Published on 2/14/2022, 4:57:00 PM
Should I get a lawyer for my first DUI?
This is a question I've been asked countless times. Honestly, the answer is always YES. The follow up question of WHY? isn't always as simple, as each DUI/DWI case presents unique circumstances based upon several important factors. Below I will discuss some of the considerations as to why you need a lawyer for your first DUI or DWI in Maryland.
1. The Judge is going to ask you at every hearing about your lawyer.
Practically, Judges always discourage pro se Defendants. "Pro se" is latin for self or "in one's own behalf. In courts this means "self-represented" The criminal justice system was designed for lawyers on both sides to argue a case, and a Judge is meant to mediate their arguments. When a Defendant decides to self represent, this often throws a wrench into the proceedings and can result in lengthy hearings on simple issues like "what do I do next".
You need a lawyer for your first DUI because no one else will give you legal advice, no matter how nicely you ask. The Judge isn't going to discuss trial strategy or a plea agreement with you. He isn't going to explain the purpose of the hearing, or give you a hint as to what your next move should be. Ethically, he or she is bound to present you with options and ask for your decision.
This is why there are so many hearings where you are advised to get an attorney. The commissioner you see after your arrest will advise you to get a lawyer. The Judge at your preliminary inquiry will advise you to get a lawyer. The State of Maryland will provide you with a free lawyer, albeit maybe not the lawyer of your choosing.
Going "pro se" can result in some ugly hearings and an annoyed Judge. Annoying a Judge might be a mistake if they are responsible for your sentence.
Do you need a lawyer for your first DUI? Yes, because the Judge is going to ask you to at every hearing.
2. The Public Defender you get might not have time to analyze your case.
Both Luke Woods and Max Frizalone cut their teeth as Public Defenders. And they will both tell you, Public Defenders do not have the luxury of private attorneys with regards to preparing for cases and contacting clients. It is common for a Public Defender to call their client the day before a criminal case is set for trial.
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that every Defendant deserves an attorney. Having said that, their rulings haven't spoken to the quality of the attorney you are entitled to. You could be assigned a newer public defender, lacking a wealth of trial experience, for your DUI or DWI case, because the matter will be heard in District Court. This is the lowest Court in Maryland where many attorneys make their debut.
Do you need a lawyer for your first DUI? Yes, and you need one with experience.
3. You'll be up against a professional prosecutor.
DUI cases in Maryland are prosecuted by Assistant States Attorneys, hired by each County's State's Attorney's Office. Their job is to ensure that you are convicted, and they've been trained on how to try cases. It may be foolish to go up against a professional prosecutor alone, without an advocate in your corner. Additionally, a prosecutor may offer a weaker plea bargain if they don't believe you intend to challenge the evidence.
Do you need a lawyer for your first DUI? Yes, to protect your rights and make the prosecutor respect your defenses.
4. You may be overlooking important legal defenses
There are countless DUI and DWI defenses you might be overlooking if you choose not to hire an attorney for your first DUI. Some examples include:
- Improper administration of field sobriety
- Challenging an Officer's "opinions"
- Faulty accident reconstruction
- Actual physical control of your vehicle
- Breath testing inadequcies
- Lack of probable cause to stop a vehicle
Should you hire a lawyer for your first DUI? If you don't, you could be rubber stamping poor police practices.
5. You don't want a conviction on your "permanent" record
Maryland Judges have the unique ability to strike the conviction in your case at the time of sentencing, and awarding a "PBJ" or Probation before Judgement. This has the practical effect of ensuring that you don't have a conviction on your record, and keeps any points off your license. A DUI Lawyer is going to tell you exactly what to do to ensure that you receive a PBJ on your case.
Do you need a lawyer on your first DUI? If you want a clean record, it might be the difference maker.
6. To keep your license
Keeping your license will be one of the most important things you can do when surviving a DUI. Licensing is handled by Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration, ("MVA"). If you were charged with a DUI and had a valid Maryland State License at the time of your arrest, you were likely issued a temporary paper copy of your license that will be valid the next 45 days. Within that 10 days of your DUI arrest it is essential that you contact a qualified DUI lawyer to analyze what potential licensing ramifications you could be facing.
Do you need a lawyer on your first DUI? Contact us if you think so.
I was at my wits end trying to figure out how to handle a criminal case in Calvert County when I reached out to Luke Woods, an attorney who has practiced for years in southern Maryland. He was completely professional and knowledgeable and answered all of his calls personally. He disputed the search and went after the state when they were looking to charge me. He got my case both dropped and expunged on the same day. He also expunged another case in Anne Arundel case at no cost to me. I could not have asked for better advocacy from this legal team.