Driving under the influence is a serious offense; the consequences of having this on your record should not be taken lightly, but it is also not a life sentence of shame, blame, and guilt.
Every year, almost one million Americans are arrested and charged with driving under the influence; for many it is a first time offense and for others, it is a repeated struggle that brings with it increasingly severe consequences, mental and emotional stress, and interference with day to day life and living.
Regardless of whether this is your first arrest or a subsequent one, there are some steps you must take to get back on track and show local law enforcement that you are serious about breaking destructive patterns. The next steps you take are crucial, and they could affect the outcome of your case. Follow these steps to ensure that your charges are minimal and you can get back on track once more:
- Write everything down
An arrest and charge is an emotionally stressful event; there may be details about that event that you do not remember in the days, weeks, and months that follow. As soon as you get a chance to reflect, begin to write down everything that you remember about the event. Include details such as:
- Location of the traffic stop
- Time that you were pulled over
- Details about police requests and tests they had you do
- Specifics regarding conversations you had with the police
- Any unusual details that you remember about the event
It may seem vivid now, but in the days and weeks to follow, details may become fuzzy or unclear. It’s important for your legal protection that you remember as much as you can to ensure that you get the representation that you need.
- Call a DUI lawyer
Whether you choose to plead guilty of the charges or contest them, you’ll need an experienced attorney by your side to lead you through the process. An experienced lawyer will present you with your options and give you valuable advice on how to conduct yourself to receive the smallest sentence possible.
- Set online profiles to private
In an attempt for the state to try and build a case against you, they may attempt to look into your social media posts to see if there is anything they can use to build a character profile. Set all of your online social media accounts to private so that nothing can be pulled from them without your consent; refuse to post or to talk about the details of your case until everything has been settled as well; law officials do not find social media rantings about legal proceedings favorable in any way. The more you can stay out of the spotlight, the better.
- Show up at your court date
To declare your intentions about turning over a new leaf, it is important to represent yourself well. If your lawyer sets a court date for you, be on time, be present, and be professional. Give some time and attention to your appearance–men and women alike should wear modest and professional clothing. Women should wear minimal makeup and simple hairstyles, men should make sure they are clean shaven. Showing your legal counsel and the judge that you took the time to care for your appearance is also communicating the message that you take this hearing seriously, and that you desire to make amends for your charge.
Be respectful and respond thoughtfully and simply in response to questions being asked of you. Do what you can to stay calm, and keep emotion out of your responses as much as possible. If you disagree with charges, remain respectful and observant of courtroom protocol, and accept the outcome of your hearing gracefully. Your actions placed you in this position, and your continued action will get you out of it, if you play your hand right.
- Accept your consequences
Regardless of the judge’s decision, accept your consequences with dignity. Again, your actions got you here, you will have to do what you can to repay your debt and make things right. In general, a first offense will have lighter consequences than repeated offenses–your legal counsel will be able to negotiate for you and reduce your sentence to probation, a fine, or some hours of community service. Regardless of your sentence, accept it, pay the time, the fine, and move on to create a better life.
- Get your license back
Once your sentence has been carried out, it’s time to rebuild and repair. One of the first things you should do is get your driver’s license back. A standard suspension period after a DUI is 180 days, but in some cases, you can apply for a hardship license to continue working under certain circumstances. Follow all protocols to the letter, and fill out paperwork appropriately and in a timely manner. Make sure that you follow all traffic rules from this point on, and reconstruct your driving record one successful trip at a time.
A DUI conviction does not have to be a life sentence–if you take these simple steps, follow the advice of your legal counsel, and remain professional and positive, you’ll come through on the other side with your dignity and your driver’s license intact.