How Commonly Do People Assume They Will have to Plead Guilty in a DUI Case?
It’s very common for people to assume that they don’t have a chance at winning their case and, as a result, plead guilty to DUI. The individual feels like they were railroaded from the very beginning when the officer pulled them over. In reality, a lot of it is bluffing on the part of the police officer who performed the arrest. They might not have done a proper DUI investigation at all. This is why it is critical to get an attorney involved in the case right away.
What are the Top Misconceptions People have About DUI Arrest and Charges in Mississippi?
In Mississippi, you can’t plead a DUI down to a lesser offense. A lot of states allow you to plead it down to some sort of lesser traffic violation. In Mississippi, that is not an option. There is the option for non-adjudication for a first-time DUI, but you have to enter a plea of guilty, and if you fail to meet all the terms of non-adjudication, you will have a DUI on your record. A lot of people also don’t realize the penalties, especially for commercial driver’s license holders. They are looking at losing their license for a year, which usually means becoming unemployed.
Even someone with a regular driver’s license is looking at losing their license for 120 days, serving two days in jail, and paying a fine of up to $1,000 on their first DUI. The penalties only go up from there until you get to the felony level with a third offense. The other thing that surprises people is the timeframe. People are used to watching television shows where the crime happens on a Monday, and there is a trial and verdict by Friday. Unfortunately, that is just not how the system works.
Quite often, here in Mississippi, an initial court appearance will take place within 30 days. Beyond that, we are on the court’s schedule. If you were to get a DUI on December 10, there is no way you would have a DUI trial before the next year. These cases can go on for months. Generally, the ones that drag on longer have a greater chance of getting dismissed because the officers move on, things get lost in the shuffle, and the individual is left in limbo for a long period of time. The usual timeframe for a DUI is between three and six months.
At What Point in a DUI Case Should I Hire a DUI Defense Attorney?
There are two times in a case where I am commonly hired. Either I’m hired within ten days of the arrest, or I’m hired within ten days of the trial. Very rarely am I hired in between. The sooner I am hired, the better because I need time to request discovery and request an extension of the driver’s license. If you wait outside the 30 day period to request an extension of the driver’s license, the courts will deny it because you didn’t do it within 30 days.
I also request Freedom of Information Act information from various agencies and crime lab reports. If you wait until trial, there will be a struggle to get a continuance, or I will be struggling to get all the documentation and information lined up. Also, when people wait, the details are not as fresh on their minds. I like to give people a questionnaire very early on so that their narrative is preserved.