One Mistake Changes Everything?
July 28, 2014 8:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to get to the bottom of something that happened over the weekend -- to nutshell, was cuffed and placed in a holding cell and charged with an OWI. Never been in trouble before. Looking for a lawyer, but seem to either be told that they have fees that I could never afford to pay, or that they can get me into a diversion program which I'm pretty sure is offered to first time offenders anyway. Help? Details behind cut.

Without writing a novel, I work full time and am also in school full time. I'm not much of a drinker, but I've been under an extreme amount of stress lately and went out and had about 3 beers on an empty stomach. I was crying on the road which probably didn't help and was pulled over in what I now believe was some kind of DUI trap (given the amount of women in the holding cell that got pulled over in the same place I did).

AGAIN -- I've never been in trouble with the law before.

I didn't blow until actually at the jail and while I didn't see anything with my own eyes, the cop said I blew a .10. This is Indiana by the way.

That said, what should I expect? I know a friend of mine was on probation for a year and her license was suspended for 3 months.

The consultations I've had this morning have all been the same and talked about the same diversion program -- and that at the end of the year, as long as I don't get into further trouble, the charges will be waived and it will no longer on my record. One of them spoke about that blow-n-go device they can stick in your car so your license isn't suspended.

I guess the question is -- given my current financial situation (I wasn't even sure how to pay all of my bills without basically having a 40/month food budget BEFORE this happened), is the lawyer truly necessary or am I going to be offered this deal regardless with a public defender?

I also have no idea if I should tell my employer or not -- if they haven't already found out thanks to a little app they like to frequent called Mobile Patrol. Should I -- or should I wait until they bring it up?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
DUIs can have a big impact on your life. After prosecuting them, I believe most people should speak with a lawyer about them. That said, do not discount the abilities of your local public defender. They have more experience at this on a day-to-day basis than most private defense attorneys -- in most jurisdictions they are literally in court every day arguing DUI cases.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:35 AM on July 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

Does your employer have a policy that you must tell them of any arrests? Were you doing anything work-related at the time? If the answer to both these questions is no, then I wouldn't tell the employer.
posted by grouse at 8:39 AM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was crying on the road which probably didn't help and was pulled over in what I now believe was some kind of DUI trap

Okay, actually you were pulled over because you were driving and you were drunk. If you hadn't been drunk, might have been pulled over but you wouldn't have been arrested.

Based on your question, it seems like you are young, female and employed. That's all going to help you because each factor statistically increases the sympathy people will feel for you. Although you are broke right now, having a DUI conviction is enough of a life-changer that I would suggest using a credit card to cover your legal costs. It really is worth it. Craven_morhead makes a great point about public defenders and yes, you should consult with one, but I would also not exclude the possibility of fixing this by throwing money at it and then displaying good behavior so that the charge is waived. That would really be the best possible outcome.
posted by kate blank at 8:41 AM on July 28, 2014 [17 favorites]

Maybe call the courthouse where you are supposed to appear - it won't cost anything to ask for information. They probably won't be able to tell you anything specific about your case but they can probably direct you to information about public defenders and the diversion program.
posted by Beti at 8:43 AM on July 28, 2014

A friend of mine got a DUI in West Virigina. He ended up hiring a lawyer. $10,000 and several months with the car breathalyzer later, his record is as cleaned up as he could ever hope for it to be.

He files the DUI itself as one of his biggest regrets (going through a bad time in his life, knowingly made a dangerous and poor choice), but the lawyer he hired, even with the cost, to be one of the best decisions he's made, given the circumstances. That going into it with 20/20 hindsight he would absolutely make the choice again to hire the expensive lawyer.

But that is him, that's a different state, I personally have no experience with this, and YMMV, etc.
posted by phunniemee at 8:45 AM on July 28, 2014

I do not believe that you will be assigned a public defender for this offense.
posted by unreasonable at 8:47 AM on July 28, 2014

I do not believe that you will be assigned a public defender for this offense.

She might or might not, it really depends on where she lives, along with a bunch of other factors.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:59 AM on July 28, 2014

Where I work, there's a policy for promotions that involves re-running the same background check you went through to be hired before the promotion can be finalized. Someone at my company was just terminated for this - though I think the reason had to do with claiming an educational degree he didn't have, not any kind of criminal activity. He was up for a big promotion, got it - and then was fired for lying on the forms.

So if this DOES end up on your record, you'll want to disclose it before letting companies run a background check on you, or if your company decides to run one again for any kind of promotion. If it's a one-time thing, and you disclose with minimal drama and up front, I think it's highly unlikely it would be a deal breaker for most companies. But lying on background check forms - that usually IS a dealbreaker.

Just be really sure that it IS expunged if they tell you it's going to be. Ask specifically what would come up in a background check after it's "waived" or whatever they're telling you. You can also run background checks on yourself -- google should be able to help out with that when the time comes.
posted by kythuen at 9:25 AM on July 28, 2014

The first thing I'd do is me-mail the mods and have this question anonymized. You openly admit to drinking and then getting in the car, you list your state, and your posting history gives enough information for this to be pretty easily cross-referenced.

Hire a lawyer (either pay for one or get a PD if you're comfortable with them -- whatever they charge, this could easily cost you more long-term if it's not handled properly) and then speak to absolutely nobody else about it besides him or her.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:28 AM on July 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

I agree with throwing money at this. You don't know how this might affect your future employment. I knew someone who couldn't get a job in her field again (a specific type of healthcare) after one OWI. It'd depend on your intended career field but in this job market I wouldn't let anything stay on your record that could work against you.
posted by desjardins at 9:36 AM on July 28, 2014

As for telling your employer, you absolutely should. I work in law enforcement, and a co-worker was arrested last year for a DUI. She was able to keep her job only because she was honest about it. She also took counseling, etc. ...but if she'd lied or tried to cover it up, she'd have been fired. Not for the DUI, but for lying about it.
posted by PearlRose at 9:39 AM on July 28, 2014

Just get a lawyer who specializes in this. (I can't tell if the consultations you've had today have been with lawyers or what.) If you don't, you may be OK or you may wind up like my friend who got a dui many years ago, understood it had been expunged and was surprised the next time he got arrested and it was a second dui with all that involves. Which-- hopefully you have learned a lesson about drinking anything at all before driving, but a second one really does change everything. Get a lawyer and go to classes if they are offered and make sure everyone knows you are taking it really seriously.
posted by BibiRose at 10:00 AM on July 28, 2014

As for telling your employer, you absolutely should.

I'd review the employee handbook and see what it says. Not mentioning it isn't the same as covering it up. (I could see why it would be relevant if you're in law enforcement.) If you really think they'll find out, I'd approach the employee assistance program first if your company has one. Otherwise, I would definitely keep this to myself.

It depends on where you work and what you do - if you're a school bus driver or delivery person, then yes. Generic office worker or barrista, then no.
posted by shoesietart at 10:08 AM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

You need a lawyer, and you also need a reality check. You were driving under the influence. Your emotional state was fraught. You could have seriously injured yourself or others. Take ownership of your actions here, at least privately, because yes, you made a mistake, and that mistake had consequences. Talk to a lawyer before you say anything to anyone else. It's better to be safe than sorry.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:29 AM on July 28, 2014 [14 favorites]

Contrary to what others have said, you may or may not have been driving under the influence. The machine may have been wrong. It may need service. The operator may not be properly trained. You may have burped alcohol into your mouth. Don't admit that you were under the influence or apologize for it. Lawyer up, with a lawyer who does DUI work routinely, and do what your lawyer says. Until then, say nothing. This can have a serious impact on your life, take it seriously.
posted by tyllwin at 11:19 AM on July 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

IANAL, but definitely talk to a lawyer and don't assume you're actually guilty.

I didn't blow until actually at the jail
Then on what pretense did they arrest you and take you to jail?

Also, I don't know how much you weigh, but only three beers seems like not very much for your BAC to be that high, especially since presumably hours had passed, given that you were taken to jail and processed before taking the breathalyzer.

There's a lot about this that doesn't add up. Consult a lawyer.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:18 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

drjimmy, a PBT is not admissible in court. It's a tool used to build probable cause, but it's not required by any means. Probable cause can be driving conduct, driver behavior on contact, odor on the driver's breath, standardized field sobriety tests, etc. None of that is "pretense," it's probable cause.

I've trained doing field sobriety tests on actual drunk people, and BAC varied EXTREMELY widely just in our limited pool of people we tested. Further, beer can have alcohol percentages as high as 10-12%. Have three pints of a trippel and see what your BAC is, especially since women generally metabolize the alcohol a little slower than a man of equivalent weight.

None of which is to say that the OP shouldn't talk with a lawyer. She definitely should. But her question as posted absolutely adds up.
posted by kavasa at 2:13 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you should tell your employer. Go in and say, "I made a terrible mistake. I was stopped for DUI and had blood alcohol concentration of .10. I thought you should know. My judgment was very bad and I feel terrible about it." (I say you should mention the .10 because it's factual, and also it's way at the low end of what's illegal.)

Opening with dui trap, crying, stress, and only 3 beers will sound like you're making excuses. If the person asks, you can say what you were drinking, and didn't realize your driving skills were impaired. You're not much of a drinker and didn't know you could feel fine and still be over the legal limit.

You employer will probably be concerned that you're more of a drinker than you'd seemed to be, and that you got caught once for something you routinely do. Say, "I want to assure you that this has never happened before and that I'm going to make sure not to drive if my alcohol level is higher than zero."
posted by wryly at 3:36 PM on July 28, 2014

Clearing up some misconceptions:

First, you absolutely have a right to a lawyer. If you meet income thresholds, you will be assigned a public defender. The US Supreme Court held over 40 years ago that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel applies to state court misdemeanors. Anyone who says otherwise literally does not know anything about what they are saying and should probably check themselves before weighing in here.

Second, everything else that you have asked is better discussed with your lawyer, once you have one. Anyone who says, based on the few facts here, that you were clearly driving drunk and should just accept that, again, literally does not know anything about what they are saying. DUIs are complicated, people's metabolism of alcohol is complicated, a thousand factors need to be known and analyzed before anyone can give an opinion on that, the machines can be unreliable, etc etc etc. You very well may be offered the same deal with a public defender. Why not screen for one and see if you qualify? As for talking to your employer, ask your lawyer. It is impossible to know whether you should disclose now without knowing more about what you do and how your case is likely to be resolved.

Honestly, this is the wrong place to be asking these questions. No one here can adequately answer them, me included. Get a lawyer.
posted by bepe at 4:33 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a friend (not in IN) that is a traffic defense lawyer. he specializes in DUI cases, and I can't see how his fees would ever make it past a few thousand for something like this. So I would find a traffic defense lawyer to talk to and not just the general criminal defense lawyer. Quite frankly a case like this might not be worth their time, which is why you could be getting the high quotes.
posted by COD at 5:45 PM on July 28, 2014

"you should mention the .10 because it's factual"

Do not do this. Police are allowed to lie to you. As tyllwin pointed out, there are a number of ways the number reported, even if the operator wasn't lying, are not an accurate reflection of the circumstances. The OP does not have sufficient reason to know that she actually blew a .10 and that it was an accurate reading of her BAC. Talk to a lawyer and listen to what they tell you.
posted by katemonster at 7:40 PM on July 28, 2014

Just a quick note on expunctions-- even if you have your record legally expunged through appropriate judicial action, it can take months before the record is changed in the state system, and even once that has happened, most employers get your record from companies who maintain private databases of criminal histories. These companies are notoriously bad at keeping their information current, so your state could do everything it is supposed to clear your record, but the charge/conviction could still show up anyway on a private background search. Depending on where you live, you may have some legal recourse should something like this happen, but that doesn't necessarily make up for the hassle of losing your job and having to bring an action to enforce your rights.

That said, get a free/low cost consult with an employment attorney through your state bar's pro bono hotline before telling your employer anything, as even the most amazing public defenders aren't always up to speed on civil and employment consequences of a record.
posted by Schielisque at 2:02 AM on July 30, 2014

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