Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is considered a criminal offense in Illinois. As such, DUI charges are handled in a criminal court, with a guilty plea or conviction being added to your criminal record. While you have the right to represent yourself in criminal court, it is almost always a bad idea. Remember that you may be facing expensive fines and possible jail time, as well as administrative punishments such as losing your driving privileges and paying higher insurance rates.
To give yourself the best options in your DUI case you will want the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. They will be able to give you the legal representation you need to establish strong defense strategies, negotiate for a lesser charge, or otherwise prepare you for the issues associated with a DUI charge. Contact our experienced attorneys at DUI Lawyers 24/7 to schedule an initial consultation for your case.
Do I Need an Attorney for a 1st Offense?
A first offense DUI is a misdemeanor charge in Illinois. If you were pulled over for driving while intoxicated and there is strong evidence to demonstrate that you had an elevated blood alcohol content (BAC), were driving erratically, failed field sobriety testing, or similar many people will choose to plead guilty. These cases can be extremely difficult to defend in court but are not impossible.
If there are extenuating circumstances in your case that can increase your penalties, such as an excessively high BAC or an accident, or if there are circumstances that could decrease your penalties such as procedural issues during your arrest, you may want a lawyer to help you navigate your legal options.
An experienced lawyer will know what issues you may face, how to avoid any pitfalls in your case, and keep you from making a costly mistake while preparing for your DUI case. They will also be able to provide you with legal counsel and representation should your case go to trial.
Learn More: What to do After a DUI Arrest in Illinois
Should You Ever Not Hire a DUI Lawyer
Most prosecutors have a first-offense plea offer ready for DUI cases with the aim of getting them closed quickly. In short, they will typically offer anyone with a standard first time DUI a plea deal that falls at the low end of the DUI sentencing guidelines.
As a general rule, a DUI will be considered a standard first DUI if the individual has no prior DUI conviction and there are no extra circumstances that could elevate the severity of the case such as accidents or injuries. This offer will be the same no matter your legal defense; if you have a public defender, a private attorney, or you choose to represent yourself this standard offer will be the same. Based on this it might seem that hiring an attorney for a standard first DUI offense is not worth it, but that might not be accurate.
In many cases, an experienced DUI attorney will be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to lower the initial offer by pointing to weaknesses in the prosecution's case or alerting the prosecutor to mitigating factors. An experienced attorney who is familiar with DUI law, local practices, and has a working relationship with the District Attorney and the judge can be valuable to working the plea deal to a better outcome.
If you have viable defenses for your case, accepting a standard first-offense plea offer could be a poor decision. An unrepresented client who is not well versed in DUI law may not be aware of their options or possible defenses. Prior to accepting a plea deal, you should consult with a Lake County DUI lawyer to be sure it is in your best interest.
Get a Lawyer's Opinion on Your Case
If you have no legal experience or training, it will be difficult to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your DUI case. DUI law can be complicated and change constantly, and with every case having unique circumstances it can be difficult to draw a parallel. Getting the opinion of an experienced DUI lawyer in Kane County can help you work through the case and get down to the points that are important to your case.
Most DUI lawyers and law firms will give potential new clients a free consultation to offer their legal advice for your case. You should bring your police report and any other documentation pertaining to your case to the consultation to give the attorney the most information to work on. You should also make a list of questions and concerns you have before going to meet the lawyer. There will be a lot of information covered in the meeting and it can be easy to forget important points you wanted to cover.
Remember that there is no requirement for you to hire an attorney after consulting with them. This meeting can be an excellent way to "try out" a lawyer to see if they are a good fit for you and your case.
Many people view the price of a private attorney as the biggest obstacle in hiring one. The pricing for a private DUI lawyer will typically run anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000, and if it goes to trial it can run even higher.
Even with these costs, hiring a private DUI attorney can absolutely be worthwhile. Hiring a private attorney gives you the flexibility to choose your DUI lawyer in McHenry County. You can find a lawyer who specializes in DUI cases and who has an in-depth understanding of DUI law that can prove beneficial to your case. In some situations, this knowledge can get you a better plea bargain, better results in your trial, or even complete dismissal of your charges.
One of the greatest benefits of working with a private lawyer is that you will be getting more time one-on-one than you would with a public defender. Public defenders are almost always chronically overworked and rarely have the time to devote to an individual that a private attorney can. People tend to feel more comfortable and confident in their case when they know they can have all of their questions answered.
Learn More: How Long Will You Lose Your License For a DUI?
You have the right to an attorney in criminal court. If you are not able to afford one, the court will appoint one to work your case, and these attorneys usually work from a public defender's office.
Public defenders typically handle a high volume of cases, which include DUIs. This can be beneficial, as most public defenders are knowledgeable and experienced in DUI law and different defenses. They also tend to have a professional relationship with the district attorney and judges in the area, which can prove useful for plea bargaining. Most public defenders are also effective and knowledgeable in trial procedures, as many cases they are assigned will end up going to trial.
There are, however, a number of drawbacks when working with a public defender. One of the biggest is that they are incredibly busy professionals, constantly juggling multiple cases. As such, you may not receive the same attention you would through private counsel which can leave you feeling unconfident in your case and your chance of success should you go to trial. Another downside is that public defenders are limited to criminal court, which can particularly hamper you with DUI cases. DUI charges carry administrative as well as criminal punishments, and having a lawyer help you navigate the problems you will face with DMV proceedings and license hearings can save you a lot of time and headaches.
Do You Need a Lawyer for a DUI Court Hearing?
You are entirely within your right to represent yourself at a DUI trial, but it is almost never a good idea. The trial procedure has a steep learning curve and requires lots of practice to become proficient in, and a lack of legal knowledge and experience will leave you at a serious disadvantage in court. On top of this, judges rarely have much patience for self-represented defendants who are unfamiliar with court rules.
To put it simply, if your DUI case is headed to trial you should have a skilled attorney. A cheap lawyer is better than no lawyer at all. A lack of experience and understanding can easily land you with more severe penalties, including a jail sentence, than if you had a lawyer representing you.
Get a Reduced Sentence
Where judges have discretion in handing down punishments, sentence bargaining may help you get a lesser sentence.
However, even if a judge has discretion they don't always use it. Many see so many DUI cases they don't have time to look carefully at each one, so they stick with a standard sentence for nearly all first DUI offenses.
If judges in your jurisdiction do regularly accept sentence bargains, an attorney is likely to know what legal facts are more likely to win a successful outcome.
Related Content: DUI Court Supervision in Illinois
Illinois DUI Expertise
If you have been charged with a DUI it can be difficult to know what your next move is, and you may be tempted to handle your case on your own to save money. Remember that a competent attorney is your best bet at avoiding severe penalties, can help you navigate the DMV proceedings that accompany a license suspension, and provide you with legal advice and experience that you would otherwise not have access to. Criminal charges from a DUI can have a serious impact on your life, introducing both personal and professional conflicts, and resulting in higher insurance premiums.
At DUI Lawyers 24/7 we have the knowledge and legal expertise to help you navigate your DUI case. We will help you fully understand your legal options, and choose the path that offers you the most favorable outcome. Contact a defense attorney with DUI Lawyers 24/7 at 847-999-7616 today to schedule an appointment your free case consultation