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If I plan to plead guilty to DUI, do I really need a lawyer?

So you got behind the wheel after having too many drinks and then got arrested for DUI. Now you have a serious legal problem that you wish would just go away. You may be tempted to simply plead guilty to the charge, accept the penalties, and move on with your life. And by doing so, you can avoid the expense of hiring a lawyer.

Before going down this path, you should step back and look at the big picture. Not hiring a lawyer and pleading guilty will solve some immediate problems. But in the long run it could create bigger ones. A conviction for DUI will stay on your record for life and could negatively affect your career, finances, and life style.

Here are some reasons why you should think twice about going it alone and pleading guilty to DUI:

Consider what's at stake

For a first-time DUI, you will probably have to go to jail for two days and perhaps longer. You will also have to pay a fine. But there are other consequences that are potentially much more severe:

  • Loss of your driving privileges
  • Sharply higher insurance premiums
  • If you hold a professional license, possible disciplinary action
  • Loss of professional advancement opportunities

You have rights that you may not know about

An attorney can review the circumstances of the stop, the investigation, your arrest, and the intake and testing process. If the police violated your rights at any stage, the charge against you could be dismissed.

You may be able to beat the charge

Keep in mind this important fact. A significant percentage of DUI arrests result in something other than a conviction.

To get a conviction, the state must prove every element of its case beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney may be able to successfully challenge the state's evidence and the prosecutor's assertions. If the police violated your rights or made some other mistake, it could result in a dismissal of the charge or reduction to a nonalcohol driving offense. Your attorney may also be able to win your case at trial.

If you plead guilty and are ever arrested for DUI again, you face the prospect of significantly harsher penalties. That's one of the reasons you should do everything you can to avoid a first-time DUI conviction.

Your lawyer may be able to negotiate a more favorable outcome

An experienced DUI defense lawyer has handled a large number of cases such as yours. He or she knows how to successfully negotiate with prosecutors to minimize the consequences of a DUI arrest and conviction.

If you have a substance abuse problem, the plea agreement could include treatment and counseling. In addition to getting the help you need to deal with your problem, your participation in a treatment program could significantly reduce any jail time you have to serve, as well as mitigating the other penalties you would otherwise receive.

If you want to learn more about DUI defense and the legal strategies that may prove beneficial in your case, speak with an experienced DUI defense lawyer.

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