We hear it on T.V. all the time: You have the right to remain silent and you have the right to an attorney. But, what exactly does that mean when you face arrest for driving impaired?
Where does this right come from? How do we use it to our full advantage?
Gideon vs. Wainright
Prior to 1963, state courts did not guarantee defendants the right to counsel. But a man named Clarence Gideon changed that when he faced felony charges in the state of Florida. At that time, Florida did not appoint counsel for all defendants. Mr. Gideon, therefore, represented himself in the jury trial. The jury convicted him.
Later, Mr. Gideon appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), alleging violation of his due process rights. SCOTUS agreed, and reversed Mr. Gideon’s conviction, sending the case back to the Florida court.
How does this benefit you?
Mr. Gideon’s case changed U.S. history, With it, since 1963 under the U.S. Consitution, anyone arrested must be represented and/or allowed to consult with an attorney; What does this mean for you immediately after an arrest for DWI?
Practically speaking, it gives you the right to determine whether to submit to a breath test, or other Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) screening. Breath tests are the test most frequently used. Depending, however, on when you last consumed alcohol or the attorney’s trial strategies, an attorney might alternately suggest a urine or blood test.
Give yourself your best shot
A DWI arrest is stressful. A conviction often results in work and housing issues, in addition to the financial fallout of attorney’s fees, court costs, fines and increased insurance rates. Our Constitution guarantees us benefits that ensure our best chances in court, but it is up to us to employ them. If we fail to, we risk losing our case and facing the concomitant difficulties and obstacles.
Protect yourself and your future: know you rights and use them.