Do You Need a Florence Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your First DUI?
Any DUI is a serious legal matter. Some people think that their first DUI is not a big deal and that they don't need to hire a defense lawyer. The reality is that you face severe consequences for any DUI conviction - even if it is your first arrest. These consequences are not limited to just your criminal case, either. You can be subjected to criminal, administrative, and civil consequences as a result of a DUI, and some of these occur even before you are convicted. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to contact a Florence criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can after a drunk driving arrest.
Here are just some of the many potential consequences you face as a result of your first DUI:
Criminal Consequences of a DUI
Any DUI can be punished by jail time - even your first offense. The Texas Penal Code creates a minimum term of confinement of 72 hours for a DUI conviction, with a maximum possible term of 180 days. If there is an open container of alcohol in your vehicle at the time, the minimum term of confinement is six days. Jail time can be increased if you committed other offenses or if there were aggravating circumstances. Criminal consequences of a DUI can also include probation, court costs, fines, community service, substance abuse screening and treatment, counseling, and other various court orders. These quickly add up. Even apart from the time you spend in jail, you will spend a lot of time and money to resolve a DUI case.
Administrative Consequences of a DUI
The criminal consequences of a DUI are only the start of your troubles. Your driver’s license will be affected by a DUI conviction. You can lose your driving privileges for up to a year, and points will be assessed against your license. Your insurance rates will go up, and you will likely incur a lot of costs in hiring cabs or Ubers to get where you need to go during this time. These consequences are administrative matters handled through the Texas DMV. You can challenge these proceedings, but that too requires a significant investment of time and money. Once you have been convicted in a criminal court, it is difficult to challenge administrative matters with the DMV.
Your driver’s license is not the only license that can be affected by a DUI conviction. Many jobs require a professional license in order to practice in Texas. Doctors, Lawyers, accountants, teachers, child care workers, medical support staff, hairstylists, veterinary assistants, and many other jobs require licensure through the state. Many of these boards require you to report a DUI conviction to them. Some will not take action, but others will suspend your professional license as a result of a DUI. Once again, you have the right to challenge this decision, but it requires an investment of time and money - and it is difficult to fight if you have been convicted or plead guilty to DUI in the criminal court.
Civil Consequences of a DUI
In addition to criminal cases and administrative matters, there are also civil matters that can arise as a result of a DUI conviction. If anyone was injured as a result of your DUI, they have the right to file a civil claim against you for personal injury. If you have been arrested for DUI, it will be difficult for your insurance company to argue that you were not negligent - even if you have not yet been convicted or plead guilty to DUI. A settlement will increase your insurance rates (again, regardless of whether a conviction has occurred). If the case does not settle, you may have to go to court on the personal injury claim, and this will be even more stressful. Evidence of a DUI conviction can often be introduced as evidence against you in the civil case. If your insurance coverage is not high enough to pay a civil judgment, the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer can enforce the judgment against you personally. This is yet another financial complication that can haunt you for years after the DUI occurs.
Child custody matters are also civil in nature. The family court is even more liberal about admitting evidence of drinking because the immediate safety of children is at issue. In a personal injury case, your DUI usually cannot be admitted into evidence at trial until there is a conviction. But the family court is concerned about arrests, citations, and even the possibility that you are drinking excessively around your children. The other parent can ask for sole custody on this basis - even if you have not yet been convicted of anything. You, of course, have the right to defend your parental rights. But this, too, requires an expensive and stressful battle in the civil court. You may have to hire a separate custody lawyer. You might have to provide blood or breath tests to prove that you have not been drinking. You might need to get a report from a substance abuse counselor stating their opinion that you do not endanger your children. All of this takes a lot of time and money. It is also stressful and can do real damage to your relationship with your children. If the charges are dropped, this can help strengthen your case to the family court, but often the damage has already been done. Fortunately, an attorney may be able to help mitigate the effect of a DUI on any custody issues.
Call Us Today to Speak with a Florence Criminal Defense Lawyer
Any DUI carries a wide array of consequences - even if it is your first offense. By hiring an experienced defense lawyer, you will ensure that your legal rights are protected throughout the criminal case process. A lawyer can also help mitigate the consequences of a conviction in order to help you move past it and continue your law-abiding life. Call (254) 220-4225 to schedule your free consultation with Attorney Brett H. Pritchard. Attorney Pritchard has extensive experience defending DUI cases throughout the courts of Texas. He will fight to protect your constitutional rights in order and ensure that your case is fair at every step of the process.