During the time between your arrest and your trial there are things you can be doing to prepare for your trial and steps you can take to demonstrate an active willingness to change your behavior before the trial
Alcohol and/or Drug Assessments
Being arrested for DWI does not necessarily mean that you are an alcoholic; It may have just been a rare night out with friends and you did not even realize you were impaired. However, your attorney may decide that it would be in your best interest to have an alcohol or drug assessment. If it is determined that you do have a problem with addiction to alcohol or drugs, it will be vital that you follow through on any recommended treatment. This may involve joining an organization like Alcoholics Anonymous or going to an alcohol treatment center. If the assessment shows that you do not have a drug or alcohol problem, that evidence may be used by your attorney even before going to trial as leverage to have the charges dropped or reduced.
Your Driving History
One of the many things your attorney will need to know about is your driving history, especially if you have any other outstanding violations or unpaid fines. It is important that you resolve any outstanding issues before your trial. Not only will this help your attorney in his ability to negotiate your case with the prosecutor, but it will also look better for you if you are found guilty when it comes time for sentencing leniency
Prior DWI Convictions
If you are charged with your first DWI and have no prior convictions on your record, it is a simple class B misdemeanor. There is no jail time required, although if convicted you will lose your license, face fines, and be required to complete an impaired driving course. If you have even one prior conviction within the last 10 years, your subsequent DWI conviction will carry a mandatory jail sentence. Even if your conviction occurred in another state within the requisite time period, it will count against you, as long as the conviction from the other state is a “reasonably equivalent offense.”
If your prior conviction occurred out of state, your experienced attorney may be able to prevent the conviction from being counted against you, particularly if the conviction would not have happened in New Hampshire or that your rights in the other state’s conviction were not properly protected.
Defending your DWI charge will take money. You will definitely incur court fees and attorney fees; you will likely need money to pay for bonds to get out of jail, payments for independent alcohol concentration testing, alcohol treatment and potential counseling.
If you are convicted, you have to pay fees for any court-ordered classes you are required to take. You may also be responsible for installing an ignition lock on your vehicle. As well, New Hampshire is one of very few states that does not require all of its citizens to carry auto insurance; if you are convicted of a DWI, you will be required to carry insurance for at least three years for a first offense. That insurance will be quite expensive with a DWI on your record.
It is absolutely critical that you appear in court when you are scheduled to do so. There will be multiple appearances required, and if you fail to appear, you can be fined, have your license suspended if it was not already, or have a warrant issued for your arrest. Save your vacation time from work – do not use it frivolously – because a trial could drag on for years.
Going through the experience of being arrested, facing a criminal trial, financial strain and possibly family relationship issues can all lead to an unbearable amount of stress. Seek counseling if you feel you are having trouble coping. There is a very helpful DVD available called “How to Deal With Stress While Your Case is Pending.”
Your appearance really will make a difference to the judge and jury. Wear a suit or dress, and make sure you dress conservatively. Ties and jackets are necessary for men, and longer skirts (below the knee) with blouses that show no cleavage and have longer sleeves are important for women. Unfortunately, people automatically associate DWI offenders with being drug or alcohol abusers, so do everything you can with your appearance to dispel that notion. Remove any piercings you might have, wear clothing that hides tattoos, and wear your hair in a conservative style. You should not wear anything to court that you would not be comfortable wearing to church or to visit your great-grandmother.
This post contains excerpts from The DWI Book, the definitive guide to protecting your rights in the face of New Hampshire’s tough DWI/DUI laws.