After having to deal with a DUI of my own, I'd like to pass on my knowledge of how helpful it can be to have a lawyer defend your case.
Reasons You Need a Lawyer If You Were Arrested for a DUI in Mississippi
Being arrested for a DUI can be one of the most embarrassing experiences of your life. After being arrested, the best thing you can do for yourself is accept that you have made an error in judgement and seek legal counsel.
My first-hand experience of having to deal with a DUI charge prompted me to write this article in hopes that fellow Mississippians with a first offense DUI will have a better resource than I did. The following information is intended to educate you on how important it can be to have an experienced DUI attorney defend your case if you are a first time DUI offender in Mississippi.
A first offense DUI in Mississippi can end up costing you upwards of $10,000. By hiring a DUI Lawyer, you could easily walk away owing less than $3,000.
The entire DUI process can be very confusing, with what seems like endless additional fees related to your crime. Having a lawyer will provide you with an experienced source of information and guidance. The #1 way a lawyer can help you is by entering a non-adjudication plea.
What Is Non-Adjudication and How Much Does It Cost?
In layman's terms, non-adjudication means that your DUI charge will be expunged from your record if you comply with all the rules of the court and serve a 6 month to 1 year probation. What many sources don't tell you is that even though the DUI does not show up on your record, if you get a 2nd DUI within 5 years you will be charged as a second time offender and subject to the additional penalties associated with a 2nd offense DUI.
To be eligible for non-adjudication you must have a clean criminal record, with no priors or unpaid fines. While non-adjudication is exclusive to first time DUI offenders, I have seen instances where 2nd time offenders were accepted for non-adjudication. I don't know the specific circumstances, but assume that it was because of either sympathy or the fact that the offender was underage.
The cost of filing a non-adjudication plea form in Mississippi is $250, whether your plea is accepted or not.
How Does Non-Adjudication Save Me Money?
Having a DUI on your personal record can affect certain aspects of your life such as job opportunity, current job requirements, driving privileges, and automobile insurance. Since being accepted for non-adjudication expunges the DUI from your public record, most of these areas will not be affected.
If you have a DUI on your public record your auto insurance provider will find out about it and require you to pay more for High Risk Auto Insurance. The current average yearly premium for high risk auto insurance in Mississippi is $2,100 ($175/month). That's $700 more than the average yearly cost for full coverage auto insurance and over $1,600 more than the average yearly cost for liability auto insurance. Since a DUI stays on your record for five years, you can expect to pay between $3,500 and $8,000 more than you would have normally paid for auto insurance coverage. To summarize, non-adjudication can save you as much as $8,000 on car insurance alone.
Many job applications require you to state whether you have been convicted of a crime before. In Mississippi a DUI is a considered a criminal offense and applies to such a question. To summarize, if your case is non-adjudicated, you will not be required to list a past conviction on job applications and have the opportunity to earn money to pay for your fines.
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While having a DUI on your record does not affect most jobs, if your job requires you to operate a motorized vehicle you could be in danger of suspension or worse, dismissal, which will only complicate your financial situation. In the case of non-adjudication, many companies will allow you to continue normal operations by installing interlock devices or place you in a different department if an interlock device is not an option until your probation has ended, especially if you are an asset to the company. To summarize, if your case is non-adjudicated, your current job may allow you to continue work as usual with the implement of an interlock device, allowing you to continue making money.
What Is an Interlock Device and How Much Do They Cost?
The installment of an interlock device is required by Mississippi law if you plan on driving during your probationary period. The device is essentially a breathalyzer that allows you to start your vehicle. An interlock device resembles a CB radio handset with a protruding tube you have to blow in before you car will crank. This device is specifically designed to deter drunk driving as your BAC level must register below the state minimum (0.08%) before your car will start.
The installment of an interlock device is approximately $150. There is also a $75 monthly maintenance/monitoring fee. You are not actually buying the device itself. You are only renting it until your probation has ended. The total cost you can expect to pay for interlock device installment and monitoring during your probation is $600 ($1,050 for 1 year probations).
If you should choose to install an interlock device, you will be required to go to a DMV to obtain a restricted Driver's License before you can legally operate a vehicle. Be sure to ask your lawyer which documents you will need to show the DMV. Usually, you'll need the court order and the form confirming you have an interlock device installed or ready to be installed.
Mandatory Alcohol Education Courses
Mississippi law requires everyone that receives a 1st offense DUI to attend alcohol education courses, also known as MASEP. MASEP is a four course program. Each course is three hours long. To learn more about MASEP, visit their website. You must complete this program before your license will be reinstated. Upon completion of the program, you will receive a certificate that will need to be mailed along with a $175 check or money order to the Mississippi Department of Motor Vehicles Headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi so that your license can be reinstated.
How to Find a Local DUI Lawyer
In summary, non-adjudication can save you up to $8,000 in auto insurance coverage, help you keep your current job or help your chances of getting hired for a new job. DUI lawyers often have a good rapport with court officials and are the best option you have for either getting a DUI charge dismissed or non-adjudicated.
While some DUI lawyers will accept your case for as little as $500, the average cost of a DUI lawyer in Mississippi for a 1st offense DUI is $1,700.
To find a lawyer near you and get a free estimate. You can also usually find DUI attorneys in the phone book or yellow pages. If you don't have the money to afford a DUI lawyer, you can request a lawyer to be appointed by the court to oversee your case at the expense of the court. Have some questions in mind to determine if the lawyer is capable of helping you.
Questions Your Lawyer May Ask You
Most lawyers offer a free upfront consultation and information on what you can expect during the judicial process. Out of the three lawyers I talked to, some of the questions they asked were:
- Where were you when you were pulled over?
- What was the reason the arresting officer had for pulling you over?
- Is this your first DUI offense?
- Have you been convicted of a crime in the past?
- Do you have any unpaid parking tickets or fines?
- When was the last time you got a traffic ticket?
- Did the arresting officer read you your rights?
- Were you offered a phone call?
- How long were you incarcerated?
- Were you physically or verbally abused by any member of law enforcement during your arrest or incarceration?
- Did you have an open container when you were pulled over?
- Did you take a field sobriety test?
- Did you take a breathalyzer test at the site of the arrest?
- Did you take a breathalyzer test at the precinct?
- What was your BAC according to the breathalyzer test?
- Do you want to fight the case or plea for non-adjudication?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Jesse James