There’s a difference between a DUI and a DWI charge. A DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs) charge is more severe than a DWI (driving while intoxicated or impaired) charge. In most states, the threshold for a DUI alcohol offense is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% and higher and for a DWI, it’s a minimum of 0.05%, but less than 0.07%. If you’ve been charged with a DWI, you might wonder if you even need to contact a DWI defense lawyer or if you can handle the case on your own. Here’s our advice.
A First Offense
If the DWI offense is your first one of any kind related to driving after drinking or doing drugs, you might not need an attorney. This is because prosecutors almost always offer a plea deal to first time DWI (and DUI) offenders. To qualify for this plea bargain, you will need to have no prior DUI or DWI convictions and there were no aggravating factors to the charge, including a car accident or injuries. Since a DWI is a lesser offense than a DUI, your BAC won’t have an impact on your plea bargain options.
These plea deals are typically offered to every first-time offender, whether you have an attorney or not, so it might not be necessary to hire a lawyer if you know you’re going to accept the plea bargain. However, if you do hire an attorney, the standard plea bargain may just be a starting point. An experienced attorney could be able to get you an even better plea bargain, especially if you have mitigating factors. Without an attorney, you might not know you have that leverage.
No Trial is Imminent
Most DWI offenses don’t go to trial because they are plead out before they get to that point. After all, a DWI is less serious than a DUI and most defendants don’t want to prolong the proceedings if they don’t have to. But, sometimes a DWI charge will go to trial, especially if there was an accident involved or someone was injured because the driver was intoxicated or impaired. If a case goes to trial, you pretty much have to have an attorney. Yes, you can represent yourself. No, it’s not a good idea.
Unless you’ve gone to school to be an attorney and you’ve practiced in the field of criminal law, you don’t have the experience and knowledge necessary to successfully defend yourself in court. You need someone to provide you with sound counsel and argue your case in front of a judge and jury to make them understand why you shouldn’t be convicted. This is not a simple process and you could seriously damage your future if you make a mistake. An attorney won’t let you do that.
Best Advice? Get an Attorney’s Opinion
Fortunately, you don’t have to hire an attorney to get one’s opinion on your case. You can get a consultation with a DWI defense lawyer and find out if your case needs formal representation or if you can handle it on your own. Most lawyers are going to say you’ll be better off with an attorney, but they’ll also let you know if you have a good case for a standard plea bargain that might not require a lawyer.
No matter how severe your DWI charge is, it’s always a good idea to consult an attorney to find out whether you need to hire one or not. Don’t leave your future up to chance and risk a conviction by representing yourself when you really need sound legal advice.