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Mar 05, 2020

Cost-Benefit of Hiring a DUI Lawyer

If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, you may wonder about the cost-benefit of hiring a DUI lawyer. If so, you’re not alone. The thought of navigating the criminal justice system on your own and saving some money can be appealing. The thing is, an Alameda County DUI lawyer can pay for themselves many times over. Let’s look at the costs associated with a DUI conviction, and the ways an Oakland DUI attorney can mitigate those costs.

Field Sobriety Testing

While every person’s circumstances are different, there are a few factors that can have a dramatic effect on a charge of driving under the influence. But let’s begin with the most straightforward circumstances. Let’s say that Jeffrey was pulled over because he was driving erratically. The Oakland police officer administers the three field sobriety tests that have been deemed reliable by the federal National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA):

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: The Oakland police officer tells Jeffrey to follow the officer’s pen with his eyes while holding his head still, and then moves the pen to the right and to the left. If the officer notices that Jeffrey’s eyes involuntarily jump around, they may suspect that Jeffrey’s blood alcohol content is .08 or more – above the legal limit in California.

When Jeffrey opts not to hire an Alameda County DUI lawyer, he believes he’s saving money. The truth is, an experienced Oakland DUI attorney can challenge the validity of the horizonal gaze nystagmus test. Jeffrey’s attorney might argue, for example, that the NHTSA found the test to be only 77 percent accurate. They could provide evidence that Jeffrey has a neurological condition that causes nystagmus, or that he has a different medical condition that calls into question the legitimacy of the test results.

Walk and Turn Test: The Alameda County officer instructs Jeffrey to take nine heel-to-toe steps along an imaginary line on the shoulder of the highway, pivot, and then take nine more heel-to-toe steps toward the officer. Jeffrey starts to lose his balance and uses his arms to steady himself, takes eight steps instead of nine, or doesn’t exactly touch one heel to the other toe. This reinforces the officer’s suspicions that Jeffrey’s blood alcohol content is above the legal limit.

Jeffrey doesn’t stand a chance in successfully challenging the walk and turn test on his own. In contrast, a knowledgeable Oakland DUI attorney can point out that the NHTSA notes that the walk and turn test is only 68 percent accurate. They can also challenge the qualifications of the officer who performed the test. It’s not uncommon for an officer to fail to perform the exact procedures necessary to achieve an accurate test result, and it’s common for officers to misinterpret the results. Jeffrey’s attorney may even argue that the test was given on an uneven surface, that Jeffrey’s clothing was incompatible with optimal test performance, or that he has a disability or physical impairment that prevented him from performing well on the test.

One-Leg Stand Test: The police officer tells Jeffrey to lift his foot six inches above and parallel to the ground and hold still while counting and looking at his foot. Jeffrey starts hopping, uses his arms for balance, and soon puts his foot down. The officer interprets that as evidence of Jeffrey’s intoxication.

As with the other two field sobriety tests, Jeffrey can challenge the validity of the one-leg stand test – but only with a skilled Alameda County DUI lawyer at his side. Jeffrey’s lawyer can point out that the NHTSA rates this field sobriety test as only 65 percent accurate, or argue that Jeffrey never should have been administered the test because of his high body mass index. They may assert that the officer’s movements during the test invalidate the results, or charge that the officer didn’t accurately time the test.

When considering the cost-benefit of hiring a DUI lawyer, one aspect to consider is their knowledge – especially their knowledge in how best to challenge the charges. If your Alameda County DUI attorney can, for example, undercut the rationale for your arrest – namely, the field sobriety test results – that undermines the prosecution’s case.

Cost of a DUI Conviction

Another way to look at the cost-benefit of hiring a DUI lawyer is to consider the cost of a conviction for driving under the influence. Again, let’s go with the most straightforward scenario and say that Jeffrey’s arrest is his first, that his blood alcohol content was .09 at the time of his arrest, that he was alone in his car, that he pleaded guilty, and that this is his first misdemeanor DUI conviction.

In this scenario, Jeffrey racks up a variety of expenses, including:

Fines and Penalty Assessments: Jeffrey’s sentence includes a fine of $500, which falls into the allowable range of $390 to $1,000 in fines. On top of that, the Alameda County court assesses a variety of penalties to cover such costs as laboratory tests, alcohol and drug programs, booking, court operations, and more. This bill can top $2,500.

Ignition Interlock Device: Jeffrey’s sentence also mandates that he install an ignition interlock device (IID) in his vehicle. As a mobile breathalyzer, Jeffrey is required to blow into the IID in order to start his car’s ignition, and again at periodic intervals as he’s driving. The tab to install an IID is about $150, and the monthly fee ranges between $70 and $100. If Jeffrey’s required to have an IID for four months, that adds up to approximately $490.

DUI School: In addition to fines, penalties, and an IID, Jeffrey is required to attend a three-month alcohol education program. That adds another $400 to $600 to the tab.

The costs imposed by Jeffrey’s conviction are bad enough, but he’ll have to pony up the tab for a variety of other consequences of his arrest and conviction. For example, Jeffrey will have to petition to have his driver’s license reinstated ($125), at which time he’ll have to show proof of insurance (with an estimated 180 percent increase in the cost of his premium). If he isn’t granted a restricted driver’s license, then he’ll need to pay for other transportation. It could cost him $20, $30, or $40 a day or more for Uber or Lyft rides to and from work and other responsibilities. He may have to pay tow ($150), release ($150), and storage ($55 per day) fees if his vehicle was impounded when he was arrested.

When considering the cost-benefit of hiring a DUI lawyer, Jeffrey should take into account that his Oakland DUI attorney may be able to poke holes in the prosecution’s case to the extent that they drop the charges. If that isn’t possible, his Alameda County DUI lawyers likely can negotiate a lesser charge in exchange for a guilty plea.

Pleading to a lesser charge – say, a reckless driving charge – can curtail Jeffrey’s financial hit and can reduce the overall impact of a conviction. In California, a “wet reckless” is a reckless driving charge that notes the involvement of alcohol or drugs. As a result, the court won’t order the suspension of Jeffrey’s driver’s license, and fines can be as little as $145. All told, fines and assessments will be about half of those for a DUI conviction. His alcohol education program drops from three months to six weeks, and he doesn’t have to install an interlock ignition device in his car. When Jeffrey is granted probation, it will likely be for one or two years, rather than the three to five years for a DUI conviction. Best of all, Jeffrey won’t have a DUI conviction on his record.

While a wet reckless conviction isn’t all sunshine and roses – it does count as a prior offense for a subsequent DUI conviction – it can have other advantages. For example, if Jeffrey has a commercial driver’s license, it isn’t automatically suspended for a wet reckless, while it is for a DUI conviction.

Pleading Guilty

If Jeffrey knows he was driving under the influence and law enforcement and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office knows he was driving under the influence, Jeffrey may question the cost benefit of hiring a DUI lawyer. He may think that he should plead guilty and save himself the cost of hiring an attorney. As outlined above, an Oakland DUI lawyer is an investment that delivers returns – both financial and in terms of Jeffrey’s quality of life.

If Jeffrey invests in his legal defense, he will be able to leverage the knowledge and skill of his Alameda County DUI attorney, who will surely advise Jeffrey to plead not guilty. Jeffrey’s attorney will be able to access police reports, witness statements, and any evidence the prosecution has. His attorney uses that information to undermine the prosecution’s case. They could argue, for example, that Jeffrey’s blood alcohol content reading was artificially high because of a medication or mouthwash, or because of residual mouth alcohol.

The Oakland DUI lawyer knows the ins and outs of the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, and understands that the prosecutor doesn’t want Jeffrey’s case to go to trial. The DA’s office doesn’t have the resources to bring all but the most serious cases to trial. In other words, the District Attorney’s office will want to cut a deal. That’s where a seasoned Oakland DUI attorney shines. They can cut a deal that, to the greatest extent possible, is favorable to Jeffrey.

But pleading to a lesser charge is only part of the equation. Jeffrey’s attorney can be devastatingly effective when it comes to sentencing. Recommended sentencing can be part of the plea agreement. While a judge uses their own judgment in sentencing, they do take into account the recommendations of the District Attorney’s office. That can mean the difference between jail time and probation, or the difference between an alternative sentence and incarceration. Jeffrey almost certainly prefers doing a few dozen hours of community service over spending his weekends in the Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility or the Santa Rita Jail.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that there’s a common sense conclusion to the cost benefit of hiring a DUI lawyer – even if your case is as straightforward as Jeffrey’s. There’s no doubt that it’s in your best interest to hire an Alameda County DUI attorney.

But let’s say that the potential consequences for Jeffrey are more severe because his case is more complicated. Perhaps it’s his second, third, or even fourth DUI within ten years. Maybe there was a child in the car when he was pulled over. It could be that he hit another car or pedestrian, and there were serious injuries or fatalities involved. Maybe he blew a .151 or higher, maybe he was driving a cab and blew a .41, or maybe he’s 20 years old and blew a .01. Maybe Jeffrey was impaired because he was smoking marijuana or taking a prescription medication. While DUI law may seem straightforward, it can get complicated very quickly. The penalties can skyrocket, and life as you know it can change overnight.

The benefit of hiring an experienced Oakland DUI attorney simply can’t be overstated. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, your first call should be to Silver Law Firm. Investing in your future is worth it.



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