Stopped for DUI in Delaware: 6 Things to Know
Understanding the DWI laws in Delaware can be difficult, making it particularly important to have an experienced attorney who specializes in DWI defense to help with advice and in negotiations with prosecutors. If your recent arrest in Delaware is the first on your record, it’s possible you could qualify for the state’s First Offense Election. That is a first offender program that requires alcohol education, an ignition interlock device after a 30-day driver’s license suspension and a probation period of at least 5 additional months. If you complete the probation period without any additional run-ins with police, the DWI charge will be dismissed.
Here are six important things to know if you are ever stopped for DWI in Delaware.
1. Implied consent and sobriety testing
There was no document you signed and probably no instructions you received when you got your Delaware driver’s license that detailed your obligation to consent to a chemical test – a blood, urine or breath test to assess blood alcohol concentration (BAC). But that consent is implied as an exchange of sorts for the privilege of having a driver’s license. Criminal attorneys in the state point out, however, that there is no implied consent with regard to a field sobriety test. Police officers can ask you to consent to the test, but there is no penalty is you politely decline. In fact, DWI defense attorneys say there are many cases in which sober drivers stumbled and appeared impaired because of nerves and a lack of familiarity with the test.
2. Refusing the chemical test
When a law enforcement officer requests that you take a chemical test – usually at the nearest police station – that indicates you are under arrest. You can refuse to submit to a chemical test, but that violates Delaware’s Implied Consent Law and you will have your car impounded and your license seized and revoked for 1 year. If you are under 21, refusing the chemical test triggers a two-year suspension. Have you improved your chances in court by refusing the test? Defense attorneys say that usually is not the case. In fact, prosecutors will introduce the fact that you refused to take a chemical test as an indication of your guilt.
3. Assume you are on camera
Think of your DWI stop as a performance that very well may be taped by the police officer. The goal of your performance, according to DWI defense attorneys, is to avoid doing or saying anything that might make it look as though you are impaired. The best way to do that, attorneys say, is to say and do as little as possible. Do not consent to a search of your vehicle and, other than identifying yourself and providing insurance and registration papers, politely decline to get into a conversation with the officer. It could be difficult because the officer may ask where you have been or if you have had anything to drink. However, you are not required to answer these questions. You should, however, get out of your car if asked.
4. More than .08 to worry about
Did you know that a blood alcohol content of .08 or above creates a presumption that you are impaired? The .08 BAC cutoff is fairly standard throughout the country. However, it’s important to be aware of other BAC levels that could lead to DWI arrests. If you have a driver under the age of 21 at home, the legal limit in Delaware is .02. For drivers with commercial licenses, such as truck drivers, the limit is .04. Understanding the limit that applies to you can help you make the proper decisions when it comes to having any alcohol and then driving.
5. DUI penalties in Delaware
You were arrested for DWI in Delaware and the question becomes what penalties do you face if convicted? For a first-offense DWI, you can be sentenced to a maximum of 6 months in jail, a fine of $500 to $1,500 and have your license suspended for up to 2 years. A second conviction – it doesn’t matter the amount of time between the two arrests – and the penalties become more significant. You must spend a minimum of 2 days and as much as 18 months in jail. The fine is between $750 and $2,500 and your driver’s license will be suspended between 24 and 30 months. The DWI automatically becomes a felony after the second offense. A fourth offense DWI conviction means 2 to 5 years in prison, a 5-year driver’s license suspension and a fine of between $3,000 and $7,000.
6. Total cost of a DUI in Delaware
One way to measure the impact of a single DWI conviction is to add up the various costs involved. One Delaware DWI attorney has estimated the total cost for a first-offense DWI between $10,000 and $20,000. Some of the costs include up to $250 to reinstate your license, a fine of up to $1,500 and about $1,000 for a year of ignition interlock. The biggest costs are car insurance, which can double or triple once you have a DWI conviction on your record, and attorneys fees, which can vary widely. Will you lose your job because of the conviction? If so, it can be extremely difficult to find a job with a criminal conviction.
The information contained above is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice you should consult an attorney.