Four Facts You Need to Know About DUIs
Combating DUI charges can be a frightening reality to face. Frightening, not only due to the legal ramifications associated with the crime, but because it’s a fate that could befall anyone. According to the team at Whitehurst, Blackburn and Warren in Thomasville, Georgia, a series of poor decisions over the course of just a few hours is all it takes for you to be labeled a criminal. “DUIs are one area that I see in the practice of criminal law that really could happen to anybody,” said Attorney Joe Cargile, partner at WBW. “It’s a lapse in judgement.” The vast majority of DUIs are, thankfully, victimless crimes. However, Cargile says it’s the fatal potential they carry that has prompted officials to make their potential sentencing so severe. “The reason why driving under the influence, even slightly, has been criminalized,” said Cargile, “is because there can be truly serious consequences. You can lose your life – a friend or family member can lose their life – because of the choice you make when you get behind the wheel and drink and drive.” As the holiday season approaches and festivities start to unfold, it’s important to familiarize yourself with your rights regarding driving under the influence.
Field Sobriety Tests are Optional After you’ve been pulled over, remember that field sobriety tests are always optional. An officer may request that you comply with a series of tests, but you can respectfully decline by stating that you aren’t comfortable with the circumstances. “Field sobriety tests are a way for the officer to both evaluate your fitness to drive a motor vehicle, while at the same time build a case against you,” said Cargile. “The tests are subjective, and open to that officer’s interpretation. There are a host of reasons a driver may not pass the test that have nothing to do with mental impairment, but rather physical limitations.” Know that the submitting to the field sobriety testing is optional but declining to follow the officer’s request will most likely have consequences – namely an arrest for DUI.
Your Driver’s License Can Be Suspended If do take part in the field sobriety testing and the officer believes you are unsafe to drive or, if you inform the officer that you will not be taking part in any field sobriety testing, the officer will read you a statement called the “Georgia Implied Consent Notice.” The officer is legally required to read this particular statement before asking any driver to consent to chemical testing of his or her breath, blood, or urine when suspected of DUI. “When you drive on the roadways in the State of Georgia, you have to know that law enforcement can make this request for chemical testing if they suspect you are driving under the influence,” said Cargile. “By refusing the test, you are essentially breaking an implied agreement with the state.” If you refuse the state administered test, it will be up to the officer how he or she would like to proceed. They will most likely initiate a license suspension process that will take away your ability to drive until your court case is resolved. “A unique characteristic of a DUI charge is that you can be punished by a license suspension before every going to court on the criminal charge,” said Cargile. “That’s one of the reasons it is important to speak with a law office within days of the arrest.”
DUIs are misdemeanors Many drivers that have not been arrested for DUI may consider driving under the influence to be much like a serious traffic ticket. That is a misconception that is quickly dispelled when standing behind bars at the local jail. DUIs are misdemeanors that carry up to twelve-months in jail. They also carry costly fines and expenses. However, more importantly, they can stick to your “criminal record” forever. “Many offenses, especially non-violent minor offenses, can be removed from your criminal record after a certain period of time or because someone is a first offender,” explained Cargile. “If you are found guilty of a DUI, that conviction will remain on your record permanently.” Facing a DUI is not akin to a serious traffic ticket; it is an offense that requires careful consideration and the advice of counsel. 4. You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney If you or a loved one is faced with DUI charges, you want a team on your side that is well-versed in DUI defense and has a track record of acquittals. “DUIs can be drawn-out, costly undertakings if your representation isn’t familiar with the process,” said Cargile. “If it were my loved one facing these charges, I’d recommend hiring a criminal defense attorney that specializes in DUIs.”
To discuss your rights with your legal representation, please contact WBW at (229) 226-2161 or by visiting WBWAttorney.com.