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You've Been Charged with Drunk Driving...Now What

You leave a party. Maybe you've had a couple of drinks. You don't make a complete stop at a stop sign, and you get pulled over. The police officer suspects you of drunk driving and administers a field sobriety test. You fail, and the officer arrests you and slaps you with DUI charges.

This is a scary scenario, but the truth is it happens all the time. If you get charged with a DUI offense, the first thing you will want to do is contact a DUI lawyer. In addition, you will also want to educate yourself as much as possible on the DUI legal process.

Drunk Driving Charges

One of the first things you will want to do after being charged with drunk driving is to understand the charges that are brought against you.

Although drunk driving charges are a frequent occurrence, that does not detract from their seriousness. Most states categorize this offense as a misdemeanor, but felony DUI does exist. Specifically, if you are a repeat offender or your drunk driving incident results in another's serious injury or death, you may be slapped with a more serious charge.

Different states have different names for the offense that is drunk driving. Many states refer to it as driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI).Some states refer to it as operating while intoxicated (OWI) or operating while under the influence (OUI).

Penalties for drunk driving can range from fines to community service to jail time.

You also may lose your license for a certain period of time.

What to Do Right After Your Arrest

When you are arrested for drunk driving, you are afforded certain rights as specified in the U.S. Constitution.

First, you have the right to remain silent. This right is critical. Even if you feel the charges are in error, you will want to exercise this right. Anything you say after the arrest can be used against you in court, so the less you say, the less likely you are to accidentally incriminate yourself. This right also allows you to refrain from answering police or investigator questions.

You will also want to exercise your right to an attorney. You will be given the opportunity to contact your attorney once you are taken into custody. You are allowed to have your attorney present while responding to officer's and investigator's questions.

If you cannot afford an attorney, you will be able to have one appointed for you. This attorney is known as a public defender.

Coming Up with a Defense

You and your attorney will want to come up with a drunk driving defense that applies to your case. A drunk driving defense is the challenge you present in court to try to either prove that you are not guilty or prove that the prosecution has insufficient evidence to convict you.

For example, if you were charged with DUI because the police office observed you driving erratically, your lawyer may argue that the erratic driving could have been caused by something other than alcohol impairment. There are similar defenses to explain the defendant's behavior at the time of arrest, such as lack of sleep or allergies.

In addition, there are DUI defenses to argue the accuracy of field sobriety tests and blood-alcohol content tests. If you would like to know more about these defenses and whether they could apply to your case, you should contact a knowledgeable DUI attorney.

Entering into a Plea Bargain

If you and your attorney don't foresee one of these defenses helping your case, you may want to try to enter into a plea bargain with the prosecution. A plea bargain is when you admit guilt in exchange for a lighter sentence and possibly lesser charges. However, some states do not allow plea bargains to be made in DUI cases.


Even if you are convicted of drunk driving, you may be able to get the crime taken off your record. This is called expungement.

You can expunge your drunk driving conviction after a certain amount of time. DUI expungement will either destroy records of your conviction or have them sealed. This way potential employers, your school, or government agencies won't be able to discover your drunk driving conviction when they conduct background checks.