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DUI: Criminal Charge & License Suspension

Getting pulled over for drunk driving can cause serious trouble for you and your loved ones, especially if you are driving on a suspended license.

Most states consider driving on a suspended license to be a misdemeanor, but if you are also intoxicated at the time it can quickly turn into a felony charge.

A felony is serious business and will likely land you in jail. You’ll be trapped in jail until you can see a judge at your first hearing, which may take a few days. The judge will likely set a bail amount at the hearing where you’ll be remanded into custody once again until your trial. You’ve got to pay the bail amount or stay locked up. It’s a simple choice. This is where a bail bondsman comes in handy.

Bail is a certain amount of money you give to the court to hold. If you show up at your trial then the bail money will be returned to you. If you bail on your trial, then the judge issues a warrant for your arrest and keeps the money. Not many people can put up such a large sum of money on short notice, but a bail bonds service can put the money up for you. You pay them a fee to do so, which is significantly less than the bail amount. As long as you show up to trial, everyone wins.

But a little knowledge can go a long way. Knowing your rights if you are pulled over for DUI is an important first step to insure that you do not need see the inside of a jail cell.

1. Field Sobriety Tests Are Optional

The police officer is not your friend even if his language is friendly. The officer will likely try to trick you into doing field sobriety tests, asking a question like, “We’re going to do some field tests, OK?” Notice the structure of the sentence. It sounds like an order but it is really a question because the officer knows these tests are optional.

Field sobriety tests are a way to gather evidence against you, not a way for you to prove your sobriety to the officer. The tests include walking a straight line, standing with your feet together and touching your nose and reciting the alphabet backwards. It’s difficult to recount the alphabet backwards at any time, so do not try to do so under pressure in front of a police officer.

What is not optional is a breathalyzer test. As part of the contract you signed with the state when you got your license, you must submit to a breathalyzer if an officer requests you to do so. Do not trust the accuracy of handheld devices. Request to be taken to the station where the more accurate machine can be used. There, you can request to phone a lawyer for advice before proceeding to the breath test. And refusing to take a breathalyzer may be a misdemeanor in your state and will likely result in a license suspension.

2. Criminal Charges And License Suspension Are Separate But Related Processes

If your are arrested for a DUI, you must know that a criminal charge is coming your way as well as a civil license suspension hearing. You can be acquitted of the criminal charge and still get your license suspended from the DUI. You must fight both.

At the time of your arrest, the police will notify the DMV that you’ve been arrested for a DUI. The DMV will begin the process of suspending your license and you must take action to stop them. You can request a hearing in the matter and fight for your privilege to drive. Requesting a hearing will stay your license suspension, so you will be able to continue to drive and you will be able to plead your case at the hearing. Remember, this must be done independent of the criminal charge no matter the outcome of the criminal charge.

You should not drive you believe your license is, in fact, suspended. Go to the DMV and check the status of your license. If the officer took your license at the time of arrest, you may be able to get a new license and request a hearing to fight your suspension.

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