Driving under the influence (DUI) charges are among the most common criminal offenses in Pennsylvania. People get arrested for drunk driving essentially every day. Given how common DUI offenses are, some people fail to take them as seriously as they should.
A surprising number of people decide to plead guilty to a DUI charge or make the potentially significant mistake of trying to represent themselves in court without an attorney because they underestimate the possible impact of a DUI conviction.
Attempting to navigate the criminal justice system without an attorney will put you at a disadvantage. Despite what some people may tell you, you probably need an attorney even for a first DUI in Pennsylvania.
There is a lot at risk in a drunk driving case
One of the reasons why people think they can skip hiring an attorney is that a first-time DUI may not even carry a jail sentence. Although there isn’t a mandatory jail sentence in some cases, incarceration is still possible.
You could be on probation for up to six months in addition to fines, alcohol safety school and a criminal record. If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over 0.10%, you could go to prison for up to six months, and the $300 fine for a lower-level first DUI increases to up to $5,000.
Without the right guidance and an appropriate strategy to respond to a DUI charge, you could face the maximum penalties.
How an attorney helps you
An attorney helps you first of all by keeping you from making major mistakes. They can be present when you talk to the police and help you determine whether pleading guilty or defending yourself is a better approach to the pending charges.
When you do decide to defend yourself, a lawyer will help you evaluate the evidence against you and determine the best legal strategy given the circumstances at the time of your arrest. Finally, an attorney knows how to present your case in a way that can influence the verdict a jury returns or the sentence you ultimately have to serve.
Partnering with a criminal defense attorney can be part of a broader strategy to fight back against pending drunk driving charges.