While a charge of driving under the influence is a common offense, it is also very serious in Pennsylvania. Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs places the lives of the drivers and others around them at risk. Depending on your blood-alcohol concentration, criminal record, and other factors, you could potentially face jail, fines, community service, mandatory classes, and other consequences. You will also likely lose your driver’s license for a time and might be required to install an ignition interlock device following your period of suspension. If you have been charged with a DUI, you might wonder whether you need an attorney. Here is what the legal team at DiCindio Law thinks that you should know.
When will you not need an attorney?
You are allowed to represent yourself for a DUI and are not required to hire an attorney. However, it may be in your best interest to secure legal help. If it is your first offense, no one was injured, and the facts clearly show that you were driving under the influence, you might not need to hire a lawyer. In this type of scenario, you may enter a guilty plea and receive the standard sentence. If your BAC was between 0.08% and 0.10%, which is enough for a general impairment DUI, and the officer had other evidence that strongly indicates your impairment, you are likely to be convicted. The general impairment level is the lowest-level DUI offense, meaning that the prosecutor may be willing to give you a sentence to accelerated rehabilitative disposition or ARD instead of other penalties.
Even if your case fits this description, there might still be factors that might require legal help. If you are in doubt about your case, you might want to consult with an experienced lawyer before you decide to handle the matter on your own.
Why hiring a lawyer might be a good idea
If you are wondering whether you need a lawyer for your DUI charge, it is a good idea to put the question into perspective. Consider if you had a tooth that needed to be pulled. Ask yourself whether you would pull it out yourself with a pair of pliers or instead choose a trained dentist who could use anesthetic. When you are facing a criminal charge, a defense lawyer can make the process smoother and less frightening, and he or she may be able to secure a better outcome than if you tried to represent yourself.
The court system has set procedures, and the procedures and the law are complex. A good DUI attorney will possess more than a strong understanding of the law. He or she will also have negotiating skills to try to convince the prosecutor to reduce your charges. Experienced criminal defense lawyers often know all of the players in the court where you will appear, including the police officers, the prosecutors, and the judge. This can help your lawyer understand how to approach your case and the outcome that you might expect to receive.
An attorney may be able to identify problems with your case that you might not recognize. A lawyer might obtain the police reports, audio and video recordings, the maintenance and calibration records, and the testing logs for the breathalyzer machine. When you are defending against a DUI, you must know what to request, how to obtain it, and how to interpret the data.
If you do not hire an attorney, you will either have to defend yourself or ask for a public defender to be appointed to represent you. Because of the complex nature of the DUI law, it is often not a good idea to try to represent yourself. If your income is low, you might qualify for a public defender. None the less, a private DUI defense lawyer may have fewer cases, more experience, and more time to investigate your case so that he or she can build a strong defense.
Using a lawyer to obtain a DUI plea bargain
In many cases, an attorney may be able to obtain a plea bargain for you. This is especially true in cases in which a lawyer can identify issues with a case that will make it harder for the prosecutor to secure a guilty verdict. The state sometimes agrees to plea bargain DUIs to cut down on the number of cases that they have to litigate at trial. Trials are expensive and take away time from the docket. They may want to focus on cases that they believe are more serious. Experienced DUI lawyers know how to negotiate with prosecutors to obtain better deals. Prosecutors also sometimes try to bluff defendants about the strength of a case to get unrepresented people to plead guilty. An experienced lawyer can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a case to help you to obtain a more favorable plea. In some cases, a lawyer might be able to secure a plea to a wet reckless or obtain a dismissal of the charge against you.
Getting a lawyer’s help to reduce your sentence
There is a different range of potential penalties for each level of DUI offense in Pennsylvania. The state divides DUI offenses into three levels that are based on the BAC. Within each level, the judge has the discretion to sentence you within the assigned ranges. Many judges are willing to accept agreements to capped sentences in exchange for guilty pleas. For example, a middle-tier DUI, which is a DUI with a BAC of 0.10% to 0.1599%, carries a minimum of 48 hours up to six months in jail along with other penalties. An attorney might be able to secure a guarantee that you will only be sentenced to the minimum mandatory sentence of 48 hours instead of being exposed to a potentially longer jail sentence. He or she might also be able to get the prosecutor to agree for you to plea down to a general impairment DUI, which does not carry any jail time.
Talk to DiCindio Law
If you are asking yourself whether you need a DUI attorney, it is a good idea for you to at least schedule a consultation to learn more about your rights. At DiCindio Law, we offer free initial consultations. Contact us today to schedule an appointment by calling us at (610) 430-3535.