This article will focus on some of the more important considerations following a 1st offense DUI arrest. In this article, we’ll talk about finding a lawyer, the arraignment, staying out of jail, and what happens to your license. One of the most important things to keep in mind is to NOT rush into anything, especially retaining an attorney. Unfortunately, the legal industry tends to send the opposite message, with many lawyers marketing their services (“Call Now!” and “Phones Answered 24 Hours”) as if you should pick a lawyer right away. That’s dead wrong; even hotel room service isn’t open 24 hours.
If you have never been in trouble before and are an otherwise a law-abiding, good person, it is normal to experience a lot of stress as a result of getting popped for drunk driving. The good news is that most of the things you likely fear are almost certainly not going to happen to you. I don’t say that to suggest that I have some kind of special, magic formula that is only available to those who hire me, but rather because I want the reader to understand that no matter who you do or don’t hire as your lawyer, certain things (like going to jail) are almost never on menu in a 1st offense DUI case.
You will certainly do better in a DUI case with a good lawyer, but you don’t need any kind of savior, and you should be very skeptical of anyone who makes themselves out as anything like that. This is why you need to take your time and read around. It’s natural for anyone facing a DUI to want answers right away. That’s one of the reasons I have written and published well over 400 DUI articles to date.
Certain kinds of lawyers work better with certain types of clients; my practice, for example, caters more to the thoughtful person who is looking for information and is doing some research, rather than the person with no patience whatsoever, and who, instead of taking a little time to read, just wants everything answered, explained, and taken care of right now, even if it’s in the middle of the night.
To that end, my team and I offer free and confidential consultations, done over the phone, right when you call. However, unlike White Castle, we’re not open 24 hours, nor do we pretend to be by using an answering service to handle those late-night calls. As much as we don’t want to be that kind of law firm, neither are we the right fit for that kind of client, either.
Beyond all that, there are certain things that everyone is going to have to do following an arrest for OWI and their release from jail thereafter. By the time most people begin searching for answers on the internet, they’ve gotten home, retrieved their vehicle from impound, and are looking to find out what happens next, and what they should do about it.
The first official step in DUI proceedings is the arraignment, where a person appears before a Judge or a Magistrate, is informed of the charge(s) against him or her, and has a bond set, along with bond conditions (like alcohol and drug testing). Some people go through this process and are arraigned before they’re released from jail, while most, are usually let go the next morning, and are either instructed to contact the court within so many days or are told that they’ll receive some kind of notice in the mail.
Here’s the key thing anyone needs to know about an arraignment: if you go to yours without a lawyer, ALWAYS – as in 100% ALWAYS – no exceptions ever – plead NOT GUILTY. There is no prosecutor at an arraignment, so it’s not any kind of contested hearing. In fact, if all you get from this article is to plead “not guilty” at your arraignment, then I will have done a good day’s work.
Most of the time, in 1st offense DUI cases (but usually not in High BAC cases), the arraignment can be waived, even if a person has been instructed to show up to court on a certain date. To waive an arraignment, the lawyer files papers with the court indicating that he or she has explained the nature of the charge(s) to his or her client, and also enters a plea of “not guilty” to any and all charges on the client’s behalf.
When the arraignment is waived, the person doesn’t have to show up to court for it, and everyone waits for notice of the next court date, called a “pretrial.”
The reason some courts won’t allow the waiver of an arraignment is that they want a person to show up so that bond conditions – specifically, no consumption of alcohol or use of drugs – can be imposed right away, and the person can also be ordered to provide breath and/or urine samples at specific intervals to prove he or she is abiding by them.
When an arraignment is waived, the standard bond conditions of no drinking and testing to prove compliance will be imposed when everyone shows up later, for the pretrial.
Some people feel like it’s necessary to have a lawyer before the arraignment; it is not.
Of course, it’s better if a person can hire a lawyer beforehand, especially if in doing so the arraignment can be waived and a trip to court avoided, but as I made clear earlier, if that doesn’t happen, then all a person needs to do is make sure he or she enters a “not guilty” plea when asked how they plead by the Judge or Magistrate.
It would be easy to digress here, and get into all kinds of nitty-gritty about arraignments, but we’ll skip that so we can cover more ground. The key takeaway, for now, is that in a 1st offense DUI case, if you hire a lawyer before your arraignment date, there’s a good chance that it can be waived. If not, then you’ll go and enter a not guilty plea.
Speaking of “going,” everyone worries about going to jail. In order to explain this properly, our discussion from here forward will have to assume that the DUI charges against you are “solid” and would survive any legal challenges. In other words, we’re not going to be looking at those lucky situations where a case can be “knocked out” of court somehow.
For everything one could say about this, the simple reality is that almost without exception, nobody goes to jail for a 1st offense drunk driving.
What are the possible exceptions?
One district court Judge in Oakland county, and maybe a situation where you were so drunk, you rear-ended and wrecked multiple cars as you plowed along the road.
Over 99% of the cases my team and I handle are nowhere near an exception, so if you’re facing a 1st offense DUI charge, it’s almost certain that you have nothing to worry about.
It’s also important to point out here is that there is a good chance that charge you face right now (either OWI or OWI with a BAC of .17 or Greater) may very well be dismissed if a plea bargain can be negotiated to a lesser offense.
Therefore, it does you no good to start looking up the penalties for the charge you’re currently facing, and then get all freaked out, when there is a likelihood that a good lawyer will be able to get a deal that gets rid of that and allows you to plead guilty to a less severe offense.
What the Judge orders you to do, and not to do, is what you will have to deal with. If you have to do some kind of long-term and expensive alcohol treatment and be breath and/or urine tested all the time for the next 2 years, things are going to suck.
On the other hand, if your case can be wrapped up with nothing more than a fine you pay at the front counter of the courthouse, and that’s the entirety of your punishment, you’ve just hit the proverbial jackpot as far as DUI cases go.
In 1st offense cases, what is likely to happen to you will almost always involve some kind of probation and continued testing. Often, various other kind of remedial measures are required, as well, and can range from alcohol education, counseling to outright treatment, along with testing.
The bottom line, of course, is that the less that happens to you, the better. This is why I’m fond of saying that success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you.
If you go through the DUI process, there will be at least some restrictions placed upon your driver’s license. Unless your case is, in fact, completely tossed out of court, you will have some kind of driving restrictions for a while. Remember, the charge first made against you may very well NOT be the final charge that’s negotiated on your behalf, so you can’t gauge what will happen to you until you know that final charge.
For reference, here are the driver’s license penalties for the 3 varies of 1st time OWI offenses:
High BAC or OWI with a BAC of .17 or Greater:
License will be suspended for 1 year. There is no driving for the first 45 days, but then a restricted license is automatically issued for the remaining 10 and ½ months (320 days) but you must use an ignition interlock.
OWI 1st Offense:
License will be suspended for 6 months. There is no driving for the first 30 days, but then a restricted license is automatically issued for the remaining 5 months (150 days). No interlock is required.
OWVI (“Impaired Driving”):
License will be suspended for 90 days. You will get a restricted license from the very first day. This means you will never completely lose the ability to drive. No interlock is required.
There is, of course, a lot more to a 1st offense DUI, but this will at least suffice as a quick survey of what I listed at the outset of this short installment. If you want to learn more, I have done a detailed examination of every aspect of the DUI process within the hundreds of articles in the DUI section of this blog.
Whatever else, I want the reader to understand that finding the right lawyer for his or her 1st offense DUI case takes a little effort and should never be rushed. The hiring decision should not be made based upon anything like who calls you back first, or who has evening or weekend appointments.
If you don’t hire a lawyer before your arraignment, you should always plead NOT GUILTY when you go.
Almost, with just a few exceptions, jail is NOT on the menu in a 1st offense DUI case, so you don’t need to be “saved” from that by any lawyer.
Finally, although success in a DUI case is always best measured by what does NOT happen to you, unless your case is thrown out of court, you will have to deal with some restrictions of your driving for a while, but that’s often the worst of it.
If you are facing a DUI and are looking to hire a lawyer, do your homework. Read around; see how lawyers explain things. When you’re ready, check around. My team and I are really friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things. All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. You can reach our office Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. unit 5:00 p.m., at 586-465-1980. We’re here to help.