You go out to dinner with friends, and have a beer with dinner. After enjoying your evening out and catching up, you get in the car and head home. Somewhere along the way, you notice blue lights in the rearview mirror. The officer charges you with DUI and you’re arrested – it’s frightening, stressful and all too common. California’s tolerance for driving under the influence is at an all-time low, and rightly so. However, many people who aren’t drunk end up being caught in the crossfire. If this is your first DUI, you might be wondering if there’s any point in hiring an attorney. It’s your first charge, and surely the court will be lenient, right?

Your First DUI

Chances are good that your first DUI will be a misdemeanor. There are circumstances that might turn it into a felony, but most first-time offenses are prosecuted as misdemeanors. That might make you think that having a lawyer by your side is unnecessary. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There’s just as much need for a DUI attorney when fighting a misdemeanor DUI as there is in a felony case.

Why might you need an attorney? The first thing that comes to mind is the possibility that you weren’t actually driving drunk. If you plead guilty to a charge of DUI, the arresting officer doesn’t have to supply much in the way of corroborating evidence. Essentially, you’re telling the judge that, yes, you were drunk while driving and that, yes, the officer is right.

But what if you weren’t? What if the Breathalyzer wasn’t calibrated correctly? What if the officer smelled alcohol on your breath because you’d had a single beer with a large meal? What if the stop itself was illegal? These are only a few of the considerations here. It’s very possible that the Breathalyzer reading was incorrect, as these devices are known to be inaccurate. They’re actually only designed to provide the officer with a base guideline, not exact precision.

Fees and Costs

If you plead guilty to a charge of DUI because you didn’t have an attorney representing you, you’ll be responsible for paying a wide range of fees and charges. In addition to the court costs, you’ll also have to pay fines that could amount to well over $1,000, and you’ll also face a suspension of your license. If your DUI attorney is able to successfully represent you, you might have to pay nothing other than the lawyer’s fee. The right attorney can also represent you both in court and in the DMV hearing. Yes, you’ll have two hearings. The DMV hearing is necessary to keep your license until the court date. Not appearing in the DMV hearing means that your license will be suspended now, not later.

Plea Bargaining and Sentence Bargaining

If you plead guilty, the judge will likely hand down the standard sentence of probation, alcohol classes and license suspension, along with fees to be paid. However, a skilled attorney may be able to plea bargain a DUI down to a lesser charge like reckless driving, or even use sentence bargaining to reduce the court’s sentence (if you’re guilty and your attorney is unable to have the charges dropped). A lesser sentence or a lesser offense can provide significant benefits, including lower fines, keeping your license and more.

There’s no substitute for having an experienced DUI attorney by your side in court, even if this is your first DUI charge. There’s no such thing as a minor DUI charge. For a free consultation on your case, contact Michael J. Fremont by calling (760) 613-5384‬.