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Right to an Attorney when Pleading Guilty or No Contest to a DUI Case

  • September 1, 2017

    When you are pulled over in Los Angeles and arrested for a DUI, it’s a complex process. The officer who pulled you over did so because you violated the rules of the road. California law dictates an officer can only pull you over if they witness you driving illegally. From broken lights to running red lights, the officer must have a reason for pulling you over. Once you are pulled over and the officer approaches your car, many things might cause him or her to believe you are driving under the influence.

    Visible drugs, either illegal or prescription, in your vehicle, open containers, alcohol on your breath, or even glassy, rapid eye movement can alert an officer you might be under the influence. If they suspect this is the case, the officer will ask you to exit your vehicle and perform a field sobriety test. He or she might even ask you to take a breathalyzer or blood test to check your blood alcohol level. You may legally refuse to do either, but you will be arrested. If you the tests come back saying you are under the influence, you will be arrested.

    You are immediately given the right to contact your attorney, and this is the time you should make the call. An attorney with experience working Los Angeles DUI cases is familiar with the process and can help you. You might not know many things associated with a DUI arrest, and that’s not helpful to your case.

    The Plea

    Once you’ve been arrested, it’s imperative you contact an attorney to help. You will be released and arraigned, which means you have a chance to tell the judge how you’d like to plead following the announcement of charges and the announcement of the offers you might receive depending on how you plead.

    – Guilty
    – Not guilty
    – No contest

    You are free to plead however you’d like. Both guilty and not guilty are self-explanatory, but what does no contest mean? It means you’re accepting the charges associated with a guilty plea but you’re saying you’re not guilty. It’s a way to say you didn’t do it but that you’re not going to fight your charges. If you plan on going this route or just pleading guilty, you might assume you don’t need an attorney. It’s a personal choice.

    However, once you are in the courtroom pleading your case to the judge, it doesn’t matter what you plead. It’s now too late to ask for your attorney. You must do that before the hearing. At this point, you are on your own. The good news is you won’t need an attorney after this. You’re not fighting the charges, so there is nothing an attorney can do to help you from this point forward.

    Why Hire an Attorney Immediately After Your Arrest

    Here is where people become confused. You must hire an attorney right away because you must understand the charges being brought against you. For example, if you are guilty but this is your first offense and there were no injuries or property damage associated with your arrest, you’re being charged with a misdemeanor charge. It means you’ll serve no more than six months in jail or pay more than $1,000 in fines. If you have been arrested for this before or you hurt someone, you’re being charged with a felony DUI. This could end with you in jail for up to three years.

    You must know what you’re admitting to before you issue your plea, and you must understand the consequences of your charges. Your attorney can help you understand these things as well as provide you with the kind of help you need determining how you want to plead. It might just change your mind and have you pleading not guilty so you have a chance to fight your charges or see them reduced in court. Your choice is personal, but the help of an attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your entire case. Once you’re ready to plead, it’s too late to ask for one.

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