious or illegible?
Aside from the content of the police report, was the paperwork filed properly and promptly? If the charging documents are not completed and filed appropriately, this may affect the charges.
Was anybody in the vicinity that saw what happened? Can they contest what the police officers said? Do they disagree with what is being alleged? How did other individuals or parties interact with the alleged DUI event? Is there more to the story that isn’t being told?
Are certain facts or aspects of the case doubted?
In addition to technicalities and nuances of the law, the burden of proof requirements, and other facets of the case, these considerations are of utmost importance. They are paramount. Feel free to communicate to your lawyer or attorney all the details of your case, even those that are sensitive or embarrassing. The attorney-client relationship exists for a reason.
If, however, you still get your license suspended, there are certain realities you must understand. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. It’s always a good idea to know what could be coming your way, especially if this is your first offense and you are completely unsure of what may happen.
License After a DUI: Understanding License Suspension
Unless you can defend yourself successfully at your DMV hearing our court date, a DUI or DWI license suspension is typically a minimum of 6 months. This of course can change dramatically based on particular factors of the arrest. First-time offenders also face the installation of an ignition interlock system.
Common punishments and penalties for first-time offenders include:
- 6 to 12 Months Suspended License
- 10 Days to Three Months Jail-time
- Ignition Interlock Installation
- Driving Record Points (8-12 Points)
- Alcohol Classes/Rehab
- Community Service Hours
Depending upon the merits of a case and the aspects of the DUI arrest, an arrestee might be able to reduce his or her license suspension time by pleading guilty. With the addition of the ignition interlock device, a driver may enjoy a further reduced license suspension period.
The restricted license must be used in only vehicles with the device installed, whether they are personal or occupational driver’s license vehicles.
So-called hardship licenses are also ideal for drivers dealing with a DUI offense. Whether losing a Texas ALR hearing and receiving summary suspension or winning your criminal trial in California or New York, you can explore options that help your DUI defense.
Even a highly restricted license is better than no license. Don’t let an administrative suspension keep you from being able to function normally. Don’t land yourself in jail, facing hefty fines, and long hours of rehabilitation or community service, if you don’t have to.
Without strong legal guidance, there is a good chance your license will be suspended, at least. If you were arrested for a DUI or DWI, there are plenty of experts that can help you.
At the very least, you may be able to enter a guilty plea and lessen your punishment.
Obtaining a Hardship Temporary Driver’s License
If you receive a restricted driver’s license after a license suspension, your driving privileges are not fully returned. Rather, you can drive under specific conditions and circumstances, given your reasons are approved. The ‘hardship’ inherent in this driver’s license issuance is primarily concerned with work, school, and other places that are integral parts of your day-to-day life.
If you have children, you may also be permitted to drive your children from doctor appointments, school functions, and other vital places. This may vary by state, but in most cases, driving to and from such places is only allowed during certain day hours.
For instance, if you are pulled over driving at late night, you may have a difficult time explaining to the police officer that your driving constitutes a hardship exemption.
How to Get a Restricted License
Again, your ability to obtain this restricted temporary license will vary by the state and location of your DUI offense. Although you won’t receive the license immediately if you are eligible and complete the process, you should be granted the restricted driver’s license within a short period.
Your driving record, license type, and other factors related to the DUI charges will be of significance when determining your eligibility. In some cases, you may be able to get your restricted driver’s license after one license revocation, but not after a second suspension period.
Just make sure you had a valid license to begin with!
Typically, applying for a restricted driver’s license requires you to fill out the paperwork with the DMV. Remember, you have to prove that having your license suspended and being unable to drive poses significant hardship.
This means that you have to convince the DMV that using public transportation such as buses or trains is not a reliable option. This may be difficult, but if you had your driver’s license suspended and public transportation makes working very hard, you may have a strong argument.
In some cases, you may have to serve a hard suspension period of 30 days or so before you can receive the restricted temporary license.
Consequences of Losing Your Driver’s License in a DUI Offense
When you are convicted of a DUI, you are convicted of a criminal offense. This may prevent many future opportunities, whether they be social, occupational, recreational, or personal. Depending upon the job, position, or career field, you may struggle to obtain or maintain employment.
Not only may it be difficult to get a job, but even if you do, you may struggle to get to work on time without a license. Furthermore, there is the stigma of being a ‘drunk driver’ and having a blow-and-go in your vehicle if you do have your license still.
Repeat Offenders, Injuries, and Underage Drinking
If you’re a repeat offender, the stigma and consequences of your actions may be far worse. If you injured somebody else stemming from your influenced driving, your punishment will be more severe.
It’s important that you also remember how a DUI conviction affects your ability to travel abroad. If you are applying for citizenship status, this conviction may affect that. Moreover, your insurance rates may increase significantly.
As we all know, drinking underage is also an issue. If you are convicted of a DUI or DWI offense while underage, you can expect to see your license suspended for anywhere between one year to three years.
This is why you must obtain legal assistance. You may be able to have a free consultation with a criminal trial lawyer about your case. Although it’s highly recommended that you attend your hearing and court date with an attorney at your side, at the very least you should consult one beforehand.
If you’ve been arrested for a DUI, you have rights. A legal professional can help ensure those rights are protected.
Minimizing Your Penalties After a DUI or DWI Offense
There are many benefits to having experienced, expert DUI and DWI lawyers at your side throughout the process, from your DMV hearing to your criminal court date. Whether you seek reputable legal minds from The National Trial Lawyers or simply a public defender in your area, you need a professional you can trust.
The reasons to have a lawyer in your case are numerous. Many mistakes occur from the moment the driver is pulled over, through the chemical and field sobriety testing, during other aspects of the arrest, and finally at the stage of submitting the necessary paperwork.
With a good lawyer, you can detect the nuances and subtleties in this process.
There are many things to consider. The equipment has to be working right. You have to be alerted of your rights. The documentation must be accurate and wholly completed. It needs to be proven you were operating the vehicle. The BAC levels need to be thoroughly understood.
Perhaps most importantly, a good defender can highlight weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case. In many ways, your case is a negotiation. A legal mind knows the ins and outs of the system. They know how to play to your strengths to present your case in a better light.
Is this your first offense? An isolated incident? Did somebody else involved have a greater role in the incident than the prosecutor acknowledges?
Are you a person in good standing but struggling for money? Perhaps your lawyer can help get the fines reduced, keep you out of jail, and decrease the required community service hours.
Again, the details vary in every case. There is no one-size-fits-all defense or prosecution. That’s why you need a seasoned legal professional for your DUI or DWI case.
Whether you’re trying to appeal to the California Department of Motor Vehicles to get a hardship license for your first offense, or you’re a serial drunk driver looking at serious time in jail, you need an attorney that knows the law, the system, and the realities you face.
Every day, individuals are charged with DUIs and DWIs. Many of them face stiffer punishments simply because they don’t know their rights, the law, or the way prosecution works.
Don’t be another Average Joe or Jane who loses to the system and ends up down in the dumps.
Consult a DUI/DWI attorney today and defend yourself against license suspension and everything else you face.