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Don’t get too “crafty”

Vermont: It’s home to some tall-ass ski slopes, gallons upon gallons of maple syrup, a whole bunch of covered bridges, and – unsurprisingly – a productive and innovative new generation of craft brewers. Apparently, translating unique culinary experiences into ways to get drunk is just what the kids are into these days. The comparatively tiny population of the great Green Mountain State is no exception. But what happens, one might dare to wonder, when you polish off just one too many beautifully-decorated bottles and find that your driving hands (and not to mention, brain) simply ain’t what they were, say, an hour ago? What happens if you ignore that realization, say, “fuck it,” and decide to take those winding mountain roads head-on?

There may not be a whole lot of people in Vermont, but you’d better believe there are enough officers of the law hanging around to turn an innocent, drunken drive into the headache to end all headaches. Landing a DUI in VT usually means loss of license, expensive self-evaluations, and the embarrassing, mandatory choice between a hefty fine or a stint behind bars – not to mention the nasty blow your reputation will undoubtedly endure. Pro-tip #1: Don’t drink and drive! However, if you (or a loved one) have already landed in such a conundrum, fear not: You’re about to learn everything you need to know and more. And, you’re already in the best of places to find an experienced legal counsel.

What are my rights?

The state of Vermont has a reputation for being a generally liberal and freedom-loving place. When it comes to any arrest-type situation, one has to wonder: “Well, I know I screwed up, but I still have rights – don’t I?”

A DUI conviction will remain on both your driving and your criminal record for life, so it’s in your best interest to at least try and fight it, and of course your first and perhaps most fundamental right in Vermont and across this great country of ours is that you have the right to do so. It’s also worth noting that you have a right to retain your license after being charged. If the DMV doesn’t hear from you within 7 days of being charged, your license will be automatically suspended. And that’s gonna make the rest of the process a lot harder to deal with. Upon being charged, you’ll receive a notice from the arresting officer; all you need to do is sign where it says to sign in order to request a hearing, and boom: Access granted.

Even declining a breathalyzer test to begin with is technically within your rights as a driver on those green mountainous roads – but there’s a catch. Yes, you are allowed to say, “You know what, officer? I really don’t feel like blowing into that thing right now,” and not immediately get carted off to jail.

However, denying a breathalyzer test automatically signs you up for a three-strikes-you’re-out type of situation. In other words: The first time you do it, your license is suspended for 6 months. The second time, it’s 18 months. The third: You lose it for life. No, really.

So what’s the worst that could happen?

As one might expect, there are some super serious consequences involved with an unfiltered DUI conviction – that is, one that’s allowed to run its course without the expertise and guiding hand of an experienced attorney. Without that support, you’re basically at the mercy of the court, and you shouldn’t be surprised by the number of complicated hoops you’ll be expected to jump through. What’s worse, the lookback period (that is, the period of time during which prior convictions lead to harsher sentencing) in Vermont is one’s lifetime. AKA forever. To you.

So what exactly can happen? Read on. Expand the mind.

  • First offense: A misdemeanor offense.
    • A fine as high as $750 – or jailtime for up to two years – or both.
    • A 90-day license suspension. (However that time period is lengthened to match the aforementioned penalty if you refused a breathalyzer test.)
    • The installation and maintenance of an ignition interlock device (an IID) in your vehicle for one month following the reinstatement of driving privileges.
    • The completion of a drug/alcohol evaluation program, which does not necessarily guarantee the immediate restoration of your license. In other words, a counselor must certify your readiness first. If substance abuse treatment is deemed necessary, that must be completed, and your successful completion must be proven. And remember – any and all treatments or recertification as mandated by the court carry costs you must pay yourself.
    • You must file an SR22 proof of insurance for three years following the conviction.
  • Second offense: Also a misdemeanor offense.
    • A fine as high as $1,500 – or jailtime for up to two years – or both. If you happen to spend any time at an inpatient treatment facility, that time may be subtracted from the determined jailtime.
    • An 18-month license revocation.
    • The installation/maintenance of an IID in your vehicle for 90 days following the reinstatement of driving privileges.
    • Up to 400 hours of community service.
    • The completion of a drug/alcohol evaluation program, plus any necessary treatment.
    • The filing of an SR22.
  • Third and subsequent offenses: All felony offenses.
    • A fine as high as $2,500 – or jailtime for up to five years – or both.
    • Lifetime license revocation. You may apply for reinstatement after three years, provided proof that you have abstained completely from drug/alcohol use.
    • Up to 400 hours of community service.
    • The completion of a drug/alcohol evaluation program, plus any necessary treatment.
    • The filing of an SR22.

Do I need a lawyer?

That is the question, isn’t it? Of course, like anything in life, the answer is conditional – that is, if you like to live life on the edge. If you want to be safe, the answer is yes. But honestly, it depends. It depends on whether you caused an accident, or if you caused bodily harm to another person. It depends on whether you have a prior DUI conviction in any other U.S. state. (Yes, those count in Vermont.) It depends on whether your BAC was at least twice the legal limit at the time of your arrest. And it depends on whether you’re a forward-thinking human being who thinks that if it happened once, there’s at least a very small chance at some point in your future of it happening again.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that there are a whole bunch of nasty consequences involved with a DUI conviction in the state of Vermont. A conviction will stay on both your driving and criminal record for the rest of your life. And if you’re an out of state driver, Vermont law also requires that your home state’s DMV be notified immediately, which will result in license suspension and entry of your suspension and potential conviction into a national database. So if it happens to you, it’s better not to just hope you’re going to dot every “i” and cross every “t” all on your own. Hire an expert. That’s why they’re there.

A lawyer? Where do I find one of those?

Well, you’ve come to the right place At BernieSez, you can upload your case for free, where experienced attorneys from all 50 states will have access to it and can offer you their services. Or, if you just have a question, feel free to try out the discussion board – it’s even easier! There’s absolutely no rule in the book that says you have to do it alone, or that you’re a better person for doing so. No matter the severity of your crime or the number of times you’ve gotten busted by law enforcement, know that your right to an attorney exists and you’ll thank yourself later for exercising said right. What are you waiting for? Upload your case, and embark on your path to better justice today.