As the consequences of your arrest flood into your mind, you may feel overwhelmed. It is true that you will now be dealing with a big problem for several months to come, but stay calm because you have some important decisions to make.
Establish the facts
Write down the events leading up to your arrest as soon as possible- the attorney you hire will need any helpful information you can provide about where you were, who was there, how many drinks you had, prescription medications you take, or anything that may have contributed to getting you pulled over. Also try to recall anything you can about the arrest itself- did you do field sobriety tests, did you answer questions, etc....
Keep this information to yourself- don’t be tempted to talk about what happened, even though it is normal to want support from your friends right now. Anything you say can end up as evidence against you if your case goes to trial.
Consult an Attorney ASAP
Don’t wait. Many attorneys offer a free consultation. Take advantage of this if you are unsure about who to hire- there are different levels of representation for each situation and you want the one that is right for your case. For example, a simple uncomplicated first offense may be something you can live with, unless you stand to lose a Commercial Driver’s License and your job. Then it may be worth it to hire the best attorney you can find. Tell the attorney the whole story so he or she can properly assess your risks. An honest attorney will refer you to a more experienced colleague if necessary.
Be Prepared to Pay
Ask the attorney about how fees are assessed, and what is included in the representation. Some attorneys will allow you to pay in installments, others require the whole fee up front. Some typical costs in an OWI defense case include: ordering discovery (police reports, DOT records, transcripts, copies), subpoena service and witness fees, court fees, and hiring an investigator if necessary. These costs can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand depending on the complexity of the legal issues in your case. You may need to borrow money or take out a loan, so it’s a good idea to get your financial plan in place. If you are convicted you may also have to pay fines, and then there are the costs associated with your driver’s license and insurance down the road.
You will start to receive important items in the mail: your ticket(s), test results, letters from the DOT about your driving privileges, and other paperwork. Start a file and keep all these documents together for your attorney. Make sure your attorney receives these documents immediately- there are time considerations for requesting hearings and filing motions, and in many cases, timing directly determines the outcome.
Are you concerned that you may have a drinking problem? Are you aware of lapses in judgment or reckless behavior that seems to be getting more frequent? If so, consider getting a voluntary Alcohol Assessment (AODA) or attending AA or other support counseling. The court may order it down the road anyway, and you will be showing responsibility by doing it yourself.