Getting charged with a DUI can be scary. For first-time offenders especially, the experience can be intimidating, infuriating, or downright confusing. Many first-time DUI offenders don’t know what their options are or what rights they have. While it is a serious offense, a lawyer can help those facing DUI charges to either reduce or eradicate the penalties.

What are the penalties for a DUI?

In South Carolina, the penalties for a DUI can be a fine, jail time, community service, and/or a suspended license. Each penalty includes various levels for the severity of the crime. For example, an offender who also injured another person while under the influence (such as a car crash) may receive a greater fine or more jail time than someone who was just pulled over for speeding or driving erratically. Depending on the severity of the DUI, a driver may receive a fine between $200 and $4,000, and/or jail time between 24 hours and 2 years.

It goes without saying that a DUI offense can disrupt a driver’s life in more ways than one. Jail time clearly disrupts current employment, future employment, family life, and finances. Even a suspended license can create a tremendous burden on the offender, especially if driving is part of their job (such as truck driving, contracting, or technical work). More often than not, it is wise to seek experienced counsel when it comes to such heavy charges so that the disruption to your life is as minimal as possible.

Why hire a DUI lawyer?

Lawyers experienced in DUI cases will be familiar with the intricate laws surrounding your case and can appropriately defend you. Although this may be your first DUI charge, DUI lawyers often have experience with hundreds of DUI cases. They understand not only the law behind drunk driving, but also the science as well. An appointed public defender may not have as much experience with DUI cases, and may be swamped with dozens of other cases at the same time. Your case may not get the attention it deserves with a generic attorney such as this.

DUI lawyers know that breathalyzer tests, radar guns, and other methods for determining drunkenness aren’t always 100% accurate. Your lawyer can examine the evidence against you and determine how condemning it is to your case. There is also a large amount of paperwork that needs filing with a DUI case. Your lawyer can help you accurately fill out the paperwork and even file it for you, making the process quicker and smoother. If a plea is possible for a reduced charge, then your lawyer can fight for that plea, helping you avoid a trial or more severe charges.

If you are facing criminal charges and your DUI case is going to trial, a lawyer is a must-have. Understanding the rules of court, the law, and complexities surrounding your case take time to master—time you probably don’t have. Not to mention, judges don’t look too fondly on defendants representing themselves in court. If you know your case has the possibility of going to trial, seek professional counsel sooner rather than later. Hiring the same lawyer for both the criminal and civil sides of your case can also help simplify the process.

If you are on the fence about hiring a DUI lawyer, you can set up a consultation appointment for no charge to help you assess your odds of a favorable conviction. If a lawyer thinks you have a good chance of minimizing your penalties or completely erasing them altogether, then the cost of a good DUI attorney is most definitely worth it. Even if your license has been suspended immediately following the DUI charge, a lawyer can help you obtain a provisional or temporary license so you can get to your place of employment until your sentencing.

When is hiring an attorney unnecessary?

While hiring an attorney for your DUI case is usually a good idea, there are some cases where it may be unnecessary. If this is a first offense, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) wasn’t extremely high, and no other victims were involved, then you may be offered a standard plea deal for a lesser punishment. Most lawyers won’t be able to negotiate below this threshold if the case is clear-cut and there are no viable defenses. However, most people don’t know if they have any viable defenses until they talk with a lawyer. So, it’s always good to get a second opinion from a lawyer before taking the standard plea.