If you follow my blog, you know that last month I had three glasses of wine, waited three hours, thought I was ok to drive, drove one block from a parking garage and pulled over realizing I wasn’t ok to drive, and managed to pull over across the street from five cop cars waiting, patiently, to catch anyone leaving the bars that might be remotely intoxicated. I didn’t even get pulled over, the cop knocked on my window after I parked.
You can read my earlier post of the details, but the short of the story is that I made a mistake, and now I have to pay for it. Thank goodness I’m not in debt, that I’m single, and that my financial responsibilities are too myself. Still, the whole procedures of having a giant DUI stamp on your head are, rightfully so, a giant pain. Hopefully you’ll never have to experience this in person, but so far I’ve spent $3,000 on a lawyer, expect to spend $2,000 on a fine, and who knows how much more in car insurance once I’m found guilty or take a plea bargain. Then there’s also the cost of the drunk driving classes, the cost of missing work for court and DMV hearings, and the cost of any interest you need to pay on loans to cover all of those fees.
Beyond the dollars lost, getting a DUI is, I hear, another 10 years of headaches. Again, I take getting a DUI seriously, and have learned my lesson and then some. That doesn’t change how frustrating the whole experience is, once you get in trouble the first time. This is probably true for any criminal occurrences, but I find it odd that you’re arrested, go to jail, let go in a few hours, and then you’re in this waiting period of freedom for a month or more before they have time to hear your case. It wasn’t clear at all how much I should pay for a lawyer, or if a lawyer is really going to make a difference in the result of my case. I was so frustrated by the situation that I didn’t want to “shop around” or negotiate like I normally would. One of my friends had a DUI a few years ago, so I asked her what to do, she recommended this lawyer, and I just said OK. I was incredibly ashamed and embarrassed and didn’t want to think about it or talk about it any more than necessary.
After getting a DUI, you have 10 days to request a temporary license from the DMV (at least in California.) Then you have another DMV meeting about a month after that. There’s another hearing, in court, to set the date of your pre-trial arraignment. Apparently the first DMV hearing can be attended by your lawyer, and you don’t have to be there. Same thing goes for the first court hearing. Then you don’t have to go to the second DMV hearing, but you can, and it may help. And you’re required to go to the pre-trial arraignment in court. After that, I think how it works is that you can take a plea bargain. I assume this will come with the big fine, requirement to attend what I like to call “I’m a dumbass” courses, weekender work (free orange vests and sun!), and likely a license suspension for a month plus five months of a limited license that lets me drive only to work and back. Plus, for 10 years I have this on my record, which really isn’t too bad unless you get a second DUI (which I won’t), but it apparently means you can’t travel to Canada and if you ever apply for a job that asks if you have a record, you have to put this on your application, which will probably hold you back from some opportunities. For 10 years. Until I’m 37, I’m fucked.
That is, unless my lawyer can somehow prove that I was unlawfully arrested. There’s a small possibility there — I wasn’t pulled over — the only reason the cop bothered me at all is because someone apparently called 911 on a car leaving the parking garage around the same time I left. I don’t know what detail they have on the car leaving the garage, but from what I overheard while at the jail, the report said the car was a different make and model than the one I drive. As I was parked at the time when the cop walked up to my car, knocked on my door, which I then opened, and he asked me to step out of the car, and things went downhill from there.
There definitely are some laws (albeit minimal ones) to protect people from being unlawfully arrested. I’m not sure exactly what happens if they prove you were breaking the law after you were arrested — the fact of the matter is that I had .11 BAC and I shouldn’t have left the parking garage to begin with. A huge part of me wanted to just plead guilty, but the way the law works you are screwed if you do that, and you’re much better off trying to fight it, even if that means you end up with a plea bargain for wet reckless or a slightly smaller fine. I hate that I can’t just own up to my error and call it a day. Instead, this is a nightmare. And a month after I was arrested, the nightmare is only beginning.