DUI / Drunk Driving Defense Law

Things to Consider Before Hiring a DUI Attorney

DUI Attorny Joliet

When you have been charged with driving under the influence in Illinois, you will need a lawyer who has extensive experience handling cases that involve impaired driving charges. While any lawyer can represent your interests in court, a legal counsel who has years of experience successfully representing clients (and a track record of plea bargaining) with DUI cases is your best chance of a reduced sentence and more lenient restrictions.

Selecting an attorney to represent your DUI case is similar to conducting an interview. Remember that your legal counsel works for you, the client. As such it is important to spend a reasonable amount of time meeting with and interviewing different attorney’s and firms to determine who will connect with you best, and represent your interests most effectively. If you are paying out of pocket for your own defense (and not using court appointed free counsel) you have the right to choose.

Finding a Local Attorney

If you are incarcerated, you are permitted access to resources that can help you arrange for legal counsel. If you are given access to a computer and the internet, you can easily look up law firms in your local area and call them. Alternatively if you are not provided with this access, call a family member to assist by contacting 2-3 DUI specialty attorney’s and schedule interview appointments. Be prepared to ask questions that will help narrow your choice down to find the best attorney for your case, and one you feel comfortable working with.

Interviewing Legal Counsel

It is expected that any lawyer who is interested in taking your case will be happy to share information on their case history and performance. After all, the whole point of seeking private representation is to increase your chances of plea bargaining your case before the court. You need a lawyer who has a good track record, and familiarity with your circumstances.

Be prepared to ask a number of questions to help qualify your selection of a DUI lawyer.

a) What is your hourly rate?

While it may seem awkward to ask the question, the cost of some counsel can exceed what you may have in terms of means.  Do you have savings or other financial resources (including family members) who can contribute to the cost of your defense?  Determine what your level of affordability is and ask for an estimate of the cost for your defense.

Remember that an estimate is based on an hourly rate, and the required work on your case is difficult to predict, but a good lawyer will be able to give you an average or “ball park” figure to help you make a decision that fits your budget.  That figure should also include the cost of file review, evidence collection and the cost of investigators which may be used by your attorney to assist in building your case.

b) How many impaired driving cases have you taken to trial?

A lawyer can have extensive experience preparing impaired drivers defenses as part of a legal team, without ever having stepped foot in court. If your DUI charge includes a felony offense (involuntary manslaughter or reckless endangerment charges) or if they involve a loss of life or personal injury, you need a lawyer who is confident with presenting cases in court. It is also okay to ask for information regarding the number of cases they have won or successfully plea bargained. It will help give you an idea about their ability to create a strategic defense that will work in court.

c) Do you have malpractice insurance?

The question may seem awkward but it protects both your attorney and your own personal interests.  All lawyers should carry valid malpractice insurance. Ask to see evidence of a policy to validate it.  In the event that a lawyer does not have legal malpractice insurance, the client can be held responsible for damages in a negligence or malpractice suit. It is for the mutual protection of attorney and client that you should insist on seeing evidence of malpractice insurance.

d) Have you ever been disciplined by the Bar Association?

Would you like a lawyer who has a track record of “getting it wrong” when it comes to the defense of his or her clients? Complaints and discipline handed down by the Bar Association is an indicant of both the ethics and the professionalism of your attorney. For your DUI defense, you want a lawyer who knows the rules, not one that has a bad reputation within the Illinois court system. While there should be no bias, it can impact the successful plea bargaining in your case.

If the driving under the influence charge appears to fall in the category of a felony offense, you can face more than a suspension of your license and fines; you can face a lengthy prison sentence. Take your time and due diligence in selecting the best DUI lawyer in Will County for your case.

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How a DUI Arrest Can Ruin Your Life

DUI Attorney Joliet

There is a lot of social stigma when it comes to being charged on a DUI offense. The first thought is that someone has deliberately got behind the wheel of the car when they knew they were drunk or impaired on a chemical substance. As lawyers with decades of experience handling DUI charges we know that that is not always the case. The instances where someone made a bad judgment on their own personal level of impairment are frequent. In other words, when you’re impaired you don’t make the best decisions.  And with the majority of DUI charges it really is that simple. A bad decision made by someone who was impaired, that ended up with bad consequences.

In other cases there may be some significant reasons why someone has been charged with DUI on a number of occasions. Again the assumption is that it is a malicious act; someone fully intending to be irresponsible and put their lives and the lives of others at risk. When in actuality there are many factors including addiction that make the circumstance not quite so black-and-white. Other health conditions can also make becoming impaired easier, including specific medications and even anxiety and mood disorders.

No matter what the reason there are significant consequences for driving while impaired. The state of Illinois has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to driving while impaired, no matter what the chemical substances, which can include illicit drugs like marijuana, and even prescription medications. A DUI conviction is life altering.

Lack of Transportation

Did you know that even first-time convictions come with the mandatory driver’s license suspension in the state of Illinois?  Drivers found guilty of the first offense can face anywhere from six months to one year of license suspension. While there are provisions after 31 days is served of a driver’s license suspension which enable a driver to request a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP), individuals who are charged with repeated offenses do not qualify for an MDDP.

The length of time for driver suspension for second and subsequent offenses can range anywhere from three years and longer. Convicted drivers are also required to carry three years of high risk insurance for their automobile once their license is reinstated, at a tremendous personal expense.

Limitations to Employment Opportunities

Are you a delivery driver, taxi driver, school bus driver or in an occupation that requires you to operate a motor vehicle?  If so being successfully convicted of a DUI ensures that you will not be able to operate a commercial vehicle for the duration of your license suspension. What that means for people employed in transportation sectors is that you will either have to be transferred to another role or leave your job.

There are no exceptions to this rule when a driver has been accused of DUI. Even after reinstatement of a suspended license, given the increased insurance liability of a convicted driver, many businesses will not hire or rehire a driver who has been convicted of DUI.  Driving under the influence is truly a career limiting conviction.

Criminal Record

Certain types of occupations require a clean criminal record abstract. Whether you are working as a doctor or nurse, with children as a teacher or daycare provider, or in another caregiving or administrative role such as a government job. If you’ve been successfully convicted of a DUI and there were extenuating factors such as involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, or other felony charges due to loss of life or personal injury, you will have a criminal record.

In addition to complicating your career, a criminal record can also make it difficult or impossible to visit other countries in the world. Every time you use your passport, the fact that you did have a felony conviction will appear on your public record. This can complicate everything from finding a new job, to travel, to being bondable in certain career positions and other factors.

Time in Prison

You don’t have to be a fan of the television show “Orange is the New Black” to know that serving time in prison is anything but easy. Whether you are serving a year, three years or more depending on the nature of conviction, going to prison is completely disrupting to your career, your social life, and your personal freedom.  Any driving while impaired charge that involves a loss of life can land you in prison, and if it is a second offense the sentence may surprise you. With impaired driving responsible for sentences of three years to seven years or more.

A DUI attorney in Joliet, Illinois can help you evaluate the extenuating circumstances of your DUI charge, and look for evidence that may help the plea-bargain to a lower amount of time in prison, or shortened length of time with the driver suspension.  With so much to lose and given the severity of legal consequences for DUI is important to have experienced representation to provide the best defense possible, and to help you get back to your normal life more quickly after sentencing.

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Why Hire a Lawyer to Fight a DUI Arrest

DUI Lawyer Juliet(Image Credit: www.flickr.com)

The consequences associated with DUI charges can be excessively severe. The charges pressed against you can negatively impact various aspects of your life. It can result in the loss of your driver’s license, your job, an unreasonably high amount of money due to court fines, and even jail time.

In trying times like these, it is imperative that you seek legal advice from a skilled and reputable DUI lawyer. Only he/she can help you avoid the potential damage to your life. He/she will not only fight for you, but also protect your rights vigorously.

Here are the five biggest advantages of hiring a skilled and experienced DUI lawyer.

1. Better Understanding of Laws

One of the greatest advantages of hiring an experienced DUI attorney is that he/she will be familiar with all the rules, court customs and procedures in depth. Most people believe that an attorney can help them with ANY legal matter. However, the truth is that attorneys concentrate in certain areas of the law just the same way medical doctors do. For example if you if you need a birth injury lawyer in Chicagoland, you would want to contact a top medical malpractice lawyer in Chicago for help. The same holds true for DUI / drunk driving law. If you are accused of a DUI, you want to find and contact an experienced and local DUI attorney.

Hiring a random lawyer might help you with drafting pleadings. But, a lawyer who has specialized in DUI cases will know the minute details that can make your DUI case strong. These details include requirements for blood draws, field sobriety tests, breath tests, or sobriety checkpoints. They will also protect your constitutional rights.

Moreover, as the lawyer will be familiar with the current DUI laws, They will be able to identify the loopholes as well as the strengths in your case, which could result in a lesser sentence or the dismissal of your case.

The DUI laws aim to measure your ability to operate a vehicle by determining if you are impaired based on whether your blood alcohol level exceeds the set limit in your state. Currently, the blood alcohol limit is .08% in all the states. A DUI lawyer will know all the specifics related to the various laws, and can help you avoid having charges pressed against you.

Finding an experienced DUI attorney is quite simple. You can ask for recommendations from your friends, colleagues or relatives. Searching online can also help you to a great extent. For instance, if you are looking for a DUI lawyer in Joliet, you could simply look online for a DUI lawyer Joliet. Once you have the list of lawyers, you can meet them individually and choose the one you think is most suitable for your case.

2. Minimize the Consequences

A DUI arrest is a serious issue, it will always stay on your criminal record. This criminal offense might lead to jail time, suspension of your driver’s license and hefty fines.

If you are a first-time offender, you may be subjected to a few or all of the following penalties:

  • Temporary impounding of your vehicle
  • Fine of up to several thousand dollars
  • Installation of an ignition lock that prevents your car from starting if you’ve been drinking
  • Probation
  • Possible jail time
  • Revocation of your driver’s license
  • Community service
  • Completion of substance abuse classes at your own expense.

On the other hand, if you are a repeat offender, these penalties can increase significantly. However, by hiring an experienced DUI lawyer, you can minimize these consequences, as they would know how to effectively handle the intricacies of such cases.

A skilled lawyer knows how to challenge the various aspects of a DUI charge. Based on their knowledge of breathalyzers, blood tests and chemical testing procedures, they can challenge the lab results and help you achieve a lenient sentence.

3. Present Your Case More Effectively

An experienced DUI lawyer can represent you effectively. Their legal opinion regarding your case holds major importance. Moreover, they will ensure to take care of the following when presenting your case:

  • By pointing out the strengths of the case or the defendant, the attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor to reduce the charge to a lesser offense
  • Owing to familiarity with representing DUI cases, its various customs, local practices, and the tendencies of different judges, the attorney may be able to have the defendant’s case handled by a more lenient judge
  • When presenting your case to the state motor vehicle department/bureau on license suspension hearings, They will know the type of defenses that carry weight, and which ones do not, and can present your case more persuasive than you
  • When helping the defendant prepare for the interview with the probation officer, the attorney may be able to help him avoid unnecessarily burdensome probation conditions

4. Get a Clear Picture of Available Options

Being a first-time offender, you may have a hard time dealing with DUI charges. Most people think pleading guilty or going to trial are the only two available options. However, this may not always be true.

Before taking any step, it is crucial to learn about the various DUI penalties and fines in your state. This will help you make an informed decision. Additionally, a skilled attorney can help you know if the option of pleading bargain is advisable in your case.

Apart from this, there are various diversionary programs  that can be helpful in minimizing the charges. If you choose to enter a DUI diversion program and successfully complete the drug or alcohol counseling, you might end up with a reduced sentence or a case dismissal.

Conclusion

Being arrested for DUI can impact your life significantly. This is one of those difficult times when you need a confident and experienced DUI lawyer to defend you effectively and resolve your case. Hiring a DUI lawyer will perhaps be of the most important decisions that you will ever make. Don’t make the mistake of compromising on the skills that a DUI lawyer must have in a bid to save a little money. This decision needs to be taken smartly and in the right frame of mind. Keep your calm and let an experienced lawyer handle your case.

How to Avoid a DUI Arrest

How to Avoid a DUI ArrestDrinking and driving do not mix. This implies that if you’ve been drinking, refrain from driving. Drunken driving can result in injuries and loss of lives – yours and/or others. Why would anyone want to drive under influence and end up smashing their own car or damaging someone else’s property?

The worst thing about drunken driving is that it can lead to you getting arrested, losing your license, paying hefty fines and insurance amounts, and generally lose the kind of life you’ve been living all along.

However, you need not necessarily have to be drunk and drive to get arrested/found guilty of drunk driving in Joliet.  In fact, any person with any amount of alcohol in their blood stream can be charged with DUI and be held responsible for an accident which may take place, irrespective of who was actually at fault.

So if you’re under the impression that because you drink and drive responsibly, you’re safe from the drunk-driving charge and its consequences, you’ve got something else coming at you.

In this post, we look at a few measures you can take to avoid a DUI arrest.

Adherence to Traffic Norms

A police officer needs probable cause (or a valid reason to stop your vehicle) to be able to take action against you. Don’t make his job easy by committing traffic violations. It is always a good idea of refrain from driving a vehicle with an expired plate, defunct brake lights/turn indicators/head lights.

When you get into your car, make sure you fasten your seat belt as many states have made wearing seat belts when driving mandatory, failing which an officer is liable to stop your vehicle.

Adhering to speed limits, keeping off your cell phone, turning down the radio, showing indicators and making complete stops will do you good. The less the distractions, the better you will drive.

Breath Control

One of the first things that the officer will look for as evidence against you will be the stench of alcohol on your breath. Do remember that you’ll be dealing with a trained law enforcer here, so merely chewing gum will not mask the stench. You need to be smart about this.

Before you even get into your car, eat something, chew gum, gargle with mouthwash, re-apply your cologne/perfume, or (as a last resort) light up a cigarette. These may work in camouflaging the smell of alcohol originating from your breath.

Keep the windows of the vehicle open to get some fresh air in, and for the alcohol stench to escape.

Keep Alcohol Away

If you get pulled over on a suspicion of DUI and get caught with alcohol in your possession, you could be heading for big trouble. Do not ever make the mistake of transporting alcohol in your car after you’ve been drinking.

If you do have anything stashed up in your vehicle after a night of partying, make sure you discard the liquor bottles/containers from your vehicle, else it may get difficult to convince the court that you were sober when the prosecutor presents pictures of an open beer bottle resting in your car’s cup holder.

Do Not Tell the Officer You’ve Been Drinking

When asked whether you’ve been drinking, use your right to remain silent. A lack of response to the officer’s questions cannot be held against you, so says the Fifth Amendment.

Becoming unresponsive to his questions will prevent the possibility of you having to lie to him, which can be held against you. So make sure you do not lie.

And while this sort of behavior may make you look suspicious, know that you don’t have to provide any answers before consulting your DUI lawyer in Joliet.

Skip the Sobriety and the Breathalyzer Tests

Even if the officer does not smell alcohol on your breath, he may say that he does (he’s allowed to lie to you). He may then ask you perform certain field sobriety tests, which differ from state to state. Remember, you are not under arrest and are not required to perform any of these tests. In fact, performing them might lead to you giving more ammunition in the hands of the officer, which means more trouble for you!

Additionally, say no to perform the portable breath test as well. The officer may say that he will let you go if you pass the test, but do not fall for that. Politely decline to submit to it. While several states now allow officers to carry portable breath units on them, they are undecided upon whether the results can be used as evidence.

In some jurisdictions, a refusal to submit to field sobriety tests may result in the suspension of your driver’s license. If you’ve really had too much to drink and are likely to fail the test, do not submit to them and settle for the license suspension in order to decrease the probability of a successful prosecution in the court.

On the other hand, if you know that you’ve not/barely had anything to drink, you could take the field sobriety tests as there is a high probability that you will pass them.

Stay Calm

If the officer places you under arrest and takes you in custody, try and stay calm and be quiet. While you may be panicking inside, refrain from letting it show, especially in violent ways. Focus on regaining your composure and remember not to utter a word.

The officer may start talking to you in a friendly tone to get you to admit to drinking. Again, do not fall for that. Simply respond by saying that you would rather not speak until your attorney is present.

Hire a DUI Defense Attorney

Engage the services of a qualified and an experienced DUI attorney without wasting any more time. Be aware of the fact that regardless of how weak the evidence against you is, the prosecution will seek a conviction against you.

You may not be able to defend yourself as well as an experienced attorney, who will study your case minutely and find technical defenses on your behalf.

Apart from that he will also be able to guide you with the paperwork involved as well as protect many of your procedural rights. A good lawyer comes at a price, but the costs associated with a conviction on your record for a lifetime are significantly higher. So decide well!

Conclusion

To avoid a DUI arrest, it is always best to not drink and not drive. However, if you do find yourself behind the wheel after a couple of drinks and are stopped by a police officer, you will have to be smart in dealing with the situation to avoid an arrest. The above points should keep you from getting in trouble until you can get in touch with an attorney.

The Tomczak Law Group