This is a guest article from fellow a fellow DUI lawyer in NYC – Aaron Wallenstein. For over 20 years, Aaron has been a forefront expert in handling DUI/DWI cases in New York.
Some people just don’t want to retain a DWI attorney to represent them in court. They feel it’s an unnecessary expense, and they simply go before a judge and plead guilty. There are plenty of reasons why you should have an attorney, even if it’s your first offense. Here are just a few of those reasons.
There might be a defense
You’re not a DWI lawyer, so you’re not familiar with all of the defenses that you might have. These defenses can include:
- Probable cause for the traffic stop
- Performance on field sobriety tests
- Withholding evidence that negates your guilt
- Refusal of breath testing
- If breath tested, when and how the test was given
A successful motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence illegally seized can prompt the prosecution to dismiss the DWI charge against you. If that happens, the worst case scenario might be a plea of guilty to illegal lane usage and a $50 fine. You dodged a bullet, and your attorney was worth every penny in legal fees that you paid.
Pleading to a reduced charge
The facts of every case are different. So is every driver’s history, but if a plea of guilty is appropriate, an experienced DWI attorney might be able to have the DWI charged dropped in return for a plea of guilty to a reduced offense. You might want to look into this with your attorney if you refused to perform field sobriety tests and breath testing. Now that search warrants are required for blood testing, we’ll be seeing more of these types of pleas in DWI courtrooms. With a plea of guilty to a lesser offense, that dreaded DUI conviction won’t be following you.
Illinois is an example of a state where a DWI defendant faces up to 364 days in jail and a fine not to exceed $2,500. If the facts surrounding a case are aggravating enough, it’s perfectly within a judge’s discretion to sentence a defendant within those parameters. When somebody gets a sufficiently long jail sentence, they’re likely to lose their job along with their freedom. If a personal injury accident was involved, the case is ripe to be upgraded to a felony.
Your right to a trial
Every person charged with an offense that’s punishable by jail time has the right to a trial. If you plead guilty, you’re giving up your right to a bench trial when the judge hears the evidence and makes a determination of guilt or innocence. You also give up your right to a jury trial when a jury of your peers renders that verdict. You give up the right to bring any witnesses on your behalf, and you also give up the right to cross examine any witnesses against you. An experienced DWI attorney has worked in front of your judge many times. He or she knows how that judge tends to rule on certain points of evidence. Timely objections and arguments in a trial might turn the prosecution’s case against you upside down.
There are two sides to every story of an arrest. A knowledgeable and seasoned DWI attorney will listen to your side of the story. He or she will evaluate it in the context of the arrest reports, videos, witness statements and all evidence for you or against you. After that, the attorney will give you his or her advice on how to proceed. Don’t just go to court and plead guilty. Your DWI attorney can be invaluable. You might just walk out of the courthouse with a $50 fine and no DWI conviction.
In some cases, you may end up not only with a criminal case – but also a civil case against you. If you got into a car accident, while drinking under the influence – this can result in a personal injury claim being filed against you.