If I’m 22 and was charged with drunkenness on New Years Eve, do I need to hire a lawyer?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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If I’m 22 and was charged with drunkenness on New Years Eve, do I need to hire a lawyer?

Or will the court offer me options to have the charge expunged on my court date. I am a first-time offender. Additionally, how much is all of this going to cost?

Asked on January 7, 2016 under Criminal Law, South Carolina


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

You need an attorney.  DWI for first time offenders are only misdemeanor level offenses, which makes many people think.... "It's just a misdemeanor... so it won't be a big deal to enter a plea."  Unfortunately, DWI's have some of the worst collateral consequences... via driver's license surcharges, driver license suspensions,  and higher insurance rates.... just to name a few.  If you enter into this plea lightly or if you assume that a prosecutor will treat you fairly, then you could commit yourself to an obligation that could have some serious long term consequences.
A good attorney will explain all of the possible ramifications of a plea of guilty and any alternatives to entering a plea to the offense of DWI.  An attorney that routinely practices in your area can also explain if/when you will become eligible for an expuction and any specialized programs in your jurisdiction.  Some jurisdictions do have programs that basically allow you to "earn" a dismissal by jumping through certain hoops... but this is not a given in all jurisdictions.  A local attorney can guide you through these processes and procedures.
As far as cost, it really depends on the complexity of the facts of your case.  If you have no defenses and this is a plea case... your attorney's fees won't be too much.  If you have some defenses or challenges to the charge, then you will need more hearings... which will inevitably increase the cost of your defense.  If you decide to challenge the charges with a jury charge, you could be looking at $3000-7000, again... depending of the facts of your case.
I know the price tag can be stressful... but if you loose your job because of suspension, if you loose future job opportunities because of the conviction, if you have to pay a higher insurance rate for the next five years, or if you lose a scholarship because of a conviction...... the cost will be minimal compared to a lifetime of potentially negative consequences.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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