If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), you are facing some very serious consequences. These include potentially losing your license, thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in fines, fees, and court costs, jail time, and perhaps even loss of a job, friends, or family because of your charges. With the cost of attorneys these days you may be wondering, “Can I fight this case without a lawyer?” A qualified attorney can achieve a better outcome than you can on your own, but let’s explore the options.
The Evidence Against You
If you’re fighting your case without an attorney, you will want to review all the evidence there is against you, even if you can clearly remember the arrest, what you think you said, and what the police officer says you said could be two different things. Having an attorney gather this evidence will help you ensure you have accurately gathered all the evidence the prosecutor will throw at you, and will likely have a better defense than you will come up with due to the experience, and from simply being familiar with the prosecutor and judge.
For example, when you are arrested, you are read the Miranda Warning, informing you of your rights. If this does not happen, you can use this to your advantage. When an arresting officer tells you that “anything you say can and will be used against you in court”, take that Miranda Warning very seriously. Police officers are specially trained to make you feel at ease and that you can open up to them, but you should not volunteer any information to them.
Also, what you do (and don’t do) will be used against you, too. Refusing to take a blood alcohol test, for example, can hurt your case. If you have valid reasons for not taking this test you may use it, however if you have an attorney present he or she can guide you on whether you should. Again, having experience with the law, and knowing the judge and prosecutor will give your attorney the advantage of deciding which reasons are valid and which are not in this case.
If you have already made a statement or submitted to questioning without an attorney present, your lawyer can move to have what you said without representation dismissed, but this is a complicated process and is not always successful. The only right way to get your side of the story in front of the judge is through an attorney.
Experience and Resources
DUI law is complex and laws are frequently updated before being posted to the internet, where many people defending themselves get their information. Some states implement several new laws every year. Through professional resources, your lawyer will be up to date on all the most recent updates to the law and new laws in your state, even if the information is not yet available to the general public via the internet.
Scientific evidence presented in the case can be just as perplexing. Your attorney’s experience with DUI evidence will provide them with the experience to interpret, disprove, or show the inconsistencies or mistakes in the prosecutor’s case or in the evidence presented by law enforcement.
Your attorney will also have the education, experience, and access to legal precedents and further resources that you do not have, including other attorneys. They will have proven defense and trial strategies with which you are likely unfamiliar. An experienced lawyer will be able to stand toe to toe with a prosecutor, having heard at least one version of nearly all the prosecutor’s points before, which can only be gained through experience practicing law.
Representation at the Maryland MVA Hearing
Once you have been charged with DUI, you have 10 days to schedule an administrative hearing with you’re the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to determine the fate of your driving privileges. If you do not schedule this hearing or do not appear at this hearing, your driver’s license will automatically be suspended, even for a first offense.
The outcome of the MVA hearing carries great weight in your criminal case. A court-appointed attorney cannot represent you in your MVA hearing and, since it bears so heavily on your DUI case in court, it is always best to have an attorney defend you at the MVA hearing. What you say at the MVA hearing can be used against you in court, and it is very easy for a defendant to speak their way into an irreversible position trying to represent themselves.
Best Outcome at Arraignment
The next step after a DUI arrest is your arraignment in a criminal courtroom, the hearing at which you will be formally charged with driving under the influence and where you will either enter your plea, agree to a plea deal, or move to go to trial. Only an experienced attorney can advise you of the best response to your charges at your arraignment. Your attorney can even speak on your behalf without you being present, leaving you time to attend work or school.
You may believe you are guilty since your blood alcohol level was proven to be over the legal limit and be tempted to take the Standard Offer. You don’t have to do this. DUI defendants often have a much better chance of minimizing the impact of a DUI on their life than they realize. Your attorney can whittle down even mandatory minimums depending on the strength of scientific and other evidence scheduled to be presented by prosecutors. There could be ample evidence, or lack thereof, to have the judge drop the charges altogether.
With so much information freely available today, it can be tempting to want to represent yourself in a DUI case. The penalties for this crime have become so severe though, with the MVA portion of your case bearing so much weight criminally, that representing yourself is a surefire way to have your DUI charges, and perhaps its associated charges, put your life on hold for years to come.
Visit the Fellner Law Firm for more information on DUI laws and choosing a lawyer. Feel free to contact us through our website, or call us at (301) 309-2000 with any additional question you may have about your case.