If you just got a DUI charge (aka OMVI, OVI, DWI, etc.) you are likely also experiencing an upheaval of crappy feelings and emotions….. anger, regret, anxiety, embarrassment, dread, maybe even self-hate. These are absolutley normal responses. This blog is written to shed some perspective on your emotional reactions and to encourage you to develop a proactive plan so you emerge a better person on the other side.
When Strong Emotions Aren’t Subsiding as Quickly as You Would Like
Everyone responds differently to an event like a DUI. The emotional impact typically varies with the severity of the incident… the arresting officer’s demeanor, whether or not there was an accident and/or injuries, how much public or professional exposure the DUI charge is causing you, was their time spent in jail, etc. Many of our DUI assessment clients report the early signs of PTSD due to the abrupt and extremely negative thoughts, feelings, and memories associated with their DUI arrest. Every year we see dozens of folks, suddenly financially devastated by a DUI. Every year we see high-achieving professionals who spent a terrible night in jail followed by a local news story about them. Every year we see people falsely accused and arrested who wanted to fight the charges but felt the only rational solution was a plea deal. Ultimately, it is usually a shocking, abrupt, and emotionally terrible experience no matter who it is or where it happened.
If you are in this situation and still feeling emotionally overwhelmed two days after the incident we highly recommend that you speak with your physician or a mental health professional. Crushing depressive thoughts (considering self-harm), extreme anxiety (panic attacks or inability to focus), nightmares, flashbacks, unusual anger, or lashing out at loved ones or complete strangers, can all be signs of a bigger problem setting in. If strong emotions or irrational behavior isn’t subsiding quickly, take preventative steps rather than waiting it out. The last thing you want on top of a DUI is an additional poor choice made in a moment of intense reaction after a DUI arrest.
Get Educated But Don’t Flood Yourself With Too Much Information
The internet is loaded with DUI information and marketing. You can eliminate the vast majority of it by searching for information regarding DUI laws in the state where the offense occurred. This will point you in the right direction but ultimately you have to deal with a specific prosecutor and a judge that have their own style and nuanced procedures. This is why it is vital to find an attorney who does business in the same local court where the offense occurred. Even if you are considering pleading guilty, our advice is that you should hire a reputable attorney. Attorneys are not there just to “get people out of their charges”, they are there to make sure you are fairly represented in court and that any punishment received is appropriate for your offense. If you go to court without an experienced attorney you are at high risk for receiving the maximum in penalties, many of which could affect you permanently in regards to a public legal record, your ability to drive, impact on your occupation, and more. Lastly, make sure the attorney is one that specializes in DUI defense. This is no time to be funding someone who is on the DUI learning curve, or trying to save a thousand dollars by using your uncle’s buddy who is actually a divorce attorney.
Take a Proactive Stance Toward Your Offense
If you received a DUI charge, obviously something went wrong somewhere. The sooner you take an honest look at what went wrong the better. Let your attorney be your defense in court while you focus on seeing to it that this never happens to you again.
How do you begin that process? Many attorneys will recommend that you get an alcohol and/or drug assessment as soon as possible, even before your first or second appearance in court. Why? Because an alcohol and/or drug assessment will be a "win-win" for you.
Let’s think this through… If your assessment finds you have no alcohol or drug use disorder/diagnosis, it often helps the judge see you as a generally responsible citizen who presents a lower risk to the local community. More importantly, it helps you know where you stand.
If your assessment doesn’t identify you as having a substance use diagnosis but it does show that you have some risks, then the evaluator will probably also give you some recommendations to decrease your risks in the future (e.g. completing some alcohol education).
If your assessment finds that you have some level of an alcohol or drug use disorder (mild, moderate, or severe) then you can begin remedying or treating it right away. Judges like it when people have been evaluated, take any recommendations seriously, and have already sprung into action to address the issue.
All of the above assessment scenarios are positive in terms of how you present yourself to the court. By contrast, when the judge sees someone who hasn’t lifted a finger to assess why the DUI occurred, the reality is he or she is more inclined to view the person as defensive, irresponsible, or trying to cover up a drug or alcohol problem. You have to remember the judge isn’t seeing you in a vacuum. The judge is seeing you in a context against all the other DUI cases seen in their lifetime. You want to stand out as someone among that relatively small group of defendants who has a cooperative attitude, is extremely proactive and objectively showing him or her just how proactive you have been since the day you were arrested.
Talk to your attorney about whether an alcohol and/or drug assessment might be a good place to start mitigating your case. Even if your attorney doesn’t think you would benefit in court, we think it would be good to ask yourself from a personal perspective if you could benefit from an objective and professional look at your alcohol or drug use.
If Getting An Assessment Makes Sense, Where Am I Going to Find Someone to Do It?
Due to COVID lockdowns, this type of service has primarily moved to the internet via telehealth. New Directions has provided these professional assessments online throughout the United States for the last 15 years. You can contact us directly at 800-671-8589. We also suggest you read this blog entry about finding a professional and timely assessment service that will be accepted by the court you are appearing in.