What to Do About an Attorney If You’re Arresting for a DUI

If you’re arrested for driving under the influence, you’ll want to consider hiring an attorney or requesting a court-appointed lawyer.

By , Attorney

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that carries severe penalties. And there can be long-lasting consequences of having a DUI conviction on your record such as increased insurance rates and employment limitations. So, if you've been arrested for a DUI, there's a lot on the line.

To make sure your rights are protected and you don't end up making matter worse than they already are, it's always a good idea to have a qualified DUI attorney looking out for your interests. The article covers your basic options for legal representation in a DUI case.

Private DUI Lawyers, Public Defenders, and Representing Yourself

Generally, when you're charged with a DUI or any other crime, you'll have three options for legal representation: hiring a private lawyer, requesting a public defender (court-appointed counsel), and representing yourself. Here's a quick rundown of each option.

Self-Representation: Don't Act as Your Own Attorney

It's basically never a good idea to represent yourself in a DUI case. When you're facing criminal charges and serious consequences, it's best to have an attorney who knows what they're doing representing you. Although you could potentially save a few dollars representing yourself, the results of doing so can be disastrous.

Public Defenders: Court-Appointed Lawyers

Anyone who's charged with a criminal offense and can't afford an attorney is eligible for court-appointed counsel. In most areas, the public defender's office is in charge of representing indigent criminal defendants. Public defenders generally have lots of experience handling DUI cases. So, although having court-appointed counsel has its drawbacks (discussed below), the public defender is typically a good option and certainly better than representing yourself.

Private DUI Attorneys: Hiring an Attorney of Your Choosing

Hiring a private DUI attorney comes with a number of benefits. Some of the main benefits of hiring a DUI lawyer include:

  • Control over the choice. Most people like the idea of choosing their own attorney. Public defenders are generally pretty good in DUI cases. But when you go with the public defender, you don't have much say in who (from the public defender's office) your attorney will be—you get who you get. When you hire an attorney, on the other hand, the decision of who to hire is all yours.
  • More freedom in deciding when to come to court. When you're represented by the public defender, you generally have to show up for all court dates. With privately hired counsel, your attorney can typically handle most court dates without you being present.
  • Representation in DMV administrative proceedings. When you're arrested for a DUI, it generally marks the beginning of two separate proceedings: criminal court proceedings and administrative DMV license suspension proceedings. Administrative DMV proceedings can lead to license suspension regardless of what happens in the criminal court. So it's good to have an attorney representing you in both criminal court and DMV proceedings. A private attorney will generally do just that and have you covered for both proceedings. But public defenders can represent you only in criminal court.

These are probably the most noteworthy advantages of hiring a private DUI lawyer. However, every situation is different. To some extent, the pluses and minuses of hiring a lawyer depend on your specific circumstances, including financial resources.

Importance Things to Know About Legal Representation in DUI Cases

The section above covers the basics of the different types of legal representation. However, there are a few more things that are important to know:

  • Procrastinating in your attorney search can get you into trouble. Things happen quickly in DUI cases. For example, if you want to contest an administrative license suspension, you generally need to notify the DMV within ten days or so of your arrest. So, if you're going to hire an attorney, it's best to get started on the process as soon as possible.
  • Most attorneys offer free consultations. Private DUI lawyers typically offer prospective clients a free initial consultation. By taking advantage of this, you can get a feel for whether a particular attorney is a good fit for you.

If you still have questions about legal representation in a DUI case, get in contact with a local DUI attorney or public defender. Generally, an experienced attorney in your area (whether private or public) will be able to guide you in the right direction.

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