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Did you know that a group called the National Motorists Association, or NMA, (www.motorist.org) is involved in fighting what it calls "revenue-generating enforcement" and "revenge-based enforcement"? This lobby group opposes drunk driving, while encouraging reasonable DUI penalties. The group also actively opposes what it claims are police state tactics.
If you face DUI penalties you believe are unfair, you may not be able to do anything about them short of having your lawyer enter an appeal. However, you may wish to look into becoming active in an organization such as the NMA. If you believe the laws in your state are unfairly harsh, geared towards state fundraising, or otherwise inappropriate, consider making your voice heard.
DUI punishment can vary from state to state, but there are a few guidelines that may apply to you depending on the facts in your DUI punishment. If you have not received a felony conviction or have received probation, you could see some or all of the following:
1. Driving restrictions. You could be limited to driving to and from work or school for a specific amount of time.
2. Mandatory insurance reporting. You could be required to furnish proof of insurance to the Department of Motor Vehicles on a regular basis.
3. Treatment program. You could be required, as a condition of your probation, to attend drug or alcohol counseling or treatment. This can involve stays at a rehab clinic or halfway house.
4. Impounded vehicle. You could have your car or truck impounded at your expense for a specific amount of time.
These requirements can come in addition to driver's license suspension or other DUI punishments. Ask your lawyer for the specifics in detail once the verdict has been read. Don't rely on your memory - make sure you have in writing what is expected of you at all times to be in compliance with the terms of your probation.
DUI punishment varies from state to state, so you'll need to check with your lawyer to see what may apply in your particular state. Using California DUI penalties as an example, first offenders who are denied probation can expect the following:
1. 48 hours of jail time minimum.
2. 6 months driver's license suspension
3. $340 fine
As you can see, DUI penalties are fairly harsh, even for a first offense. There are things that can factor in to a first time offense, depending on your state. Driver's license suspension may be part of the package, but if you get probation, your state may allow you to keep your license provided you meet certain conditions set by the court. These can include rehab counseling, safe driver classes, and community service. Your lawyer will have more information, but make sure you understand what you are committing yourself to under a probation agreement. Violation of probation is taken quite seriously and can result in automatic driver license suspension and jail time.
Did you know that in many felony convictions for DUI, the most damaging evidence comes from the driver's own mouth? Remember the line in the Miranda warning that says "anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." This is extremely important to remember because many people admit to things that they don't realize are "evidential in nature".
DUI punishment can be determined based in part on the evidence you speak at the time of your arrest. Once you get to court, it's too late to take back these statements, and complaining that you weren't read your Miranda rights won't do any good. Remember that breathalyzer tests can be inaccurate, poorly administered, and you can be given DUI punishment as a result. Be very careful in what you say and do in case you are wrongly accused! Talk to your lawyer immediately if you feel you were treated unfairly.
If you had your license taken away at the time of your DUI arrest, this is known as a California (or whatever state you reside in) administrative license suspension. It is up to you to request a hearing to get your license back. This is done at the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state, and has nothing to do with the trial.
The major difference between the DMV hearing and a DUI trial is one of establishing guilt or innocence. Your DMV hearing won't clear or condemn you of any charges. The hearing only deals with the circumstances of your arrest. You should also know that if the DMV hearing results in a continued suspension of your license, you will need to stay in touch with the DMV if required, regardless of the outcome of your case. Consider the hearing and the trial to be completely separate.
Aside from the DUI punishment that courts can hand down based on a misdemeanor or felony DUI conviction, there are hidden punishments that may not be apparent until it is too late.
Did you know that you can be barred from entering foreign countries based on a DUI conviction? This is because some countries classify any conviction as an "offense". Canada bars entry to any person convicted of what are termed minor offenses, or indictable major offenses. Your DUI penalties could keep you out of Canada or other countries. This is one more reason why it is imperative to make sure you have a DUI attorney who is competent and with a proven track record of wins with cases similar to yours.
If you have been found guilty in a DUI case, with or without a felony conviction, there are many things that can affect your DUI punishment. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Have I been had a prior conviction or DUI punishment in the last 10 years?
2. Is there already a driver license suspension related to DUI on my record?
3. Was my blood-alcohol level above 0.10 or 0.15 percent?
4. Was a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle at the time of the offense?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you face stronger penalties. Many state laws demand much stronger punishment for repeat offenders. These laws often mandate more penalties when minors are present, or when drivers refuse to submit to chemical testing. Ask your lawyer what to expect if any of these factors pertain to your case.
If you are arrested for drunk driving in the state of Florida, the penalties can be extremely harsh. Every state has its own penalties and they are very wide-ranging. Even the individual state penalties for drunk driving vary greatly. In Florida, for example, a driver convicted of drunk driving can suffer penalties ranging from a fine of anything from $250 to $5000 and a 5 year jail term. Unless the driver requests an administrative hearing within 10 days of their arrest, their license will also be suspended.
Drunk driving laws and penalties vary from state to state. In Florida at least, the penalties are enough to make you think twice before picking up the keys after a long night out.
Many people question the right of states such as California to give administrative license suspension to a driver who has not been convicted in a court of law. Driver's license suspension, so the argument goes, is basically assuming guilt, which is contrary to the Constitution.
You may be tempted to use this argument as part of your drunk driving defense, but a good lawyer will advise against it. The reason? The operation of a motor vehicle is considered in the eyes of the law to be a privilege, not a right. A driver license suspension is a revocation of privileges rather than an assumption of guilt.
If you encounter a lawyer who wants you to take the defense that you were found guilty before going to trial, get a second opinion from a different lawyer. Don't assume that because your lawyer suggests this course of action that it is defensible in court. It isn't.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|