Should I Get a Lawyer for My First DUI in Arizona?
Many people facing DUI charges for the first time ask, “Should I get a lawyer for my first DUI? How serious can it be?”
The quick answer is yes, you need a lawyer when facing drunk driving charges. Call an experienced DUI attorney in Prescott, AZ, as soon as you can after your first DUI arrest. Let’s explain how working with a qualified criminal defense attorney can help you achieve a favorable outcome in your DUI case and what to look for when you hire a lawyer.
Why You Need a DUI Lawyer
Driving under the influence is a serious charge in Arizona. Even if it’s your first DUI offense, you could face severe penalties like time in the county jail, heavy fines, and driver’s license suspension.
The potential consequences for first offense DUI will be harsher if it counts as “Extreme DUI” (BAC of 0.15 and above) or a “Super Extreme DUI” (BAC of .20 and above). An Aggravated DUI comes with mandatory prison time.
Moreover, your offense will go on your driving and criminal record. A single mistake could impact your life for years, with results like higher insurance premiums, a tarnished reputation, and limited career opportunities. A DUI conviction could even put a strain on your relationships with family members and friends and harm your immigration status if you’re a non-citizen.
With so much at stake, you need skilled, competent legal representation to help you navigate the criminal justice system and protect your freedom, rights, and future.
What an Experienced DUI Attorney Can Do for You
From the moment your case opens and until it ends, your attorney’s job is to protect your rights and advocate for your interests. So how exactly can an experienced attorney help with DUI defense and improve the chances of your case closing with a favorable outcome?
Challenge Your DUI Arrest
Your attorney will check for any procedural flaws in your arrest. They’ll verify whether the officer who arrested you had reasonable suspicion to request a traffic stop.
For instance, was there any evidence of driving impairment, like erratic driving or sudden swerving? Were you speeding?
If not, and the officer ordered you to stop without probable cause or violated any Supreme Court rulings during the arrest, the arrest might have been unconstitutional. In this case, it could be possible to have the DUI charges against you dismissed.
One of the most important reasons the answer to “Should I get a lawyer for my first DUI?” is “yes” is because lawyers know how to challenge evidence.
An experienced DUI attorney can investigate a DUI case and spot any inconsistencies, point out inconclusive evidence like field sobriety tests, or locate weak links in the prosecution’s case.
For example, if you submitted to a breathalyzer test, DUI attorneys could argue that the machine may have been improperly calibrated or that the arresting officer performed the test incorrectly. If the officer asks you to undergo a field sobriety test, your lawyer may challenge the validity of such tests. Your attorney could also cross-examine witnesses to highlight contradictions in their statements.
When your attorney believes that a piece of evidence is inadmissible based on their knowledge of DUI law, they can file a Motion to Suppress this evidence.
Work To Reduce the DUI Charge
Even if a conviction is inevitable, an experienced DUI attorney could work to have the prosecutor reduce the DUI charge during the court process, for example, from a felony to a misdemeanor. This could soften the consequences you’d face, like jail time and fines.
Based on their knowledge of Arizona DUI laws and the associated legal process, your DUI attorney can help you understand which strategy, like taking your DUI case to trial or pleading guilty, is likelier to produce a better outcome in a criminal court. If you decide to accept a plea deal, your lawyer could negotiate with the prosecutor’s office to reduce your DUI penalties, like exchanging some imprisonment time for home detention.
Reduced charges mean not only lesser penalties but also improved prospects. For instance, if your attorney manages to reach a plea bargain with no DUI conviction, you could avoid years of high car insurance rates and negative consequences to your professional life.
Protect Your Driving Privileges
License suspension is one major consequence you could face after a first-offense DUI. During a DUI arrest in Arizona, the police officer may take your license away and give you a temporary driving permit. Then, you must schedule an ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) hearing within 30 days and contest the suspension of your driver’s license.
DUI attorneys can request the hearing on time, represent you during the hearing, and give you legal counsel on protecting your driving privileges throughout the process.
Help Clean Up Your Record
Once you’ve paid your penalties, you may wonder whether you can have your conviction expunged so you can start fresh without a stain on your reputation.
While it is true that before January 1, of 2023 Arizona did not have a specific law for “Expungement” that law has recently changed. Now, 3 years following the completion of all of the terms of your sentence, you can petition to have your DUI conviction expunged under certain circumstances. There is also an option to obtain a “Judgment of Guilt Set Aside” which is often perceived by employers as a positive step forward and is also a good step toward eventually having your records sealed under the new law.
When you’re eligible, your DUI attorney could guide you through the steps of requesting to have your record sealed, conviction set-aside and help you comply with the requirements of this process.
What To Do During and After DUI Arrests
So, what should you do when a law enforcement officer orders you to pull over? The following steps can help protect your rights during and after DUI arrests.
Cooperate With the Police
Stop your vehicle in a safe area, turn on hazard lights, and show your ID and proof of car insurance to the officer. Avoid arguing or raising your voice, and only answer questions that you are legally required to. Say as little as possible to avoid incriminating yourself. If the law enforcement officer asks you to step out of the vehicle, do so slowly and without any sudden movements.
Field Sobriety Tests & Breathalyzer Tests
Law enforcement officers cannot force you to complete field sobriety tests, like walk-and-turn or standing on one leg. They are having you do these tests to collect evidence against you. It is not in your best interest to complete these tests. Likewise, when officers ask you to blow into the hand-held portable breathalyzer machine on the roadside, you are not required to do this. In fact, those tests are recognized by courts, prosecutors, judges and even law enforcement as being inherently inaccurate and unreliable. However, it may be in your best interest to submit to a chemical test once at the police station or DUI van. If you refuse a chemical test at the station, you could lose your driving privileges for a year, subject to Arizona’s Implied Consent law. That said, it is always best to request to speak to a DUI attorney before submitting to any tests requested by law enforcement.
Contact a DUI Attorney
If you are arrested for suspected drunk driving, you should consult an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. You can (and should) ask to contact an attorney before you answer any questions from law enforcement or submit to any tests. An attorney can guide you through a DUI arrest and can explain what happens following a DUI arrest and suggest a possible defense strategy.
How To Choose a DUI Lawyer
The next question after “Should I get a lawyer for my first DUI?” is “What to look for in DUI lawyers?”
Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer can make a dramatic difference in the outcome of DUI cases. When you hire a lawyer, look for these qualities:
- Experience: You want to work with an experienced lawyer who is familiar with Arizona DUI law and knows how to handle DUI defense, whether at trial or by negotiating a plea bargain.
- Dedication: Look for an attorney who will go the extra mile to defend drivers’ rights and minimize potential consequences for all of their clients.
- Transparency: An honest lawyer will let you know what outcome you may expect following your DUI offense. Beware of attorneys who make exaggerated claims (like promising or guaranteeing a dismissal or acquittal).
- Personal approach: The attorney-client relationship is a primary consideration when you hire a lawyer. Choose someone you trust and feel comfortable working with.
- Recommendations: Check the reviews on the lawyer’s website, AVVO and Google My Business page. What outcomes have they achieved for past clients with cases similar to yours?
- Availability: DUI cases are highly time-sensitive, so you’ll need an attorney who is ready to take on your defense right away.
Many law firms offer a quick free consultation to look into your case and let you know whether they may represent you. You can take advantage of that to speak to several potential candidates and choose a DUI attorney who suits your needs.
Steven George Law: Powerful Defense for DUI Cases
A police officer pulled you over for a suspected DUI. Now what? Will you have to serve jail time? Will your license be suspended if you’re charged with a DUI?
Don’t leave your future to chance. The answer to “Should I get a lawyer for my first DUI?” is, “Certainly, hire a lawyer as soon as you can.” Call us at Steven George Law to consult an experienced DUI attorney who will leverage their legal knowledge to build a solid defense strategy for your case.
Call (480) 363-0090 or contact us online to schedule a case evaluation with an experienced DUI lawyer today.