Steps to Take After an OWI Arrest
1. GET EMOTIONALLY PREPARED
For most people, an OWI arrest (sometimes still referred to as a DUI) is an embarrassing and humiliating experience that can leave the arrested person with deep and often conflicting feelings that range from regret, fear, shame, anger, to desperation and self-loathing. Being ordered out of a car, forced to perform roadside tests in public, then enduring handcuffing, more tests, booking, and lock up, combined with the prospect of more jail time, huge fines, loss of driving privileges, and the scorn of co-workers and family members, can cause deep negative impacts on a person. Letting down family members only adds to the pain.
Squad cars and jails are not nice places to spend time, but they can be much easier to take than the confines of a mind unprepared to handle the situation.
2. YOU ARE NOT ALONE
In any given month, dozens of others have likely been arrested in your County for the same thing. Courts across the state overflow with countless individuals charged with the same offense. Your initial intense feelings may be justified, but will subside as soon as you act to make sure your situation doesn't go from bad to worse. Act promptly. Don't fall into the trap that many do after an OWI arrest -- doing nothing. You will fail to protect your rights if you fail to act. You will also suffer greater stress by inaction. To put it positively, take control of your case by acting. The OWI arrest often triggers an action by the DMV against your license AND a criminal case against you in the court. Once you have taken steps to secure an attorney, you can feel your worry lessen to a manageable level.
3. YOUR CASE MY LAST A LONG TIME
Knowing that it may take months to resolve your case and that consequences of conviction may have long-term effects is the first step to steeling yourself for the long haul. An OWI arrest happens quickly; sorting it out takes much longer. You should have ample time to understand the consequences before you have to face many of them.
Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your situation. Of the many individuals we have represented in OWIs, the ones who turn to support networks tend to keep the OWI in proper perspective. Those who try to hide their situation from family and friends can suffer a greater emotional toll than is necessary, while those clients who process their personal circumstances with a non-judgmental friend or family member tend to more quickly put the situation behind them.
4. AN HONEST SELF-ASSESMENT
Take a long look in the mirror (if you haven't already). Ask yourself if your alcohol/drug use is something that you need to address. Was your arrest an unusual, never-to-be-repeated event, or are you surprised it took the police that long to catch you? If the latter, affordable treatment options are likely available to you. It is important to do a self-assessment to help you avoid falling into the same situation again and to take a personal inventory to address possible lifestyle changes. Punishment for future OWIs escalates tremendously, so once again, actively moving toward a more positive life direction is preferable to denial.
5. DEALING WITH THE DMV
If you are not yet sure about hiring an attorney, be sure to protect your rights. You (or your attorney) must call the DMV within 10 days of the arrest to set up a hearing, or your license may be automatically suspended 30 days after your arrest. Don't bury your head in the sand.
Regardless of your court date (typically 4-6 weeks after the arrest), the DMV action is a separate proceeding. You have to address it. If you don't do anything, the DMV will. Call the number listed on the notice that you received to speak with the DMV about the matter. Be sure to have your Driver's license number handy. This step can also be handled by an attorney.
6. EXPERTISE MATTERS IN THE COURTROOM
Unless the friend or family member spent three years in law school, hours studying probable cause, evidence, Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, the science of alcohol absorption, jury instructions, etc.,, be sure to take their advice with a grain of salt. Be polite about it, but recognize that it is YOUR case, and you will have to deal with the consequences. It's best to listen to the advice of an experienced attorney. Don't hire an attorney over the phone. Set up an appointment, because you can learn a lot about how an attorney will handle the case by how they treat you and answer your questions. And as attorneys, we're more than happy to answer those questions.
In summary, an OWI arrest, case, and possible conviction can have a massive impact on your life, and it's important to ensure that you uphold your rights, with an experienced professional if possible. Of course, if you have any questions about OWI charges, or other areas of law, don't hesitate to contact our office using the link below.