You’re worried but maybe not overly. You might be having thoughts like, “OK, I got arrested and charged with DUI. But it was only my first offense so the penalties will probably be lighter. Even though there are maximum penalties I’ve heard that judges rarely use them when sentencing. Plus practically everyone does this. So, it’s not great, but it’s hardly something to sweat bullets over even if I get convicted. I probably don’t need a defense attorney. Right?”
Well, you have some good news coming. You are partially right.
Now you look relieved but let me tell you what you’re right about. Plus remember the word partially. You will also be told what you’re wrong about. You will then be able to make an educated assessment of what level of concern you should have and whether or not you need the help of defense attorney. (Spoiler alert: you will probably decide that you do need the help after all. Keep in mind that penalties only come into view if you are convicted.)
You are of course right about your current situation that you’ve been arrested and charged with a DUI. That, of course, is going to mean that somehow or other you will have to deal with that. You are also right that first offenses have lighter sentences than subsequent offenses. Subsequent offense charges carry exponentially higher sentences.
You’re even right about the fact that most people have driven while under the influence. It has been shown from surveys (mostly those of the anonymous kind) that the majority have chosen to get behind the wheel when they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both. On a sidenote, remember that in the law’s definition of drugs they include both unprescribed and prescribed drugs as well as chemicals inhaled for the purpose of getting high.
Here’s where what you’re thinking falls apart though. If you have been in a situation previously where you could have gotten arrested for DUI then you may have already figured this out. Although most people have admitted to driving drunk, it is also true that most people don’t get caught every time. These same people also admit to getting lucky and not getting caught. This, by the way, does not make the police or court care less about the situation. It means that more people drive intoxicated then they are able to take care of. How do you think that makes them react to those they do catch? It makes them more vigilant to make an example of those that they do catch. So even though you’re right about the situation it’s a fact that works against you rather than for you.
You are also right that judges rarely give maximum sentences. But they can and sometimes do. It’s not necessarily predictable what will push them to do so. (S)He may have personal reasons to be biased against drunk driving (DUI). Since DUI is such an ongoing and prevalent problem, (s)he may believe that every convicted DUI needs to be used as an example for the purpose of deterrence. As you can imagine there may be other reasons the judge may be swayed to the maximum penalty. By the way, the maximum penalty for DUI is one year in jail, a $5000 fine, license suspension and the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for a year after the suspension expires, plus five years of probation.
But what if you’re right and you don’t get the maximum? Were you aware that there is a minimum penalty that a judge, no matter what (s)he may personally want, will be required by the law to follow? In the law you will still have to deal with the license suspension and IID – those don’t change. You will also be facing at least a day in jail and a $1141 fine. Your actual sentence, if convicted, can be either of the mentioned extremes or anywhere in between. For example, the sentence fine can be more than the $1141 which is the $350 minimum plus costs, fees and assessments plus a $200 two year inactive probation fee. But what if you get active probation for five years? That costs more (not to mention that time taken from your life to report to probation at THEIR schedule).
Keep in mind also that a conviction will go on your permanent criminal and driving record which will have its own set of complications. So your assumption were somewhat right but also misleading. You need to do what you can to minimize your sentence or even better get a “not guilty” verdict which will mean no penalties and your life complications would be over. At a minimum, you need a Tacoma DUI attorney that will fight for a reduced charge for you like Reckless or Negligent Driving. Call the law office of Smith & White, PLLC so you can set up a free consultation and start working on a defense strategy to get you your best result possible.