If you've been charged with your second DUI, you might be wondering whether you need a lawyer for your case. You might reason that you've gone through the process once, so you are familiar with how these matters progress, and you may save money by forgoing legal representation. And while you have the right to represent yourself, doing so can have adverse consequences.
In Florida, judges and prosecutors take multiple DUI offenses more seriously than a first. Your charge will be categorized at a higher level, and you will face harsher penalties than those the court imposed for your first conviction.
Even though you have some familiarity with the justice system, your knowledge of the processes may not compare to the experience and skill a seasoned lawyer has. And the quality of the representation you have through your case can substantially impact the outcome, which is why it is crucial to have an attorney on your side who has in-depth knowledge of DUI laws and courtroom procedures.
The Stakes Are Higher in a Second DUI Case
Before delving into the specific reasons it's necessary to have a lawyer for a second DUI, let's first look at the potential penalties you could face upon a conviction.
The punishments for second-time DUIs include, but are not limited to:
- Jail time: A court may sentence you to up to 9 months in jail. However, if your blood or breath alcohol level (BAL) was .15 or higher, the maximum term of incarceration increases to 12 months. Additionally, if your DUI happened within 5 years of a prior drunk driving conviction, the court can impose a mandatory minimum incarceration sentence of 10 days.
- Fines: For your second DUI conviction, the fines the court can impose double. Whereas a first offense results in a fine between $500 and $1,000, the second is penalized by a fine between $1,000 and $2,000. If your BAL was .15 or higher, the amount doubles again.
- Driver's license revocation: A second DUI conviction within 5 years of a prior results in a driver's license revocation of at least 5 years. During the first year your privileges have been taken away, you can't drive at all. If you are granted a hardship driver's license, you must install, at your own expense, an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.
- Vehicle impoundment: Upon your second conviction, the court can impound your vehicle for 30 days.
The punishments associated with a second DUI conviction can affect your ability to live your life as you once did.
Evaluating the Merits of Your Case
Now that we've listed some of the penalties you could face for a second conviction, let's look at a few of the reasons it's necessary to have a lawyer represent you. One of the main reasons to retain legal services is because a lawyer can identify mitigating factors and holes in the prosecutor's case. Mitigating factors are those that decrease the severity of the offense and thereby may lead to a more favorable outcome and lesser penalties.
Without the education and legal training of a lawyer, you might look at your case, see that the prosecutor has evidence of impaired driving or an unlawful BAL level, and think your only option is to plead guilty. But an attorney who has handled various DUI matters and knows the laws concerning your rights can spot things you might have missed. They'll know what to look for and what questions to ask to defend against your charges.
Going Up Against Years of Experience
When you're trying to resolve your case, you must go up against a prosecutor who works on behalf of the State. The prosecutor attempts to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and they likely have handled several DUI cases and know how to present their evidence.
Trying to attack the arguments made by a prosecutor who has a sound understanding of the legal system can be intimidating. But with your own attorney on your side, you level the playing field. It's essential to hire a lawyer with extensive experience and who has handled various DUI matters.
Seeking Favorable Outcomes
In drunk driving cases, depending on the nature of the offense, it may be possible to get the charges dropped or reduced. And if a conviction results, it may be possible to argue for leniency in sentencing. But just saying that you deserve a more favorable outcome won't be enough to convince the judge. You must present evidence to support your assertions. You might not know how to do that, but a seasoned attorney will. They can fight toward obtaining the best possible result on your behalf.
Additionally, second DUI offenses might suggest that a behavioral or health issue needs to be addressed. A lawyer can help connect you to the services or rehabilitation programs you need.
At Beckham Solis, Attorneys at Law, our lawyers have over 60 years of combined experience and have gotten over 3,000 DUI cases dismissed. And while past results do not guarantee future outcomes, you can be sure that we will fight tirelessly for you throughout your case.
To schedule a consultation for your case in Miami, call us at (305) 290-1884 or contact us online today.