A DUI car accident comes with a number of negative consequences for the cited driver, and while car insurance isn’t the number one concern, rates and “insurability” will surely be impacted. If you are convicted of DUI a criminal offense known as “Driving Under the Influence” (also known as DWI or Driving While Intoxicated) you’ll undoubtedly be facing a number of legal problems. That’s true whether or not you also caused a DUI-related car accident in connection with the offense. So the impact on your car insurance may be the last thing on your mind. But, depending on what state you live in and which automobile insurance company issued your policy, you could face a number of insurance-related problems ranging from having your policy canceled to the insurance company denying coverage of any personal injury or property damage claims made against you as a result of your DUI. A liability car insurance policy typically provides coverage for any accident in which the policyholder (or someone else covered under the policy) drives in a negligent manner and perhaps even in a grossly negligent or reckless manner, depending on what the policy says and causes a car accident.
But no car insurance policy covers car accidents caused by intentional conduct. Some automobile insurers like to argue that drinking and driving is intentional conduct, since that argument (if accepted) will allow the company to disclaim coverage for damages resulting from a DUI whether injuries and vehicle damage sustained by the driver and/or passengers in the vehicle you hit (under your liability coverage), or your own losses (under your personal injury protection or similar coverage). The insurer’s argument here is that the driver intentionally put him or herself in a position to cause the accident i.e., the driver intentionally drank alcohol, intentionally got drunk, intentionally drove after getting drunk, and knew (or at the very least should have known) that drinking and driving is extremely dangerous. If you cause an accident while you are intoxicated, your auto insurer will at least investigate the circumstances of your crash before it agrees to accept liability for any damages. If the insurer takes the position that you acted intentionally to cause the accident, it may refuse to defend you and may deny coverage for damages relating to your accident. This is especially true if you’re trying to get coverage for injuries to other drivers and passengers. But if you’re just trying to get the insurer to pay for vehicle damage under your collision coverage, the insurer may not attempt to deny that claim. If your insurer is denying coverage for bodily injury, you might need to hire a lawyer to try to convince the insurer to change its mind. Even if your insurer agrees to defend you for damages relating to your DUI accident, it will still not defend you against a claim of intentional misconduct, or pay for damages relating to a charge of intentional misconduct. As you may know, the majority of personal injury claims are based on the fault concept of negligence (which means carelessness or the failure to act with reasonable caution). That is because most people and companies do not act intentionally to injure someone. But occasionally someone will cause harm through an intentional act (which is usually defined as an intentional tort). Sometimes a lawyer in a personal injury case involving a DUI will add a claim for intentional misconduct against the at-fault DUI driver. If the case goes to trial, and a jury awards the plaintiff damages for the driver’s intentional misconduct, the DUI driver’s insurance company will not pay for those damages. The defendant will have to pay for intentional misconduct damages out of his/her own pocket. For financial liability purposes when it comes to the intentional conduct charge, it’s the same as driving without insurance.
How Long Will a DUI Stay on My Record?
The laws differ from state to state, but you should assume that a DUI will stay on your record for at least seven years. Your car insurance premium will be affected for as long as a DUI is on your record.
How to Get DUI Charges Dropped
• Hiring an Attorney: Search for a criminal defense attorney online. Even though you may be eligible to have a public defender appointed, hiring a private attorney may be better for you if you are looking to get DUI charges dropped. You may also want to ask friends or family for recommendations unless you don’t want them to know about your arrest. If you do look online, the website of your state or local bar association is a good place to start. Look for a free attorney-referral program that will give you a list of area attorneys tailored to your answers to a few questions.
• Make A List Of Possibilities: Ideally, you should be able to find at least four or five attorneys that handle DUI cases in your area. Take an in-depth look at each one’s background and experience to narrow your list. If the attorneys on your list have websites, read them in order to evaluate their backgrounds and experience. You want an attorney who practices in your area, someone who is familiar with the judges and prosecutors. You’re looking for an attorney who has been practicing in your area for several years.
• Schedule Several Initial Consultations: Generally, it’s a good idea to interview at least two or three attorneys so you can find one best suited to your case. Since most criminal-defense attorneys offer a free initial consultation, this shouldn’t cost you anything but time. You should be able to schedule an initial consultation within a week. If an attorney doesn’t have time to meet with you in the next week (two at the most), they probably are too busy to give your case the attention it deserves. If the attorney has an information form for you to fill out, complete and return it as soon as possible. The more information the attorney has about you and your case, the better able they are to tailor the initial consultation to you and your needs. Ask each attorney lots of questions. Particularly with a free consultation, you can’t always count on an attorney to cover all the information that’s important to you. Make a list of questions ahead of your first scheduled consultation so you can understand everything pertinent to your case. The types of questions you ask will depend on what is important to you in an attorney-client relationship. If this is your first time hiring an attorney, think about things that would be important to you if you were hiring someone to work for you in any other capacity. The questions you ask here would be similar. Similarly, if you’re hiring an attorney, you may want to ask them how much of the work on your case they’ll be doing themselves and how much will be done by a paralegal or new attorney who recently graduated from law school.
• Compare The Attorneys You Interview: After you’ve completed your initial consultations, take some time to evaluate and compare the attorneys. This enables you to identify the one most qualified to represent you. Fees are an important consideration, especially if money is tight. Resist the temptation to select an attorney just because they charge the lowest fee. That person might not be your best choice. Most attorneys are willing to negotiate if you can’t immediately afford their fees. Some may be willing to create a payment plan or even lower the total cost. When choosing an attorney, don’t ignore your gut feeling. If you find one who’s passionate, interested in your case, and who inspires your confidence and trust, they may be your best choice – even if they’re less experienced than others you interviewed.
• Sign A Written Retainer Agreement: When you’ve made your decision, let the attorney you want to hire know as soon as possible. He or she typically will meet with you again to have you sign a written retainer agreement (a contract). Don’t let the attorney start working on your case until you’ve read and signed a written contract for their services. Have the attorney explain the agreement to you. Ask questions if there’s anything about it you don’t understand. There may be a part of the agreement with which you disagree or that’s different from what you understood from the initial consultation. Say something about it. Attorneys typically are willing to negotiate, but you have to bring the issue up yourself. For example, you might say “This agreement says I’m paying you by the hour, but you told me during the initial consultation that you would take my case for an $800 flat fee. I planned my budget based on that flat fee.”
• Evaluate The Evidence Against You. Your argument for dropping the DUI charges depends on the type of evidence the prosecution has against you. If the charges are based on field sobriety tests, for example, you may have a stronger case. The prosecuting attorney must provide to your attorney all evidence they plan to use against you at trial. Your attorney will discuss this evidence with you. DUI charges based on field sobriety tests can be the most difficult for the prosecution to prove, particularly if there is no other evidence of your intoxication. The tests are relatively subjective, based on the officer’s observations, and there are a number of conditions that can interfere with the results. Breathalyzer tests also have weaknesses but are generally more difficult to challenge than field sobriety tests. The specific results of a test make a difference. The prosecutor may be more willing to drop the charges if you were just barely over the legal limit than if tests showed you were significantly intoxicated.
• Look At The Context Of The Stop: If the police officer who initially pulled you over did not have probable cause to stop you, that can be used as evidence to get the DUI charges dropped. If you went through a DUI checkpoint, this may not be as helpful to your case as if you were pulled over individually. For example, if you were obeying all the rules of the road and were pulled over anyway, you can argue that the officer did not have probable cause to stop you. If the officer pulled you over for a non-moving violation such as a broken tail light, you may be able to argue the officer had no probable cause to believe you were intoxicated. For that argument, you would need to look at the statements from the officer. Typically the officer will note in the police report that they administered a breathalyzer or field sobriety test because they smelled alcohol on your breath.
• Consider Any Physical Or Medical Conditions: Many physical and medical conditions can interfere with test results. This is so, particularly if the charges are based on the results of a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test. For example, certain diets and medications can cause a false breathalyzer result. If you’re currently on a strict Atkins-style diet, for example, your body may produce alcohol that the breathalyzer reads incorrectly. This isn’t the type of alcohol that you can get drunk from, but the breathalyzer can’t tell the difference. You may also have registered falsely high blood-alcohol content on a breathalyzer if you have certain medical conditions such as diabetes or acid reflux. If your DUI charge is based on a field sobriety test, physical conditions may have caused you to appear drunk, even though your driving ability was not impaired. For example, you may have a recent knee or ankle injury.
• Interview Witnesses. If anyone was in the car with you, they can testify regarding whether you had been drinking before you were pulled over. If you’re arguing that a medical condition interfered with the test results, your attorney may want to produce expert witnesses. For example, if you believe that your acid reflux produced a false result on a breathalyzer test, you might ask a doctor to testify to the severity of your acid reflux disease and your use of medication in response. Eyewitnesses can be helpful, especially if they were with you before you were pulled over and can testify that you were not drinking any alcohol. Keep in mind, however, that it will be their word against the word of a police officer. Generally, police officers do well in a trial. A prosecutor (or judge) may not be convinced by a friend of yours who is contradicting a member of law enforcement.
• Start Preparing For Trial: Even if this is your first charge, getting a prosecutor to drop DUI charges can be challenging. Your best defense is to work with your attorney to prepare for a trial on the merits of your case. Even if you and your attorney are fairly confident that you can get your DUI charges dropped, it’s still important to be well-prepared for trial. If the prosecutor senses that you’re not well-prepared, they may become less willing to negotiate with you. On the other hand, the prosecutor will be more willing to strike a deal if you have a strong case and it appears likely that you could win at trial. Since both sides are required to exchange information and evidence, the prosecuting attorney generally will have a good idea of how strong your case looks and your odds of beating the charges.
• Complete Any Required Driving Classes: Many jurisdictions have a driving school that those convicted of DUI or other traffic violations are required to complete. If you do so promptly, it sends a signal to the prosecutor that you’re taking steps to be a more responsible driver. Your attorney can tell you what classes are required and where you can take them. Expect these classes to cost several hundred dollars. You’ll be expected to complete them in spite of the cost. Consider it part of the punishment. Taking a driver-responsibility class does not mean that you’re admitting guilt. On the contrary, the prosecutor may be more willing to work with you if you show that you’re being proactive.
• Get Evaluated By A Substance-Abuse Professional: If you got behind the wheel after drinking, that could be a symptom of a larger problem you are having with alcohol. Speak to a professional and seek out help if you recognize a need to do so. As with taking driving classes, getting a professional evaluation does not mean that you are admitting guilt. The prosecutor may be more willing to work with you if you show a willingness to admit you have a problem and get help for it. Keep in mind, however, that once you start a treatment program, the prosecutor may condition the dropping of DUI charges on continued participation in treatment.
• Negotiate With The Prosecutor: Your attorney likely will discuss possible plea bargains before your trial begins. The weaker the case against you, the more likely the prosecutor will be to drop charges. The prosecutor’s opinion of the case, and what they’re willing to offer you, may change depending on the evidence revealed as part of the pretrial investigation. For example, the prosecutor may be unwilling to entertain any thought of dropping your DUI charges. However, upon learning that you have a medical condition that probably interfered with the breathalyzer results; the prosecutor may change their opinion of the case. Prosecutors are usually unwilling to drop DUI charges. You may have more of a challenge plea bargaining than you would with another type of case. That’s why having an attorney who understands the law and is familiar with the judge and prosecutor can be instrumental in getting your charges dropped.
• Plead Guilty To A Lesser Charge: Even if you’re able to convince the prosecutor to drop the DUI charges, you won’t be able to get away penalty-free. As noted above, a driver-responsibility class can be expensive. However, you may be able to keep from having a DUI on your record by pleading guilty to a lesser offense such as reckless driving. This is where it can be to your advantage to have already taken driver safety or responsibility classes. These classes typically would be required for lesser moving violations as well. Your attorney will explain to you the consequences of the lesser offense so you can decide whether it is in your best interests to take the deal. Keep in mind that while you still may incur negative consequences such as increased car-insurance rates, these consequences typically will be less than they would be if you were convicted of a DUI.
When you need a DUI Attorney in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506