What happens if I go to court by myself, without a DUI attorney?
Many people go to DUI court and represent themselves. You are not required to have representation by a DUI defense attorney.
If you show up for your first court date—called the arraignment—without a DUI attorney, the judge will call you up and ask whether want to plead guilty or not guilty. At this point, you have several options.
You can simply plead guilty to the DUI charge and accept the standard penalties. Or you can ask the judge to postpone the case so you can find and retain a Californi DUI attorney. Or, if you qualify financially, you can ask the judge to appoint a public defender to represent you as to the DUI charge.
But going it alone (without a DUI defense attorney) almost always results in being convicted of DUI. No one will be there to protect your interests, to analyze whether the prosecutors can prove their case, and to negotiate the best deal with the DUI prosecutor and judge.
DUI charges should never be taken lightly. A sustained DUI charge is a criminal conviction with direct and indirect consequences that can impact you for many years. And DUI cases are a specialized sort of criminal matter, involving complex issues of biology, statistics, toxicology and legal analysis. Having an experienced DUI defense attorney with expertise in these issues is definitely in your best interests.
Of course, there are many cases where even with a good DUI attorney, a person still gets convicted of DUI. Some people in this boat lament that they shelled out a lot of money for the California DUI lawyer and have little to show for it. Though they did get some value: presumably, the DUI attorney went to court for them, explained the process, and assisted them in completing the terms of their probation.
In the end, however, the decision whether to hire a good DUI defense attorney is a cost-benefit analysis based on your particular situation. You may lose the case anyway. But retaining a top DUI lawyer certainly gives you your best chance of winning. And winning the DUI case may have profound benefits that last for years to come.