This post is by Guest Author, Carol Montrose, who is not affiliated with our law firm and this article does not necessarily reflect the legal opinions or views of Sansone / Lauber.
Whether or not you feel you deserve a DUI, if you get pulled over and you've been drinking (even if it's only a couple of beers) there's a good chance you're going to get one. This can cause a major headache in your life (although a lot less major than if you have an accident while under the influence of alcohol) because you can lose money, your license, and even your freedom in the process, depending on the state you live in, the severity of the charges, and the judge assigned to your case. But just because you are picked up for a DUI and then convicted and sentenced in court doesn't mean you don't still have legal recourse to fight the charges. Here's how to appeal the ruling and try to get it overturned or at least aim for a lighter sentence.
1. Ask for a new trial. Did you know that you can make an immediate appeal to the judge responsible for presiding over your trial? If you feel that your case was mishandled (the evidence, in particular), leading to an unfair conviction, or if you feel that the sentencing was too harsh for your infraction (especially if you are a first-time offender) then you can ask immediately for another trial. Unfortunately, judges rarely grant such requests, so you'll probably have to take it to the next level.
2. Hire an attorney. Once you have ascertained that an appeal to a higher court is your only course of action, it's time to lawyer up. Your goal is to find an attorney who has a good track record with cases similar to yours. He or she should know the state laws backwards and forwards, including how evidence could be mishandled (providing for the crux of your case, since you won't be tried a second time, but rather your first trial will be reviewed for inconsistencies or mistakes). An experienced lawyer will also be well aware of procedures such as what paperwork to file and what deadlines to observe.
3. File immediately for appeal. You may not have much time to file for an appeal after sentencing so you need to shake a leg. In some states, you are required to file within as little as ten days, while other states may offer up to thirty days to file. The point is, you don't have much time if you want a second chance to fight your DUI charge.
4. Ask for a stay of sentencing. One thing that most people would neglect to do if not for the advice of a good lawyer is to ask for the sentence to be stayed pending appeal. This basically means that you will not have to begin carrying out your sentence until after a decision has been made regarding your appeal.
5. Seek out substance abuse education. Regardless of whether it is required by your sentence, you should enter into substance abuse education before the hearing for your appeal. In some cases, showing that you are committed to making amends for your infraction could go a long way toward getting a reduced sentence, if not winning your appeal. And frankly, if you were caught on DUI charges once, it's almost certainly not the first time you were drinking and driving. Maybe some education on the dangers of your behavior will save you from more serious charges down the road.
Carol Montrose writes for New Jersey DUI Attorney, a New Jersey DWI defense law firm.