In a previous article, we discussed 10 things not to do if you want to avoid getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). But, what if it’s already too late? What if you got arrested, and you are now awaiting trial on a DUI charge with your future hanging in the balance?
If you are facing a DUI charge, there are many mistakes you need to avoid in this scenario as well. Here are 10 all-too-common mistakes that can lead to an unnecessary conviction or an unnecessarily harsh sentence:
1. Assuming You are Guilty
No matter what, you should not assume that you are guilty. Don’t forget: Even if you were driving drunk, you are not guilty until a judge or jury decides you are guilty in court. The prosecution must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and if prosecutors cannot meet their burden of proof then you deserve to walk free. Just as many innocent people get convicted, many people who commit crimes avoid guilty verdicts by executing effective defense strategies.
2. Pleading Guilty at Your Initial Appearance
You should not plead guilty at your initial appearance for two reasons. The first is the issue we just discussed. Even if you were driving drunk, prosecutors must still be able to use the available evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The second reason not to plead guilty at your initial appearance is that doing so severely limits your options for mitigating the consequences of your DUI. Even if the circumstances are such that prosecutors are likely to be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still be able to obtain a reduced charge or a reduced sentence through the pretrial or trial processes.
Contrary to popular belief, judges do not go easy on defendants to “save the court’s time” by pleading guilty. To get the judge to go easy on you, you need to take affirmative steps to show that you are not deserving of the harshest penalties available under Arizona law.
3. Ignoring Possible Defenses
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could have several ways to fight your DUI charge. As a defendant, you do not need to prove that you are innocent—you need to prevent the prosecution from proving that you are guilty. An experienced Phoenix DUI lawyer will be able to evaluate all possible defenses and build a cohesive strategy focused on protecting you to the fullest extent possible.
4. Ignoring the Possibility of Negotiating a Plea
Let’s say the prosecution has a strong case. The government’s lawyers have enough evidence to convict you, and there is a reasonable chance that the judge or jury will find you guilty. Does this mean that your only choice is to take your chances at trial?
Not necessarily. In this type of scenario, you may be able to obtain a plea deal—and it may be in your best interests to do so. While accepting a plea deal necessarily involves pleading guilty and facing a conviction, negotiating a plea can save you from many risks you would otherwise face at trial.
5. Talking to the Police or Prosecutors
As a defendant in Arizona’s criminal justice system, you have the right to remain silent, and it is important that you exercise this right. Under no circumstances should you speak with the police or prosecutors—unless advised otherwise by your defense attorney. When it comes to things like obtaining evidence or negotiating a plea deal, it is extremely important that you let your defense lawyer speak on your behalf.
6. Talking to Anyone Else About Your Case (or Posting Online)
In addition to exercising your right to remain silent, you should also avoid discussing your case with friends, family members, coworkers, or anyone else (other than your defense lawyer). This means that you should not post anything about your DUI case online. If you say something you shouldn’t or post photos or comments that have implications for your case, prosecutors can—and will—use your own words and photos against you.
7. Assuming You are Innocent
Just as you should not assume you are guilty, you should not assume you are innocent. You have too much at stake to not take your DUI case seriously. Even if you were not driving under the influence, you must still be prepared to defend yourself—or else you could very well find yourself facing a conviction despite the true facts at hand.
8. Failing to Understand the Severity of Your DUI Charge
There are several different types of DUI charges under Arizona law—all of which carry substantial penalties. If you are dealing with a drunk driving arrest, you need to make sure you know exactly which charge you are facing, and you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of exactly which penalties are on the table. The specific charge you are facing could also impact the defenses you have available.
9. Overlooking the Collateral Consequences of a DUI Conviction
In addition to statutory penalties, individuals who are convicted of DUI in Arizona can also face various collateral consequences. These range from education and career challenges to travel restrictions and immigration consequences for non-residents and non-citizens.
10. Choosing the Wrong Phoenix DUI Lawyer
Given the challenges involved in fighting a DUI charge and the risks of facing a DUI conviction in court, you need to make sure you make an informed decision about your legal representation. With this in mind, there are several questions you will want to ask during your free initial consultation.
Request a Free Initial Consultation with a Phoenix DUI Lawyer at The Weingart Firm
Are you facing a DUI charge in Arizona? If so, we can help you avoid mistakes that could jeopardize your defense. To speak with an experienced Phoenix DUI lawyer in confidence as soon as possible, call The Weingart Firm at 480-405-7922 or request a free initial consultation online now.