Article – First-Aid: What to Do Right Away
What to Do Right Away
You’ve just been arrested for DUI . . . Now what?
A DUI arrest is a frightening experience. You’ve been publicly humiliated, forced to perform Field Sobriety Tests in front of passing cars by the side of the road. You’ve felt the handcuffs digging into your wrists, and your pleas to have them loosened have been ignored. Finally, after the seemingly endless delays associated with the booking process, and enduring the stench of the holding cell, you’ve been released. Sweet freedom, at long last. What can you do NOW to ensure that you never see the inside of a jail cell again? There are two aspects of your case that require IMMEDIATE attention: The DMV Hearing Request, and hiring a qualified DUI defense lawyer. These are of paramount importance.
The DMV Hearing Request
First, keep in mind that in California, every DUI arrest triggers two separate cases. There is a court case, and a DMV case. As to the court case, you have undoubtedly received a notice to appear in a particular court on a particular date and time. This is called the "arraignment," and is the beginning of the formal court proceedings.
However, there is another case that you must be aware of: The DMV case. In most drunk driving arrests, the arresting agency will take away your driver’s license and replace it with a pink piece of paper that is entitled Notice of AOS Action and Temporary License. This piece of paper tells you (in some very fine print, about 2/3 of the way down the page) that you have only 10 days from the date of your arrest to request a hearing from the DMV, and if you don’t request the DMV hearing within those 10 days, that your license will be automatically suspended after 30 days.
This is such an important point that it bears repeating: YOU HAVE ONLY 10 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF ARREST TO REQUEST A HEARING, OR ELSE YOUR LICENSE WILL BE AUTOMATICALLY SUSPENDED AFTER 30 DAYS! The length of the suspension will vary, depending upon whether it is a first-offense DUI or a second-offense (or greater) DUI, and also upon whether a chemical test was taken or if it was refused. But no matter what type of case it is, or how many prior convictions there are, if the hearing request is not made within 10 days, your license is on its way to being suspended.
Hiring a DUI Defense Lawyer
One of the most important decisions you will make about your case is who will be representing you. The truth about legal representation is harsh: People accused of DUI get about as much justice as they can afford. As has been said for generations, "Good lawyers aren’t cheap, and cheap lawyers aren’t good." This is especially true in DUI defense, where many lawyers seek to underbid each other to gain a client, only to find that the fee taken cannot support the work necessary to successfully represent that client.
Generally, people who are arrested for suspicion of drunk driving are not DUI defense lawyers. They may be skilled in many things in life, but defending DUI cases is generally not one of them. Therefore, finding a lawyer to defend your DUI case is not unlike selecting the right doctor to handle a necessary medical procedure. Once that doctor (or lawyer) is selected, there is nothing more to do except relax, and to let the professional do his or her best to help.
How do you know whether or not a potential lawyer is well-qualified to handle your DUI case? While there are never any guarantees, at a minimum you will want to inquire into some of the following areas:
- Years of experience: You do not want a lawyer to be learning at your expense. A lawyer with at least a decade of experience will certainly be seasoned enough to handle your case.
- Memberships in Professional Organizations: Membership in groups dedicated to DUI defense is a strong sign of a potential lawyer’s commitment to their practice. Examples include the National College of DUI Defense, and the California DUI Lawyers Association.
- Specialized Training: A potential lawyer should have completed advanced training in Field Sobriety Testing, as well as breath and blood testing protocols, Many exceptional DUI defense lawyers actually own the different types of breath machines used in their jurisdiction.
- Track Record of Success: Do not hesitate to ask a potential lawyer about how many cases they have successfully handled (recognizing that success can mean different things in different cases.)
- Lecturing to Peers: Many successful lawyers have experience teaching other lawyers at various seminars and workshops. You would be well-served to know if your potential legal counsel is in that category of lawyers that is qualified to teach his or her peers how to be better in their chosen profession.
- Communication and Response Time: This may be the most important factor of all. How quickly does your potential attorney return your phone call or email? Is he or she willing to give you their cell phone number to field an evening or weekend question? It is vitally important that you reach your lawyer in your time of need, whenever that time happens to be. The best lawyers recognize this, and make sure to address this issue.
The first and most important things to do if you’ve been arrested for DUI are to be aware of the DMV Hearing Request deadline, and to select the best lawyer for you as quickly as possible. If you do these things, you have increased your odds of a successful result in your case.
Contact the Law Offices of Shelley D. Dwyer by calling 650-367-8500 and schedule an appointment (usually available the same day), or fill out an online contact form.