I got pulled over for a DUI, but I cannot afford an attorney…
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being stopped for drunken driving, you are probably worried about the consequences. You might initially be concerned about what happens if you do not have the money to hire an attorney.
If you are afraid of what may happen if you do not have an attorney to defend you, you may think it is wise to try to dissuade the officers from arresting you on the spot. However, rambling off stories about how you “only had two beers, but that was two hours ago, and you swear you are not drunk” could land you in a whole lot of trouble.
It is important that you understand you are not legally required to answer any questions police officers may ask you on the spot (or later at the station, even). If you tell them anything, you may self-incriminate and hurt your chances of a favorable outcome in court.
The arresting officer is required by law to read you your Miranda Rights—that is, a warning given to criminal suspects in police custody before they are interrogated.
Every U.S. jurisdiction has its own regulations regarding what, precisely, must be said to a person arrested or placed in a custodial situation, but the typical warning states:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”
Know that everyone has the right to consult with an attorney before answering any questions and before going to trial. A person has a right to counsel at any stage of an investigation or custody, even while being arrested for a DUI.
Specifically, the right to counsel was established in the United States Constitution under the Fifth Amendment. It states:
“No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law…”
Moreover, the Sixth Amendment establishes the right to counsel as long as that right does not unduly interfere with the investigation:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”
It is your legal right to be afforded a lawyer to help fight your case. Know your rights. Always remember that you have the right to counsel and that you do not have to answer any arresting officer’s question without having first spoken to an attorney.
Why is all of this important? Because even if you cannot afford an attorney, you do have the right to have counsel provided for you. In the event that you can afford legal representation, make sure that you are hiring the best representation possible. It is imperative that you are comfortable with your attorney and are confident in the job that he/she will do on your behalf.
This post was intended to provide general information only and is not intended as specific legal advice. You should not rely upon this information alone, but should consult legal counsel regarding the application of the laws and regulations discussed and as applied to your specific case or circumstance.