Do I really need a lawyer for my first DUI?


In a perfect world we could all work in an industry we loved, college would be free for our children, and the cable company wouldn’t have an additional charge for premium channels.  Additionally, if you ever had an unexpected experience with the wrong side of law enforcement, the best and brightest lawyer would be appointed to you free of charge.

Unfortunately the cable company does charge $15.99 a month for HBO, and unfortunately the best and brightest lawyers can require substantial retainers to handle your matter.

So where does this leave someone who has just received his or her first DUI, and is wondering, “Can I afford a lawyer? Or do I even need one at all for my first DUI?” In making this decision, it’s important to understand the potential consequences of a first time DUI and what’s potentially at risk.

First DUI Conviction

Without Probation. Conviction of a first violation is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 96 hours (at least 48 hours of which must be continuous) nor more than 6 months, and by a fine of $390 to $1000, plus penalty assessments. The court must order that any imprisonment be served on days other than those of your regular employment. If the court determines that 48 hours of continuous imprisonment would interfere with your work schedule, the court must allow you to serve the imprisonment when normally scheduled for time off from work. This determination may be based on a representation from your attorney or on your affidavit or testimony.

With Probation*. The terms and conditions must include a fine of $390 to $1000, plus penalty assessments. The court may also impose a county jail term for at least 48 hours, but not more than 6 months. As a result of the California Court conviction, the California DMV will suspend your California driving privilege for six months. If the court orders you to participate in a nine-month DUI program, your driving privilege will be suspended for ten months. The court must also order you to participate in a DUI program for at least three, six or nine months. The court must revoke your probation if you fail to enroll in, participate in, or complete the required DUI program, unless good cause is shown.

License suspension. The California DMV must suspend your driving privilege for six months. If you are ordered to participate in a nine-month DUI program, your driving privilege must be suspended for ten months. The DMV may not reinstate your driving privilege until you file proof of financial responsibility (SR-22) and proof of successful completion of a DUI program.

Disallowance of restricted license. When the court, considering the circumstances taken as a whole, determines you would present a traffic or public safety risk if authorized to operate a motor vehicle during the six-month (or ten-month) suspension period, the court may prohibit the DMV from issuing a restricted driver’s license.

Ignition interlock device. The court may require you to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle you own or operate or have access to.

This list is not exhaustive, and does not include a myriad of literally thousands of ancillary consequences a misdemeanor conviction can have on your future.

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