According to the Justice Department, there were 11,629 DUI arrests in the state of Mississippi in 2013.
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Mississippi, you must understand that you are facing a charge that can have extremely serious consequences. What you do from this point forward can have an impact on your life for years to come.
Depending upon several factors, the possible penalties that you could face include jail or even prison time, fines, restriction or even suspension of your driving privileges, confiscation of your vehicle, a vehicle interlock device, mandatory alcohol rehabilitation, and a permanent criminal misdemeanor or felony record.
If you were involved in a wreck in which you were judged to be legally impaired/under the influence, you could face additional charges, and if that wreck resulted in another person’s serious injury or death, those additional charges could include manslaughter.
Those are just your court-appointed penalties. A DUI conviction can also have major negative repercussions upon your personal and professional life.
For the rest of your life, anyone who has a need to perform a background check on you will be able to see that conviction. Many companies will not hire applicants with certain types of criminal records. Jobs that require a security clearance may revoke that clearance upon conviction. Your insurance rates will skyrocket, and your insurance company may even cancel your policy. Interlock devices are also expensive, as well as being extremely inconvenient.
The point is, now that you are in this position, you have to take every possible step in and do whatever it takes to mitigate those consequences.
First Things First
The very first thing you should do is meet with a Mississippi lawyer that specializes in handling DUI cases. This specific area of practice has its own challenges and courtroom strategies, and a lawyer with a practice that concentrates on DUI defense will have the important practical experience that is desperately needed at this moment.
The Initial Consultation
Most Mississippi DUI lawyers will meet with you for an Initial Consultation is free and completely confidential. During this first meeting, you will meet with a lawyer to explain what happened and for the lawyer to gain an understanding of the merits and circumstances of your case.
This assessment is not meant to be one-sided. This is also your opportunity to ask questions and make sure that you are personally comfortable with this particular attorney. This is your quality of life and freedom that’s being discussed, so you have every right to be diligent when you ensure that the person who will be handling your case is sufficiently competent and dedicated.
This is also where you’ll be able to discuss a fee schedule in regards to your DUI lawyer’s retainer. In most cases, your lawyer may even have you sign a fee agreement so you will completely understand how much these services are going to cost you.
A Few Words about a DUI Lawyer’s Fees
It is not going to be cheap to hire an experienced DUI lawyer in Mississippi, and that’s okay.
When you are talking about the person who is going to stand between you and a DUI conviction, you really don’t want a budget attorney who only was hired because they were the lowest bidder.
A quality defense will cost money, and once again, that’s okay.
No matter how much your DUI lawyer is going to cost you in the short term, it is always less than what hiring the wrong attorney will cost.
An inexperienced or incompetent lawyer can literally cost you everything – your freedom, your future, your job, and your hard-earned money. Now is not the time to skimp.
What about a Public Defender?
Contrary to what movies and television may lead you to believe, public defenders are usually extremely competent, truly dedicated, and very much interested in protecting the rights of their clients. These are all good things.
However, as a rule, public defenders are usually also overworked and underfunded. The average public defender carries an extremely heavy caseload, which means that they are often unable to devote significant time to any one individual client. It also means that public defenders usually do not have the necessary funds at their disposal to mount any sort of defense that would require any extra costs, such as overtime, additional research, or the testimony of experts.
You do not want to entrust your freedom and your future to an attorney who has neither the time nor the money to give you the best defense possible.
Public defenders, by their very nature, do not specialize in any one particular area of legal focus. The individual attorney assigned as your public defender may handle a robbery case one week, a child protective services case the next week, a bogus check case the week after that, and may only rarely represent a client charged with a DUI. As a result, your public defender may lack the experience and the practical knowledge needed to effectively counter the charges leveled against you.
An experienced private attorney who specializes in DUI cases is your ONLY viable option. First, they will always have the flexibility to invest the proper amount of time needed into your case and your defense. Second, when extra work, research, or outside testimony is needed, there are no arbitrarily-assigned budget constraints such as those faced by the prosecution.
Also unlike as with a public defender, a private DUI lawyer has a wealth of relevant legal information and experience, because DUIs may be virtually the only type of case they handle.
Think on that from moment – when it comes to safeguarding your freedom and your future from the consequences of a DUI conviction, who do you think might be able to offer you the best legal representation?
The overworked and underpaid civil servant who might have only handled a few DUI cases in their career? Or…
The experienced DUI lawyer who may have orchestrated successful defenses for hundreds or even thousands of clients who found themselves in your exact same situation?
What to Look for in a DUI Lawyer-Don’t Go It Alone If You Are Arrested For Drinking And Driving
Now that you have smartly decided to use a private lawyer, what’s next? It’s not enough to randomly pick a name out of the Yellow Pages or from a basic online search. As a general rule, there are four main factors that you should consider when choosing the right representation –
Look for expertise – Lawyers are like doctors. All doctors graduate college, go on to medical school, and serve as an intern for a period before they begin their own private practices. When you as a patient have need for routine checkups or everyday healthcare, you go to a general practitioner. However, sometimes your medical need requires the services of a specialist – an optometrist, a dermatologist, or a pediatrician, for example.
You understand that your health issues require specialization. After all, when you need a brain surgeon, you don’t go to your local dentist.
In the same way, all lawyers go to school for the same basic legal education, but it takes time to develop their skills and sharpen their focus. For your specific legal situation, you want a lawyer whose practice is largely, or perhaps even completely, devoted to handling DUI-related cases.
You want the attorney by your side to have the right amount of practical knowledge and proven strategy to draw upon when preparing your defense before trial and when arguing your case before the court.
Look for experience –Often, expertise is sharpened by experience. You want a DUI lawyer who has been practicing long enough to be completely comfortable, confident, and competent when defending clients charged with DUI-related violations.
The laws concerning DUIs in the state of Mississippi are constantly changing and evolving. You want a DUI lawyer who can successfully negotiate all the legal obstacles before you to make sure that every possible defense and mitigating circumstance is offered on your behalf.
A sufficiently-experienced DUI lawyer will also have a cadre of trusted experts that they can call upon to assist in your defense – private investigators, calibration experts, accident recreation specialists, medical professionals, substance abuse counselors, etc.
Look for proven results – With enough expertise and experience, any DUI lawyers that you’re considering retaining should be able to show you examples of DUI cases that they have successfully litigated in the past. Moreover, they should be able to demonstrate to you how they’ve helped people and situations as similar as possible to yours.
For example, if they have been practicing in this specific part of Mississippi long enough, they may have personal experience dealing with your arresting officer, the prosecuting attorney, or even the judge presiding over your case, and as a result, be able to explain to you how they might be able to mount a more effective defense for you based upon that experience.
You need to know that the DUI lawyer fighting for you has a proven track record of successfully defending people just like you.
Look for an established reputation – An experienced, expert DUI lawyer with a proven local track record will have earned an excellent reputation within the legal community. Why is this important to you? A Mississippi DUI lawyer with the right reputation can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case.
Facing such a formidable opponent, prosecutors will know that they have to have an absolutely airtight case before proceeding, and if they realize that they lack that, their only choices are to drop or reduce charges.
Likewise, judges hearing cases from certain lawyers will understand that they can trust those lawyers to make reasonable requests and recommendations. This trust will often make both the prosecution and the judge more amenable to compromise, and this can mean positive alternatives to harsh jail sentences.
Possible DUI Penalties in Mississippi
Refusing to Take the Test – A failure to submit to a requested test results in the suspension of your driver’s license for 90 days and an automatic DUI charge. The suspension occurs even if you are later found Not Guilty of the DUI.
Under 21 – A driver under the age of 21 who has a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .02% or higher will be fined up to $250 for their first offense, and their license will be suspended for 90 days. Furthermore, the minor will be ordered to attend and complete a four-week-long alcohol awareness/safety course, and possibly, a victim’s impact panel. A BAC of .02% will result from only one alcoholic drink.
A second offense under the age of 21 will mean a suspension for five years and a $500 fine. A third or subsequent DUI under 21 will be suspension until the age of 21 or two years, whichever is longer, and a fine of $1000.
First Offenders (misdemeanor) –
- .08% BAC, .04% for commercial drivers, .02% for drivers under 21
- Up to 48 hours in jail, or, at the court’s discretion, attendance at a victim’s impact panel
- Fine – Not less than $250 and not more than $1000
- License Suspension – Suspension of no less than 90 days and no more than one year. There is a reinstatement fee of $100 and reinstatement is conditional upon the successful completion of an alcohol education/safety program.
- After a minimum of 30 days, if the court has a reasonable belief that the suspension of a license imposes an undue difficulty upon a driver by interfering with their ability to work, attend school, or receive needed medical care, a Hardship License may be granted.
Alcohol Education/Safety Course – Mandatory attendance at a four-week course which meets one day a week for a 2 1/2 hour class. Minimum cost – $100
Any DUI conviction will make your insurance rates increase significantly, and may affect your commercial driving privileges.
As serious as these consequences are, the penalties are harsh and increased for any further DUIs.
Second Offense Within Five Years (misdemeanor) –
- Up to 10 days in jail
- Fine – not less than $600 and not more than $1000
- License Suspension – suspension/revocation of up to two years
- Ignition interlock device – required for the length of suspension, paid for by the offender
Three or More Offenses within Five Years (felony) –
- Minimum one year in prison, up to five years
- Fine – not less than $2000 and not more than $5000
- License Suspension – suspension/revocation of up to five years
- Ignition interlock device
If there are additional circumstances, such as significant injuries or death, penalties for conviction can be significantly increased.
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