There are many things to weigh if you're facing a drink driving charge depending on the gravity of the charges. You could be at risk for traffic penalties, and more serious charges may even attract some jail time. In addition, there are court procedures such as plea bargaining and other administrative tasks that you may not understand properly. This raises the all-important question: should you retain legal counsel to fight your case? Before making the final call, here are four important questions that will help you make the best decision.
1. Is pleading guilty an option?
There are certain drink driving charges in which you can choose to plead guilty. This means that you won't contest the charge and must accept whatever punishment the court imposes. Guilty pleas should only be considered if you're looking at a standard charge with these qualities: • Has no or very minor aggravating factors • The result of being pulled over for a breath test or any other reason after which a breath test was done (you shouldn't have committed other traffic infarctions) • No damage, car accident, collision or injuries to anyone as a result of your driving • Should be a first-time offence, or second-time offence if the first was five or more years ago If pleading guilty, you may not need to retain legal representation, but you should be conversant with the facts of your case, including penalties and fines so that you can make an informed decision.
2. Do you want to plea-bargain?
Bear in mind that, even if your case seems cut-and-dry (i.e. you are likely to get convicted) statements in your defence could help to mitigate your sentence. An attorney may help you to plea-bargain so that you get a more lenient sentence. In plea-bargaining, the prosecutor will reduce your drink driving charge to a less serious offence such as reckless driving. You will then plead guilty to this lesser offence, having agreed on the sentence. You can also plea-bargain with aggravated drink driving cases where there was injury and even death. In such cases, you must never plead guilty without being sure of the sentence you're going to get, and even if you do, you must have legal counsel with you.
3. Is this your first offence?
First offenders have an easier time when facing any charge. However, if you're not a first time offender, you should definitely get legal representation. This is especially important if you are facing a second drink driving charge.
4. Are there aggravating features?
You should always hire a lawyer if you have any aggravating factors on your charge. Severely aggravating factors include causing an accident, damaging property or causing injury or death. Other aggravating factors include drink driving charges presented with another charge such as erratic driving, speeding, drink driving with passengers, driving in school traffic zones, driving without insurance or a license, driving an unregistered vehicle and driving in peak hours. Each case should be considered on its own merits, and an attorney will help you to craft the best defence to improve your prospect of good outcomes.Share
22 May 2017
I love watching legal dramas from all different countries. I often call up my friend who is a lawyer to ask her about whether the cases I have seen on the latest drama are realistic or if they wouldn't happen that way in Australia. It's so interesting to me to see the changes that they make to make the stories flow more convincingly as well as the differences between the law in Australian compared to other countries. This blog is for other fans of legal dramas like me and has some tips on the best places to get real legal advice (hint, it's not on the TV!).