Overview of Out-of-State DUIs
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DUI’s are not limited to a person’s home state. When a DUI arrest occurs in a location you would rather not visit again, the temptation is to reason that you are never going back, so why worry about the out-of-state DUI arrest. Regardless of where you are from, the worst thing you can do is to ignore an out-of-state DUI arrest. DUI procedures vary by state, but all will generally require you to appear in court and make a decision on how you would like to dispose of your DUI case. Consulting with an attorney who handles DUI’s in the state where you were arrested can be crucial to effectively resolving your case.
>How to Handle an Out-of-State DUI Case
Procedurally, your first step in dealing with an out-of-state or out-of-country DUI arrest is to stay on top of the progress of your charges. With the help of the Internet, you can track down the contact information for most county or parish clerks so that you can learn when your case is filed and where you are required to report for court.
Even though you would like the out-of-state DUI to go away, avoiding a court appearance usually results in a warrant being issued for your arrest. In addition to an out-of-state DUI warrant, some states will charge you with the new offense of failure to appear or bail jumping, which will only increase the number of charges you must defend against. Once you have a court date set, you will be given time to hire a DUI attorney; do not wait until your first court appearance to start looking for one.
How to Find a DUI Attorney
Selecting a good DUI attorney is critical to your case. Distance will obviously be an issue, so start looking for an attorney as soon as possible. You may know a good DUI attorney in your home state. However, if that attorney is not licensed in the state in which you were arrested for the DUI, they will not be able to do much to help you with your case.
You want and need an attorney that understands the procedural and substantive DUI laws in the state in which you were arrested. Hiring an attorney that does not know or understand out-of-state DUI laws can result in a waiver of certain valuable rights. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to consult with additional attorneys before you finalize a plea for an out-of-state DUI.
Even though your home-state DUI attorney cannot help with an out-of-state DUI arrest, they may be able to help you with license suspension issues. Many states will automatically suspend your license after a DUI arrest or breath test refusal. Through interstate compact agreements, the license suspension will follow you back to your home state. Because the suspension is now in your home state, your local DUI attorney may be able to help reduce the negative effects of the suspension in your home state in the form of an appeal of hardship license.
Out-of-Country DUI’s and Finding an Attorney
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may also want to consult with an immigration attorney from your native country to review the consequences of a DUI plea back home. If you are a Canadian citizen, you will still be allowed to return to Canada. If you only have a misdemeanor, or lower level, DUI, re-entry into the United States to resolve your DUI should not be a problem. However, if you are eventually convicted of a felony, which is a higher level DUI, the United States may eventually deny you re-entry. An immigration attorney can best advise you based on your total criminal history regarding the effect of your plea to a DUI offense.
If you are a U.S. citizen who travels frequently to Canada, you may also need to visit with an immigration attorney. Canada frowns on DUI’s and considers them a very serious offense. Canada may deny you entry even for a misdemeanor offense, even though the United States would not.
Entering a Plea for Out-of-State DUI Offenses
You are not required to enter a plea of guilty to an out-of-state DUI offense. However, you are required to make an appearance in court and decide which direction you want to take to resolve your case—trial or plea bargain. A local attorney can tell you whether the evidence against you is viable and what alternatives you may have through the plea bargaining system, like entering a plea to an alternative charge.
The most important thing to remember is to collect good information before you enter a plea. Understand the consequences of a plea bargain before you accept a DUI conviction on your criminal history. Like the license suspension, an out-of-state DUI will follow you back to your home state and could be used against you as an enhancement for any subsequent DUI arrests.