The DUI Process, Start to Finish

If you've been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), you may be wondering what's next, no matter where you are in your case. To help you get an idea of what's in store as you address the charges against you, take a look at the breakdown below.

Keep in mind that DUI laws vary from state to state, so the specifics of your arrest and DUI case may be different from this outline. If you're interested in learning your state's DUI laws, check out the full-text version or DUI state law highlights.

The Traffic Stop: This is the first step in any DUI arrest: a police officer pulls you over (for any traffic violation - even those not related to impaired driving) and comes to your window. Many cops, while talking to a driver, will look for signs of drunk driving, such as:

  • Red or watery eyes;
  • Your admission that you've had a few drinks; and
  • Fumbling as you try to get your license out of your wallet.

The Roadside Test...or Refusal: If, while talking to you, the officer detects signs of alcohol consumption, he or she has probable cause to test you for DUI. A cop can request that you take a field sobriety test, which you can refuse in most states.

  • If you refuse to take a field sobriety test, many states require an officer to read you an "express consent" or "implied consent" agreement, which will likely allow you to choose between submitting to a breath test and a blood test.
  • If you refuse to take either the breath or blood test, most states will automatically suspend your license.

The DUI Arrest: Based on the evidence the police officer gathers (by observation, chemical testing or other means), you may be arrested and charged with DUI.

The Court System: Once you've been charged with DUI, it's a good idea to get in touch with a DUI lawyer - and the sooner, the better!

  • If you'd like Total DUI to put you in touch with a DUI attorney practicing near you, just call us at 1 (877) 349-1311 or fill out our free online case evaluation form.
  • After making contact, you and your DUI lawyer can discuss how to handle your first court appearance, whether or not to accept a plea deal, and what DUI defenses might work well in your case.

After Your Trial/Plea Bargain: This could be the end of your DUI experience, but many people find that the effects of DUI charges linger.

  • If you're found not guilty at trial, you're free to go.
  • If you enter a plea bargain (that is, plead guilty to a lesser charge) or are convicted of DUI, you may have to face consequences including fines, jail time, license suspension, increased insurance rates and more. But this isn't necessarily the end of your case.

The Aftermath - Clearing Your Record: Not every person found guilty of DUI will be able to clear his criminal record, but there are steps you can take to try to keep your DUI off your rap sheet.

  • If you're found guilty, you may be able to request a second trial from your judge. If he or she sees fit to grant you one, you and your lawyer may have the chance to present your case to an all-new jury. Should you be acquitted at thistrial, your record will be cleared.
  • If the judge won't grant you a new trial or if you're found guilty at your second trial, you may be able to appeal the verdict. This can be effective if a jury disregarded or misinterpreted key facts in your case.
  • Apply for expungement. In some states, those with a criminal offense on their records may apply to have that offense expunged, or erased, after a certain period of time. Ask your lawyer about how your state deals with issues of expungement.

The effects of a DUI conviction can be long-lasting and devastating, depending on your situation. To make sure you're aware of the legal protections available to you and you're doing everything in your power to protect your constitutional rights, be sure to consult with a DUI lawyer if you've been charged with DUI.

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