Our three law partners, Vic Carmody, Lance Mixon and Kevin Stewart, are the authors of the leading legal treatise on Mississippi DUI laws. It is published by the world's largest legal book publisher, Thomson-Reuters. Plus, for over 25 years, our law firm attorneys have been the presenters are a Continuing legal Education seminar on MS DUI laws.
This article is intended to inform you of basic information and to answer frequently asked questions. Our three Super Lawyers rated driving under the influence attorneys are prepared to talk to you at your Free Lawyer Consultation.20 Frequently Asked Questions About DUI Laws in Mississippi
1. If I have a DUI in Mississippi offense, how can I contact your DUI lawyers in Mississippi and when can I meet with one of you, by video call or in person?
Daytime contact can be on one of (3) methods:
- Local Telephone: 601-969-DUIS (3847)
- Nationwide Toll-Free: 800-360-DUIS (3847)
- Office Phone: 601-948-4444
Normally, your call or e-mail will be received by my office receptionist and/or my legal staff. Initial information about your DUI case should be taken in a telephone or office conference and either of these conferences are free as your initial consultation. Normally, an office conference is scheduled the day of your contact or within a few days thereafter.
2. What effect does a DUI conviction have on my record?
For first time offenders in Mississippi, a DUI conviction stays on your driving record for five (5) years, during which time any additional DUI convictions will increase the punishment. The charge itself will be on your record (rap sheet) for life. The DUI charge can have an adverse effect on your employment, especially if driving is a major part of your work duties. In addition, the DUI conviction will cause you to obtain SR-22 insurance (also known as high risk insurance) for three years. Only high-risk car insurance companies write SR-22 insurance. Should you drop the insurance, your driving license in Mississippi will once again be suspended. Should you be charged with driving while your license is suspended in Mississippi, the fine is $500; there is a ten-day to six-month jail term, and your license is suspended for an additional six months. The DUI charge on your record could also cause you problems with your credit report and with rental car companies.
These problems occur when DUIs appear on your record. You always can contest any DUI case, to take the matter to court. In many cases for which a non-adjudication or future expungement is not possible by negotiated plea, a pending DUI should be fought. This allows you to seek to obtain an outright acquittal or conviction on a lesser underlying charge, like failure to maintain lane. These are some of the reasons that I fight for an acquittal in your case.
3. What does a plea in a DUI trial mean?
There are basically three types of pleas in DUI cases. The first plea is taken on a date called an “arraignment” date, usually your first court appearance. At the arraignment, the court will ask how you plead. Should you plead guilty, then the court will proceed to make a finding of guilty and assess fines, court costs, and the appropriate jail sentence. Should you plead not guilty, the court will assign you a trial date. You will appear in court later, where you may change your plea from not guilty to guilty, or you may plead nolo, which means “nolo contendere” or no contest. In any of these pleas: a plea of not guilty, a plea of guilty, or a plea of no contest, the judge must still make a finding. It is only in a plea of not guilty, however, that a trial will ensue. At the end of the trial, the judge makes a finding of guilty or not guilty at the Municipal or Justice Court level. If there is a no contest (nolo contendere) or guilty plea made, then the court proceeds to make a finding of guilt and impose a fine and jail term consistent with the law on DUIs.
4. If I had a drunk driving (or impaired driving) conviction in another state, will it show up in Mississippi?
Drunk driving convictions from other states can show up in Mississippi in any number of ways. Most states are now linked together through computer systems run by law enforcement agencies for the purposes of sharing information one state to another. This information can be accessed by either the court, or the prosecutor, or the Highway Patrol. Should this information become available under certain circumstances, these previous convictions can be used to enhance or increase the punishment for a subsequent DUI arrest here in the state of Mississippi if said convictions are within the last five (5) years of the date of the current charge in the state of Mississippi. Sometimes these convictions do not show up, and our job as your attorney would be to fight any convictions that happen out of state.
5. I now have your questionnaire to prepare and I am having a difficult time remembering each and every detail. Why is the questionnaire needed and what is its purpose?
The information that I request in your questionnaire is part of the attorney work product. It is privileged information between you and me. The information is further requested so that I may understand the facts and circumstances in your case, which would give me the ability to question the officer at trial about certain aspects that we think are important in your defense. It also assists me in any sort of DUI litigation and with the government in any negotiations concerning your case.
6. How do you decide if my case should go to trial?
When we receive the questionnaire, we review it to determine which court of action would be the best for your case. I review every questionnaire personally. This enables me to compare your answers with information we receive from law enforcement reports. This comparison of answers and reports forms the basis of my preparation for trial in the Municipal or Justice courts.
We also evaluate which court will decide your case. We also consider how many alcohol-related or drug-related offenses you may have had in your lifetime. Lastly, we look to see if there are any extenuating circumstances that would require any special defense. Considering the information provided, I can make the best recommendation to you either at your free consultation, or as the ongoing court process unfolds.
7. How will a DUI arrest affect my out-of-state driver's license?
Mississippi cannot suspend an out-of-state license; only your home state can suspend your license. But, the record of conviction will be reported out to your DMV, DDS or BMV office in other states. Mississippi can only suspend your privilege to drive in this state. A refusal to submit to an officer's request for a breath, blood, or urine test MAY result in a suspension in Mississippi (if we are unsuccessful at the administrative hearing), but MAY or MAY NOT cause you to be suspended in your home state. The rules for handling a refusal report from Mississippi vary in each state. Some states do nothing in the non-resident driver's home state for a “refusal” to be tested in Mississippi.
8. The officer took my driver's license. When can I get it back?
Mississippi law permits an officer to confiscate the license of any motorist who is arrested for DUI. Do not just apply for a new license because you can create even more problems for yourself by possibly committing perjury on the application form. At your free consultation, ask us about how and when you may seek to have your license returned, or possibly retrieved from the prosecutor so that you can have your plastic license prior to trial. If you qualify to consider the first DUI offense ignition interlock device program, this can be part of what our law firm covers at your free interview.
9. Do I need a lawyer?
Every person can represent himself or herself in court. Because DUI is such a critical matter, however, it is not generally a wise choice to go to court unrepresented. Your driver's license, your freedom, potential jail time and your future employment options may hang in the balance. The choice is yours. Our attorneys near me in Mississippi advise taking advantage of our free consultation to see whether you want to hire an attorney.
10. What is the “10-day” rule applicable to administrative license suspension matters?
In Mississippi, if you either refused to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test, the state will attempt to suspend your license or privilege to drive for 90 days to one year. This attempt to take away your right to drive will occur PRIOR to any criminal trial for DUI (in most cases) and will be automatically entered against you unless you file a test refusal petition within 10 calendar days after the mailing of a notice of letter of intent to suspend. Filing a test refusal petition does not postpone the suspension.
In a significant percentage of cases, we can prevent any suspension. The license you receive when there has been a refusal to take a state-administered test is valid for only forty-five (45) days from the date of the arrest. This license cannot be renewed or extended for any additional days. The test refusal hearing is an informal hearing. No jurors are involved. This is an additional proceeding that we handle for you. The decision will be announced at the administrative hearing to agree with the State to suspend your license or to return it to you. The hearing is needed to determine if you will be able to retain your driving privileges until the end of your DUI case or if you will lose the right to drive in Mississippi prior to your trial. In additional, this hearing offers us a great opportunity to cross-examine the officer under oath about the facts of your case.
11. Why should I hire your attorneys near me?
I have the best staffed office in Mississippi, which limits its cases to defense of DUI charges. Victor Carmody is a former police lieutenant and the Jackson Police Department and was trained and certified in breath alcohol testing. Plus, he was trained on field sobriety tests. Our Mississippi attorneys have received advanced training in courses on finding flaws in blood alcohol concentration, police arrest procedures and on criminal trial practice. Senior partner Carmody has been Board Certified by the National College of DUI Defense, as sanctioned by the American Bar Association. In addition, I am a member of a national network of other DUI practitioners who exchange and share information about new DUI laws, national and local trends in the law, and trial tactics. In short, I strive to give my clients the best representation possible.
12. Why am I receiving mail from DUI attorneys seeking to represent me?
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that “commercial free speech” is protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Hence, some attorneys choose to hire companies to go to each police station and look up the names and addresses of everyone arrested in each period. Then a mass mailing is sent, hoping to “attract” potential clients. Many of our clients come to this office with several letters, including one from our law firm. Some of the letters focus on pleading guilty, a resolution which our law group rarely considers until all other viable options are explored.
13. If I am convicted, what is the worst thing that can happen to me?
The “minimum” punishment information is published elsewhere in this Web site, but basically fines, community service, probation and many more conditions. You should read this carefully, paying special attention to increased punishment requirements if you have prior offenses. Beyond these “guidelines,” we must evaluate your case based upon the facts, the prosecutor, your record, and propensity of the judge in his/her sentencing for DUI cases. Our criminal defense attorneys will review these details at your free consultation.
14. Will I get a harsher sentence if I fight the case than if I plead guilty?
That depends on many factors. This question is one that is case-specific and judge-specific. Some judges may punish a person more after a jury trial than in a bench trial (a trial in front of the judge only). Judges in Mississippi have the discretion to allow a jury or a bench trial. Your case may have a fantastic legal issue that needs to be appealed to a higher court, and this may require some sort of trial to be able to obtain the right of appeal. Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have about these issues at your free consultation.
15. Do I need to see an alcohol (or drug) counselor?
Maybe. I always encourage anyone facing alcohol-related or drug-related offenses to get an ASSESSMENT for any potential problem that may exist. If this offense is not your first alcohol-related offense, our free consultation with you will likely result in a recommendation that a private assessment be conducted. There are many reasons that this is a wise thing to do, not the least of which is correcting a costly and potentially dangerous health problem. We will discuss how this assessment (and treatment, if recommended by your counselor) can be a “silver lining” for even a very bad case. We have lists of counselors if you need names and phone numbers.
16. Should I go to driving school (MASEP) now?
No. MASEP (Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program) is a course given over the course of a month in four (4) three-hour sessions. The MASEP course will lower your license suspension from one (1) year to ninety (90) days. The course is available to those convicted of a DUI first offense.
17. If I fight the case and lose, do I get any money refunded on legal fees?
No. Unlike personal injury cases in which an attorney can agree to accept a percentage of any financial recovery in a CIVIL case, the State Bar of Mississippi prohibits “contingency” fees in criminal cases. With a surgeon, not every operation is a success. No one would go back and ask for a refund of the surgery room and other costs or the operation. In many respects, a DUI attorney (like a surgeon) is compensated for his or her time, knowledge, expertise, and legal acumen. This is our impaired driving attorneys' work “product.” In addition, we set a “fixed” fee, not hourly. So, you will know how much you will pay for legal services in taking your one opportunity to win and clear your good name.
18. Beyond legal fees, what other costs or expenses will I have in this case if I fight it?
Disregarding fines (which are covered in the Web site), there are some costs in the typical DUI case. I use court reporters to prepare transcripts of City and Justice Court trials for use in later hearings. This cost is usually in the Two to Three Hundred Dollar ($200 -$300) range. In addition, the cost of an appeal bond from the lower court to the higher court will be needed in most cases. And on occasion, expenses for expert witnesses will be incurred should the case require their testimony. These costs will be explained at your free lawyer consultation.
19. Do we have any control over which judge or prosecutor I get for my case?
Generally, no. Computer assignments or rotation of judges makes most court assignments for each case random. Criminal justice attorneys defending our clients have very little input about how a case is assigned, or which prosecutor will handle it.
20. Does the fact that Mr. Carmody is so well known hurt my chances to get a favorable disposition without trial?
Not that we can tell, based upon our results and the results that we see other attorneys obtain. We strive to project an image of being fully prepared whenever we come to court, and we want every prosecutor, judge, and police officer to know that. We do not “attack” police officers unless good cause exists to do so. But we do thoroughly cross-examine the LEO (law enforcement officer) about every important aspects of your arrest. Many times, the very fact that the prosecutor knows we are in court to fight them assists our legal team to get “deals” that some other attorneys might not be offered. Be being known as fighters, our law office intends to communicate to the prosecutors, police officers, and the courts that we are “ready,” and will represent our client to the fullest extent permitted by law.
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