Do I need a Portland DUI Attorney if This is My First DUI?
At Castleberry & Elison, P.C, we offer free phone and office consultations for individuals charged with DUII in Portland, Oregon. When clients contact us about DUI charges, we listen to the specific facts of the case, explain the potential consequences, outline a preliminary defense strategy, quote a flat fee for representation, and answer any questions you may have. One popular question is this: "Do I really need a DUI Lawyer if I am just going to plead guilty and enter the DUI diversion program?" My answer is always the same: when the State of Oregon is prosecuting you for a crime that is punishable by up to one year in jail, a $6,250 fine, and a driver's license suspension, you need the assistance of an attorney to make sure your rights are protected.
That said, most first time DUI offenders in Portland, Oregon do not serve jail time. If you are eligible for the diversion program, you will not serve any jail time unless you fail to fulfill the conditions of diversion. Even if you fail to complete the diversion program and get convicted of a DUII, your attorney can probably keep you out of jail.
For most first time offenders, the diversion program is the best option because it provides an opportunity to get the DUI charge dismissed. More importantly, the diversion program gives you some control over whether you are convicted of a crime - if you follow the steps outlined in your diversion agreement, the court will dismiss the DUI charge at the end of the diversion period. On the other hand, fighting a DUI charge through pre-trial motions and a jury trial introduces an element of unpredictability and requires a certain tolerance for risk. That is not to say that entering the diversion program is the right choice for all first time offenders. A criminal defense lawyer can give you a professional analysis of your case so that you fully understand the consequences of entering the diversion program and your chances of success you should you choose to take your case to trial.
So why do you need a Portland DUI attorney if you were caught "red handed" and plan on entering the diversion program? The reality is that the outcome of your case might be exactly the same whether you hire an attorney or not. But if you enter the diversion program without the advice of a lawyer, you are making an uninformed decision to give up important constitutional rights, specifically the right to present legal challenges to the evidence against you and the right to a jury trial.
For example, imagine a police officer pulls a person over for having a tail light out. When he approaches the vehicle, he asks for the person's driver's license and insurance. The driver provides these documents. Instead of going forward with writing a ticket, the officer starts to question the driver: "Where have been this evening? Where are you headed . . .." Ultimately this line of questioning leads to the inevitable "Have you had anything to drink tonight?" The driver, making the unfortunate decision to give up his right to remain silent, explains that he had some wine with dinner. Next thing you know the officer is subjecting the driver to field sobriety tests. Because the driver, like many, could not perform these road side agility exercises even without a drop of alcohol in his system, he fails the field sobriety tests an is arrested for DUII. At the police station, the driver agrees to take a breath test and blows a .09, over the legal limit. Luckily, this is the driver's first offense and he is eligible for the DUI diversion program. He decides not to hire an attorney and simply pleads guilty and enters the diversion program. After all, he blew over the legal limit so this is an open and shut case right? WRONG.
On these facts the driver has an excellent chance of getting his DUI dismissed through a motion to suppress. The police officer unlawfully extended the scope of the stop when he subjected the driver to questioning unrelated to the traffic stop. Instead of writing the driver a ticket for his broken tail light and sending him on his way, the officer interrogated the driver about things completely unrelated to the traffic stop. Under these circumstances, the officer violated the driver's rights under Article I, Section 9 of the Oregon Constitution. The driver gave up his right to challenge the unlawful stop when he pleaded guilty and entered the diversion program.
The situation described above is just one of many ways the police can violate constitutional rights in the course of a typical DUI arrest. Without the professional advice of a qualified Portland DUI lawyer, you simply will not be adequately informed about the strengths and weaknesses of your case and the potential legal challenges like the one described above. This is not to say that you should not enter the diversion program just because it appears that you have a good argument that the officer violated your rights when he or she pulled you over. No DUI attorney could ever guarantee you that you will win any particular legal challenge. Indeed, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges routinely disagree about the meaning of the law in these matters. Although having an experienced DUI lawyer on your side greatly increases your chances of success, most clients simply do not want to take the risk of a DUI conviction when diversion offers them a sure way to get the case dismissed.
In some cases, the District Attorney objects to allowing you into the diversion program, even though you are eligible. When this happens, you need a powerful advocate to convince the Judge to rule against the prosecutor so that you have the option of entering the diversion program. Castleberry & Elison, P.C. have been successful in securing diversion entries for clients in cases whether the District Attorney objected.
If you have been charged with a DUII, contact Castleberry & Elison, P.C. at 503-223-0011.We We represent in individuals accused of DUII in Portland, Oregon and throughout the State, including Washington County, Clackamas County, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Gresham, and Oregon City.