Many people don't know it, but the Fourth of July is the biggest weekend for beer sales during the year. Americans are estimated to purchase 68.3 million cases of beer for the holiday. The Fourth of July is also one of the prime times to get a OVI / DUI. Police are out in full force, and already this holiday weekend, people have spent time in jail cells with bad hangovers and court dates.
So what do you do if you get a DUI / OVI this holiday weekend?
First, don't panic and calm down.
What is done is already done, and making irrational decisions is not going to help the situation. Often times, when people get arrested for drunk driving, they start to make hasty and bad decisions. Some people return to the scene of the crime -- the bar -- and begin drinking even more than they did on the night they got arrested. Some people begin calling/texting/emailing everyone in their cell phone. By not staying calm and acting irrationally, many people often make their cases more difficult for them later on.
Along those lines: begin the process of hiring an attorney. An attorney who is experienced in handling OVI / DUI cases can be your best asset in the long run. He or she can sit you down and tell you what to expect in terms of how the case will go; how long with the case take; what is the realistic outcome of your case; and how long you are facing in terms of both jail time and driver's license suspension.
Be prepared to discuss with your attorney the facts of the night of your arrest. You'll need to be able to tell him or her things like:
- Where were you drinking (i.e. a bar, friend's wedding, home);
- What were you drinking (i.e. beer, wine, vodka);
- How much did you have to drink (i.e. two/three beers, a bottle of wine);
- How long were you drinking (i.e. a few hours or all day);
- Who were you drinking with (i.e. friends, family, screaming Browns fans);
- Where were you driving from and to (i.e. friend's house to home);
- What did you have to eat that day (i.e. a muffin at breakfast, a steak dinner, etc.);
- What is your driving record like and if you have prior DUI / OVIs on your record;
- What is your prior criminal record like (i.e. nothing, a few misdemeanors, a prior homicide);
- How often do you drink, and have you had prior instances with alcohol (i.e. fights, been kicked out of school or fired as a result of alcohol, been to treatment previously);
- Did you take a breathalyser exam, and if so, what was the result;
- Which police department and officer conducted the traffic stop;
- Did you perform any field sobriety tests;
- What were the conditions when you took the field sobriety test (i.e. raining, on a hill, oncoming traffic);
- How do you think you did when you took the field sobriety test;
- What questions did the officer ask you, and what did you say;
- Who was in the car with you when you were arrested;
- Where is your car now;
- Who is your automobile insurance through, and was your insurance valid on the date of your arrest;
- What do you do for a living and does it require you to have a valid driver's license;
- Do you have any professional licenses (i.e. nursing, law, medicine, cosmetology), and how will this arrest and/or conviction impact those licenses;
- Do you have receipts from bars that you were drinking in?
Questions like these may sound basic, or may be hard to remember, but they will be helpful to an attorney reviewing your case.
Next, if you have any photos or status updates on pages like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram from the night of your arrest, remove them as soon as possible. Police and prosecutors are often searching sites like Facebook or Twitter for evidence, and in some cases, the most important evidence against a drunk driver has been their own social media pages. So status updates like "getting drunk tonight" or pictures of you doing shots off of a bartender might be fun to post, but they can end up with you spending extra time in jail if a judge, prosecutor or jury sees those images/posts.
Also, please remember that in many cases, police officers will issue you what is called an Administrative License Suspension. An administrative license suspension is the temporary suspension of your driver's license, and is usually issued by the arresting officer along with your OVI / DUI citation at the time of arrest. Because it suspends your driver's license, you are not able to drive until either a court grants you privileges or the license suspension ends.
One of the key things your attorney should do is appeal the administrative license suspension. This is done at the municipal or mayor's court level, but needs to be done soon after your arrest. If your attorney fails to appeal your Administrative License Suspension, even if you beat the DUI / OVI at trial, you could get stuck without a driver's license for a year or more.
Because your driver's license is suspended, you cannot drive unless you are given privileges. If you drive without a valid driver's license and you get caught, the penalties can be severe. Additionally, the judge hearing your OVI / DUI case may factor your driving under suspension into any sentence you receive for the OVI / DUI, which could end with you spending more time in jail than you originally would have received.
Next, start planning for both the worst and best case scenarios. The penalties for OVI can be severe, but often times, with the assistance of an experienced attorney, those penalties can be reduced and you may only be required to serve the minimum sentence. But if you think you may be convicted, you should be prepared to factor in how to arrange your life accordingly. For example, if you risk spending three days in a Driver's Intervention Program, you may want to make sure that you have enough vacation stored up at work so that you will not have to take time off without pay or -- worse yet -- get fired as a result of you having to miss work.
If you believe that your case should proceed to trial, then make sure you meet with your attorney during the trial prep process. You will need to discuss with him or her whether you should have a jury trial, or if you think trying the case to the bench (judge) would be a good idea. You need to think of what witnesses will be called to testify by both sides and what evidence will be presented. You will need to determine if you are going to testify, or if you will exercise your Fifth Amendment right not to testify. You will also need to discuss your courtroom attire and how you are expected to act in front of a jury.
Remember: trials are more art than science, and an experienced trial attorney can be your best asset in a drunk driving case.
Finally, please remember that you will survive this incident. Many people falsely believe that an arrest for drunk driving is the end of the world. A large number of drivers have been arrested and convicted of drunk driving, including people you know. While it will certainly be costly, with some estimates ranging well over $10,000 for a DUI / OVI, and while you risk jail, you will be able to survive the charges.
The main thing is that you need to consult with an attorney as soon as possible so that you can review your options and begin preparing for your case.