Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 6, 2020

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There are two general approaches to improving your chances for a favorable outcome before trial on a DUI charge. The first approach involves being proactive and addressing how you got the DUI charge in order to minimize sentencing. The second approach is more reactive and designed to fight the DUI charge by arguing that you are not guilty. Whether you are guilty or not, you should consult a DUI attorney for assistance fighting a DUI charge or minimizing punishment for a DUI conviction.

What Can I Do if I’m Guilty of a DUI?

If you are guilty of DUI, the best approach is to own up to the situation. Voluntarily agreeing to counseling or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) programs shows that you are sincere about wanting to address your addiction issues. Before you enter a counseling program though, consult with a local attorney who usually handles DUI cases as the local prosecuting office may have a preference for certain drug and alcohol rehabilitative programs. A local DUI attorney will know what those programs are and how to get into them. Some jurisdictions offer specialized DUI schools or classes. Regardless of which drunk driving program you enter, commit to the entire program. A prosecutor handling your case will not be moved to leniency by a minimal effort at rehabilitation.

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How to Handle License Suspension

If your license was suspended because you were arrested for a DUI, or you refused to take a breath test, do not drive unless you first obtain a hardship or occupational license. If you are caught driving while your license is suspended, the prosecutor will argue that since you committed new offenses while on bond, that you are not a good candidate for probation.

Next, don’t drink while your DUI case is pending. A new DUI or public intoxication charge will make plea bargaining for your DUI charge much more difficult. If hanging around other friends who drink is too much of a temptation, avoid those friends while your drunk driving case is pending. It also might be a good idea to avoid bars and nightclubs as well as remove alcohol from your home. In addition, avoid posting incriminating photos online, such as on popular social networks; many defendants are surprised when their party photos show up at DUI punishment hearings as evidence that their drinking habits have not improved.

Remember, if you can demonstrate that you no longer drink, or no longer drink to excess, a DUI license suspension can potentially be reduced, appealed, or adjusted to allow you to drive under certain circumstances.

DUI Costs

Most DUI convictions will come with some type of fine, administrative fees, and court costs in addition to any attorney fees you will have to pay. You may be able to obtain a shorter probation if you are able to pay your fine and court costs up front. A shorter probation can also save you money because you will have fewer monthly probation fees to pay.

What if I’m Not Guilty of a DUI?

If you are not guilty of a DUI offense you are charged with, start working your defense early. For example, if the officer had you perform field sobriety tests, they probably have a video of your results. However, some law enforcement agencies only keep videos for 90 days, unless someone requests that the video be preserved. Send a letter to the agency requesting that the video be preserved so the jury can see how well you performed, rather than having the officer describe your field sobriety tests. Additionally, hire the right DUI attorney to assist your case, and work with them to determine a trial strategy.

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Preserving Evidence in a DUI Case

If you plan on fighting a DUI charge, it is important to actively gather evidence from the scene. Hiring a DUI attorney can also help you find a private investigator to help preserve other evidence that indicates you are innocent or that the charges brought against you are too severe. Because law enforcement agencies do not conduct accident reconstruction for a DUI offense unless there is a fatality, if you were in a two-vehicle accident and there is some evidence that you had been drinking, law enforcement is just going to assume that your intoxication was the cause of the accident. However, measurement of skid marks and a diagram of the scene could actually show that the other driver was a fault. If you don’t record or gather physical information or information from eye witnesses shortly after an accident, you are likely to lose extremely valuable information that could strengthen your defense. 

Getting Legal Help With a DUI Charge

Regardless of whether your response is proactive or reactive, the sooner you start working on your DUI case, the more likely you will be able to improve your situation. In addition to the general tips listed above, other options may be available which are specific to your jurisdiction, like a specialized DUI Court. Consult with a local DUI attorney as quickly as possible to see what other tips can improve your DUI case before you go to court.

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