Do I Need a DUI Lawyer?
Many people who have been pulled over and charged with driving under the influence recoil at the cost of hiring a lawyer to defend them against the DUI charge. While hiring a DUI lawyer can be expensive, it can be more expensive to not hire a DUI lawyer. Even for a first-time DUI—which would be the only time you would even consider not hiring a DUI lawyer—the incentives are powerful to spend the money on a DUI defense lawyer.
It’s not like DUI charges are an uncommon event. The FBI estimates that more than a million Americans were arrested for DUI in 2016. Many of those people doubtless were just social drinkers who went out to dinner or to meet friends. Not everyone charged with DUI is a drunken reprobate. Most of them are normal people who have a lot to lose. If paying a lawyer to beat or mitigate DUI charges is expensive, a DUI conviction is even more expensive.
What Could It Cost Me to Not Hire a DUI Lawyer?
Even with a first-time DUI, the costs can be substantial—and not just financial costs. You could face jail time or lose your license. You doubtless will face court fees, fines, and other expenses related to the charge if you are convicted. You might have to pay for attending an alcohol rehab program, restitution if you caused property damage, and probation fees if you are sentenced to probation instead of jail. Those costs can amount to thousands of dollars.
It doesn’t stop there. The cost of your automobile insurance—if your insurance provider doesn’t cancel the policy—will skyrocket, as your insurer will label you a high-risk driver and charge you accordingly. Those higher insurance costs likely will stay with you for at least three years. One company estimates that getting your first-offense DUI charge dropped or reduced will save you up to $4,000 on your car insurance alone, not to mention court fees, fines, and the like. Suddenly, spending that money on a DUI attorney doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
Changes in how states approach DUI charges have made it ever more necessary to seriously consider laying out the money for a DUI attorney. All 50 states now have per se drunk-driving laws. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 or higher, you have to be charged with DUI. At that BAC level, you are considered to be legally under the influence of alcohol.
Not taking a breath test won’t help you much. Most states—Illinois included—now have administrative penalties on the law books that allow authorities to suspend your license if your BAC is at least 0.08, if you refuse to take a breath test, or, in some states, if you fail a field sobriety test. This is an administrative penalty, separate from any criminal proceeding on a DUI charge. The state gave you your license; the state can take it away. For most people these days, losing your driver’s license cuts you off from life as you know it, including, importantly, your ability to get to work. That alone should give most people facing DUI charges enough incentive to hire a DUI attorney.
When Should I Hire a DUI Attorney?
According to one website, the answer is pretty much any time you are charged with DUI. While the site graded its recommendations in three tiers from “Good idea” to “Definitely,” “Don’t Bother” was not one of the recommendations. In fact, the site recommended most strongly hiring a DUI attorney if you were completely innocent and had not been drinking at all but somehow failed a field test or breath test. Under such circumstances, representing yourself would practically beg for a wrongful conviction. The other recommendations include:
- You should always hire a DUI attorney if you already have more than one DUI conviction, if you were involved in an accident involving property damage, and if someone was hurt or died because of your drunk driving. Professional drivers likewise should always hire a lawyer, as should anyone facing significant fines or jail time.
- You should seriously consider hiring a DUI attorney if the arrest is your second DUI or if your BAC was so far above the legal limit that stiffer penalties would apply if you are convicted. In each instance, jail time and a lengthy license suspension are on the table. The impact on your life of either one of those results should make hiring a DUI attorney a strong consideration.
- The site considered it to be a good idea to hire a DUI attorney if you are unclear what rights you have under state DUI law or if you work in a field where a DUI conviction could cost you your professional license.
Under only one narrow circumstance did the site recommend that you could refrain from hiring a DUI attorney—and even then, it hedged. The site contended that for a first-offense DUI with a low BAC, no accident involved, and you aren’t worried about the misdemeanor conviction, you could consider not hiring a DUI attorney. On the other hand, since most DUI attorneys offer a free initial consultation, you probably should talk to one anyway to hear the pros and cons. You have nothing to lose by learning about your options from a trusted DUI defense law firm.
If You Are Facing DUI Charges in DuPage, Kane, or Cook County, Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C.
If you are facing DUI charges, it pretty much always makes sense to hire a DUI attorney. The costs of a conviction are extremely high, financially and otherwise, and they are particularly high if you could be facing jail time. Call the criminal attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C. Our extensive experience handling criminal cases in Illinois allows us to get you the best possible result in your criminal case. For a consultation in DuPage, Kane, or Cook County, contact us 24 hours a day at (630) 474-8000.