Do People Understand DUI Charges Include Both Criminal And Civil Issues?

Interviewer: It is important to note most people don’t realize when they are charged with a DUI they have two cases: the civil DMV side affecting the driving license and the criminal side. Public defenders can’t address the license side. Therefore, if you win the criminal side somehow you are still without a license for awhile.

Mark: That’s right. It’s frustrating for people to go through the process. Their case is dismissed in court but they find they are still facing a three to six, or even year suspension of their driver’s license because nobody defended them at their DMV hearing.

DMV hearings are oftentimes much more valuable than the actual case. It’s going to impact somebody’s life. It affects their ability to provide for their family. It affects their ability to get to and from things that are important to them, such as school.

It is two separate cases. There is a big difference having a private attorney looking out for your interests, versus being on your own in front of the DMV. You do not know how the system works.

Interviewer: What other misconceptions do people commonly have when they first talk to you about the DUI process?

Mark: People think the DMV cannot suspend their license until the court process is complete. Again, that is not true. You have ten days to ask for a hearing.

Thirty days from the day you were arrested, your license will be suspended. You won’t be able to get it back for at least three months. This often means you’re losing your job or facing other catastrophic consequences.

The number one thing I hear people say is, “They haven’t even pressed charges on me yet. I’m still waiting for court.” Meanwhile, they’re already looking at losing their license.

Another common misconception is people think their Miranda rights were violated if an officer asked questions before taking the driver into custody. Often, when a police officer pulls over a vehicle, he’ll say he smells alcohol on the driver’s breath. He’ll ask if the operator if they’ve been drinking and what they’ve been drinking.

A lot of people believe their responses should be excluded because the officer asked the questions right when he pulled the car over. Statements are not going to be excluded under Miranda because the officer did not make a decision at that point to arrest or detain you. There are other areas we can look at for legal defenses.

Interviewer: People are swayed by what they see on TV. They think they can have their whole case thrown out if they’re not read their Miranda rights.

Mark: That’s absolutely right. People watch “CSI” and “Law and Order” and think that’s the way it is on the street. It’s really not that way. Another misconception involves a breathalyzer, or a blood test.

Results come back at 0.08 or higher and the driver automatically assumes guilt. The law actually says that it’s 0.08 or higher at the time you were driving. Meanwhile, alcohol takes a while to assimilate in your blood. Oftentimes you’re actually under the legal limit at the time of driving. People just assume they’re guilty. If they’re unrepresented, they just go in and plea.

By Mark Bigger