If you or someone you care about has been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), it can be a scary situation. You're not alone. More than 1.2 million people are arrested for DUI every year in the United States. While this charge is nothing to be taken lightly, how you handle the situation from the very beginning will often dramatically affect the outcome.
1. Hire an attorney. Although it may be tempting to handle your own defense and potentially save money, the consequences of a DUI conviction are too great for an untrained person to defend. A DUI conviction can not only mean a steep fine and possible jail time, but will cause your insurance rates to increase and even affect things like employment, loan or housing applications. It's best to let a professional handle your defense.
2. Be very careful what you say. As you heard when they read you the Miranda rights, "anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." Believe it. It's best to simply say, "my attorney has advised me not to answer any questions."
3. Arrange for bail. Bail is set in most DUI cases after you have been arraigned in front of a judge or magistrate. This can be the same day, the next morning or up to three days later if you are arrested at the beginning of a holiday weekend.
After the bail is set, a friend, your lawyer or a family member can pay the bail to the court and you'll be released until your court date. In some cases, usually first offenses, a person charged with DUI may be released on his or her "own recognizance." This means that you don't owe the court any bail money as long as you show up for your court appearance as scheduled.
4. Show up for court dates. It should go without saying that you need to show up when the court requests your presence. That includes court hearings, meetings with your parole officer and any court-ordered driving classes or community service. Skipping these appointments can give the judge the impression that you're not taking the situation seriously and cause him or her to impose a harsher sentence.
While a DUI charge is a serious offense, hiring a defense attorney quickly, being careful about what you say and showing up to court and court-mandated events can greatly affect the outcome of your court case.