What is DUI/DWI Law? How to Find a DUI/DWI Lawyer


What is DUI/DWI?

DUI/DWI refers to driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated. This applies to situations in which you are driving a vehicle while intoxicated or drugged. In some cases, you do not have to be on the road; you just have to be in the driver’s seat and intoxicated. Some states will charge it as an offense if you are just in the car with the key in the ignition like New York. No harm must occur for you to be charged criminally. If you harm someone in the process, you may also be charged civilly as well.

Governing Law

DUI/DWI offenses are typically governed by statutes. While some case law may be used to supplement and interpret some of the statutes, it is primarily code based. Judges, however, do have a great deal of discretion in certain states such as Indiana, allowing them to heighten or lower the penalty based on a number of factors ranging from age, frequency of offense, levels of drugs or alcohol in system, etc. You are governed by the law in the state in which you commit the violation. This means that if you are in a state with a blood alcohol rate of .08 but cross state lines to a state where it is .07 and are stopped, you will be liable if you have a blood alcohol rate over .07. The same holds true for age requirements as well.

Reasons for Hiring an Attorney

DUI/DWI violations can result in a range of penalties. The severity of the penalty also depends on a number of factors such as how many offenses you have previously had as well as others involved and the kind of substance in your system. Penalties in some states can range from minimal fees to up to 25 years in prison. You will need an attorney to represent your interests and to ensure that you are not overly penalized. An attorney or law firm is even more essential when there is a dispute over the validity of the claim. Civil cases can be just as damaging. Most states do not have caps on civil claims, and punitive damages can easily reach the hundreds of thousands. Ignoring either civil or criminal charges will result in a default judgment that will be entered against you.

Things to Look for in a DUI/DWI Lawyer

The kind of attorney you need will depend on the severity of your situation and how you are being charged. You will want to look for a lawyer who handles cases similar to yours. For instance, if you are being sued both civilly and criminally, then you will want the same lawyer to handle both cases. It is important to find one who has experience in personal injury and negligence suits as well as criminal defense and DUI/DWI cases. You will want to look at the general reputation of the attorney. It is important to find one who has a good history of representing such cases, though you may risk trying a new attorney if you are not facing severe charges.

If you are being sued criminally and cannot afford an attorney, the court may provide one for you or you may be able to find aid from a legal clinic. You will not have many choices from these. If you do go with a DUI/DWI lawyer, you can expect the attorney to ask for most of the money up front. These cases follow a number of basic procedures, and so it should be fairly easy for the attorney to estimate the costs. Contingency fees are not permitted. Some attorneys and law firms charge a flat rate for representation. Sometimes they do allow payments, but you will typically have to provide a 20-30% down payment of estimated costs to be held in escrow until the fee is earned.


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