If you have been charged with drunk driving and it’s your first offense, you may be wondering if hiring an attorney is worth the money. Many people in this situation wonder the same thing. They question whether the penalties for a first conviction (or plea) are really that bad. They debate whether a lawyer can do anything for them that they cannot do themselves. Some even weigh the idea that legal bills may be more troublesome than any sentence they may receive.

These considerations may seem complex, but the bottom line is simple: Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney – even for a first-time OVI offense – is one of the smarter investments you can make. A good attorney can protect your rights and can potentially mitigate the long-term consequences of a conviction for operating a vehicle under the influence.

Protecting Your Rights

Most people have only a basic knowledge of the law. But OVI cases are often won or lost on the details. For example, did the officer have probable cause to pull you over? Were the field sobriety tests and breathalyzer tests administered correctly? Was the testing equipment properly calibrated?

There are many instances in which OVI suspects have their civil rights violated without knowing it. Your attorney may be able to help you discover violations that could ultimately lead to acquittal or dismissal of the case.

Mitigating Short-Term Consequences

It is true that in most cases, the penalties associated with a first-time OVI conviction can be minor (relative to what they would be for subsequent offenses). Still, sentencing for a first-time conviction should not be taken lightly. It could include a minimum license suspension of six months, fines and mandatory participation in alcohol assessment, education and treatment programs.

Depending on the details of your case and the specific offenses you are charged with, the consequences could be even more significant. An experienced attorney may be able to help you fight the charges successfully or at least reach a resolution that minimizes the consequences of a conviction.

Don’t Forget About Long-Term Consequences

A criminal record can negatively affect your entire future. Whether you are seeking a job, education or affordable housing, an OVI conviction – even and old one – could interfere with those plans.

As we note on our website, OVI records are generally not eligible for expungement if the defendant has been convicted. But it may be possible to expunge OVI records related to arrest and charges if the case is later dismissed or if the defendant is acquitted. An experienced attorney may be able to help you both avoid conviction and seal related records so that they do not show up in a background check.

A first-time OVI is a serious matter that requires a proportional response. Hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney is generally worth the investment if you care about protecting your rights and your future.