First Offense DUI Charges in Somerset
DUI charges can be treated seriously in Somerset, even if it is a person’s first time being charged. For this reason, it is important for a person facing first time DUI charges in Somerset to contact a Somerset DUI lawyer to ensure that they are taking the appropriate steps for the best possible outcome.
Treatment by the Court
Judges can be very reasonable when it comes to a first time DUI charge. They can be understanding of the circumstances of a case when they are sentencing someone for a first time DUI, and can make an effort to allow the person to try and keep their record clean. Additionally, it is relatively common for the judge to grant a probation before judgment for a first time DUI.
A probation before judgment disposition means that the person’s record would be kept clean; a DUI conviction would not be reflected on the person’s record and there would not be points assessed for the DUI. However, under Maryland law, the probation before judgment will always show up on the person’s driving record. Under the law, a person cannot get a probation before judgment for a DUI expunged since it is specifically prohibited by statute.
The probation before judgment is a fantastic opportunity for a defendant, though, because once they complete the period of probation, they can honestly say that they have not been convicted of a DUI. When a person receives probation before judgment, there are no points assessed to their driving record, which is a significant benefit for a defendant because the points alone can cause a suspension of the person’s privilege to drive.
There are always exceptions, however, and the biggest exception would be if a case involving a DUI also involves some sort of accident or somebody being injured. If those circumstances surround the DUI charge, then it decreases the chance that the person would get probation before judgment.
In Maryland, sentencing is done by the judge. When it comes to sentencing, there would never be a distinction between judge or jury, because a person would always be sentenced by a judge. Whether or not a defendant should consider having their case tried in front of a judge or a jury is a totally separate issue. That is a very important decision, which can only be answered on a case-by-case basis.
Sometimes, however, there are cases that would be much better off in front of a jury. There are other times when it may be decided that it would be better to try the case in front of a judge. That is a strategy that has to be determined on an individual basis because it is fact specific to each particular case, which is why it is important for a person facing these charges to consult with their attorney.
If a person is convicted of a first time DUI charge in Somerset, the maximum penalty under the statute for a first time DUI is a year in jail, and/or a $1,000 fine. If the person is convicted of the lesser included offense, which is driving while impaired, then the maximum penalty is 60 days in jail, and/or a $500 fine.
These penalties, however, are maximums, and it would be highly unusual for a defendant to actually serve a jail sentence for a first time DUI. It would be much more likely that the person would receive a period of probation instead. Almost every statute in Maryland is going to include a statutory maximum, which is the largest sentence that a person could possibly get for that particular offense.
Building a Defense for First-Time DUI Charges
The best way to build a defense is to look at the elements that the state has to prove in order to convict the defendant of a DUI. It is important to remember that the defendant is presumed innocent. Every case begins from the position that the defendant has done absolutely nothing wrong. It is the state’s responsibility to put on a case and provide proof that, beyond reasonable doubt, proves that the defendant committed the offense.
It is important to look at the evidence and consider each and every element of the offense for DUI. When reviewing the evidence, it may be determined that the State does not have the necessary evidence to prove one element of the offense. For example, in order to convict the defendant of a DUI, the state has to prove that the defendant was operating a motor vehicle. So factually, what evidence does the state have that works to prove that?
A Somerset DUI lawyer will review each and every element of the crime and determine what evidence could be introduced to prove that element. The best defense will be prepared for whatever the state may throw its way.
Factors Attorneys Consider, and Evidence They Look For
A defense attorney understands that the prosecution has to present evidence to a judge that the defendant committed the offense, and provide proof beyond reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt. Prosecutors may have witness testimony, or they might have physical evidence that they want to present to the judge. Every time evidence is to be presented, a good defense lawyer will consider that evidence, and will go through a checklist that includes asking the following:
- Is the evidence admissible?
- Is there a rule that would indicate that the evidence is inadmissible?
- Did the state follow all of the rules in order to present this particular piece of evidence?
When it comes to testimony from witnesses, it is a very similar kind of analysis. A good defense attorney will ask:
- What testimony does the state want this witness to provide?
- Is that testimony admissible?
- Are there any reasons why the testimony would be inadmissible?
For example, when it comes to witness testimony, one of the biggest evidentiary issues is hearsay – Is the person wanting to testify about an out of court statement? And if they are, is it hearsay? If it is hearsay, is there an exception that allows it to come in?
One of the most important jobs of an attorney is to review the evidence, and also then apply it to the laws and procedures that have to be followed.