Understanding DWI – Not Just Another Traffic Ticket

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Almost every other week you hear stories on the news about celebrities being pulled over for DWI. Their mug shot will be shown, viewers will get a laugh over it and then it seems to be over. You don’t hear anything about it again; but the fact is that this is no laughing matter and it should be taken seriously.

It is a Criminal Offense

Many people are under the impression that if you are arrested for drunk driving, you are only retained until you sober up and then it is over, but this way of thinking is wrong. This offense is not the same as a speeding violation or even a reckless driving charge. This sort of charge cannot be cleared up in traffic court; but instead, you will face a criminal court judge instead.

If you are pulled over while intoxicated, the police officer will normally ask you if you have been drinking. It is best for you not to answer and instead invoke your right to remain silent. If they ask you to take a field sobriety test, you have the right to refuse. In fact, these tests are not considered reliable since sober people can fail while people who are intoxicated can pass.

If the police officer believes there is probable cause to arrest you for driving while intoxicated, he will then arrest you. Once at the police station, he will likely either have you submit to a blood or breathalyzer test. It is important that you not give a statement until you have a lawyer present. This is a right that you have and you should not allow an officer to pressure you otherwise.

Often times, depending on the jurisdiction, you will be released from jail pending arraignment after fully sobering up which typically takes a several hours depending on how much alcohol you consumed. However, sometimes, and especially if you are being charged with anything else in addition to driving while impaired, you may remain in custody until your arraignment. Usually an arraignment takes place the day after your arrest but if you are arrested on a Friday or Saturday, you may have to spend the weekend behind bars.

If you are released after sobering up, then you will most likely be notified of your arraignment at a later date. This will give you time to contact an attorney to represent you against these charges.

What is At Risk?

Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest and the charges against you, there are a few possible punishments that you can face:

  • Jail time
  • Fines or other fees
  • Penalties
  • Suspension/revocation of license
  • Community service
  • Rehabilitative treatment
  • Probation

For each DWI offense, the repercussions become more stringent. In addition, if you caused a car accident while drunk driving and someone is injured as a result, you may even face more severe charges.

You Need Representation

Defending yourself on a DWI charge can be tricky – especially if it isn’t your first offense or if you have multiple charges against you. For any criminal charge, you would turn to an attorney to represent you and this charge is no different. Look for a DWI defense attorney who has experience defending people in your situation. At Barna, Guzy & Steffen, we will set you up with a DWI attorney who is available to represent you on these charges.

Our DUI lawyers can advise you on the right steps to take. Your first court appearance is called an arraignment and this is when you plead to the charge or charges. If your case is not resolved here, a pre-trial hearing is scheduled. At this time, defendants often reach a plea deal which can include pleading to a lesser charge in exchange for a lower penalty.

However, if no agreement is reached, you will go on to have a trial. If you have injured anyone or damaged property as a result of the incident, you may also face lawsuits. Barna, Guzy & Steffen has extensive experience handling DUI/DWI cases and are ready to defend you in criminal law court so that you can receive the best outcome possible.

About Jon P. Erickson

Jon Erickson is Of-Counsel at BGS and the Practice Group Leader for Consumer law (PI, Family, Wills/Estate Planning and Criminal Defense). Jon has been the recipient of honors and awards as a criminal defense specialist; including the highest rating given by a national publication, a “Super Lawyer” designation. In January 2012, Jon was named a Certified Criminal Law Specialist by the Minnesota State Bar Association. This certified specialist designation is earned by less than 3% of all Minnesota licensed attorneys.

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