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Should You Hire A DUI/DWI Lawyer?

Last updated on January 17, 2023

We talk to dozens of people who always ask these questions:

  • Do I really need a lawyer for my DWI case?
  • How can an attorney really help me with my DUI situation?
  • Won’t I get the same deal from the prosecutor if I represent myself?

These are legitimate questions. Some attorneys will simply brush these questions aside and tell drivers that it is always beneficial to have a lawyer for any crime. Another attorney might tell drivers that there is a good chance they will go to jail if they do not hire a lawyer.

Having a superior DWI attorney makes a big difference in the outcome of many casesClick here to see numerous examples of our recent successes.

So, do you really need a lawyer for your DUI/DWI/refusal?

First, let’s split drivers into two categories: repeat offenders and first-time offenders.

For first-time offenders, it is rare for judges to impose a sentence of executed jail time, no matter what county your offense occurred in. Common exceptions to this general rule are when you had a high test reading (at or over .16) or refused testing, had minor children in your vehicle, or had careless driving conduct or an accident. If none of these situations apply, you could probably represent yourself and avoid jail time. But that should not be your main concern as a first-time offender. Your main concern should be doing everything in your power to try to keep the DUI/DWI/refusal from staying on your criminal and/or driving record. This is something you cannot do effectively without an experienced attorney.

If you do not care about trying to preserve your alcohol-free record, then you really don’t need an attorney on most first-time DUI/DWI offenses. If you don’t think you can beat your DWI case, you’re not alone. The cop who arrested you and the prosecutor would both agree with you. But DWI defense attorneys are winning DWI cases every day, even when it seems like there wouldn’t be anything to contest. In our opinion, it is worth it to have an attorney review all of the evidence available in your case to see if there could be any issue(s) at all worth fighting. We have won many DUI/DWI/refusal cases, and in nearly all of those cases, our clients were guilty of drinking and driving. That is why you shouldn’t simply give up just because you think you’re guilty.

Repeat offenders should ALWAYS have an attorney working for them in a DUI/DWI/refusal case. Every subsequent DUI/DWI/refusal carries greater penalties than the last one. Each county treats repeat offenders differently, and penalties within the same county can vary widely depending on which prosecutor and judge handle your case. Repeat offenders are treated differently in Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, Anoka, Washington and Scott counties, just to name a few. Even within counties like Hennepin and Dakota, prosecutors will want different results for offenses in Minneapolis, Edina, Eden Prairie, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Bloomington, etc.

We have handled DWI/DUI/refusal cases in all of these jurisdictions and many, many more. A good DWI lawyer will help you minimize and manage penalties in a way that best suits you and your individual needs. Repeat offenders need an ally to speak for them in court to be able to put things in the best light possible. There are things an attorney can say on your behalf that would sound disingenuous coming directly from a driver accused of DWI/DUI/refusal. For example, if you are still on probation for your last DUI/DWI/refusal offense or if you have more than one prior alcohol offense, the prosecutor or judge will likely not believe that you have learned your lesson this time. Coming from an attorney that the prosecutor and judge already know and respect, this argument is much more believable.

It’s not just what is being said, but also how it is being said, that is critical. And of course, an experienced DUI/DWI attorney will know which judges and prosecutors are better to deal with than others. Remember, being a repeat offender does not mean you have less of a chance to beat your DUI/DWI/refusal. Each offense can be attacked on its own merits regardless of how many priors you have. No two cases are alike! If your case goes to trial, there are ways to keep the jury from even knowing about your history to make the trial fairer to you. Moreover, many repeat offenders will likely have their vehicles forfeited and/or plates impounded. The law allows the police to do this, but an experienced DUI/DWI attorney can assist in preserving your rights to challenge the validity of that forfeiture/plate impoundment and attempt to get the vehicle and plates back by filing a petition for review with the court. BEWARE: YOU ONLY HAVE 30 DAYS FROM THE DATE YOU RECEIVE NOTICE OF THE FORFEITURE/PLATE IMPOUNDMENT TO CHALLENGE IT; otherwise you waive your ability to do so. Contact a Minneapolis DWI lawyer for a free consultation.

Can I get my DUI/DWI/refusal charges reduced to careless or reckless driving?

If you are asking yourself this question, it must mean you are hoping to save your driving record from showing an alcohol-related offense. Getting a DUI/DWI/refusal charge reduced to something like a careless or reckless driving is certainly a step in the right direction, but this alone will not save your record. Even if the prosecutor agrees to reduce your charges, your alcohol license revocation will appear separately on your driving record and will have the same effect as a DUI/DWI/refusal conviction for auto insurance, employment purposes and future enhancement of a subsequent DUI/DWI charge. The prosecutor can do nothing about that, even if they agree to completely dismiss your charges! The best way to attempt to get the alcohol license revocation off your record is by filing a petition for judicial review with the court. BEWARE: YOU ONLY HAVE 30 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF YOUR NOTICE OF LICENSE REVOCATION TO FILE THIS, regardless of when your first DWI court date is scheduled. Again, filing this petition is something you cannot do effectively without an experienced DUI/DWI lawyer.

What about public defenders?

If you qualify financially for the services of a public defender, you may consider having your case handled by one. Most public defenders are knowledgeable about DWI laws and they usually know the prosecutors and judges very well. However, beware that public defenders typically are very busy and simply cannot devote as much time to your case as a private attorney. Moreover, they cannot handle your corresponding alcohol license revocation, vehicle forfeiture or plate impoundment matters without an additional fee since they are not criminal proceedings for which a public defender is appointed.