As a motorist, flashing lights in the rear view mirror is rarely a welcome sight. At the very least, it usually means a costly ticket for a traffic violation. If you are driving under the influence, however, it will lead to being arrested and having to go through the stress of the criminal prosecution that will likely follow that arrest. If you find yourself facing accusations of driving under the influence in Sarpy County, Nebraska, the most important decision you will make is to hire an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon after your arrest as possible. If this is not the first time you have been in this positions, however, you may find yourself wondering whether you should tell your Sarpy County DUI lawyer about your previous conviction.
Won’t the Prosecuting Attorney Already Know about a Previous Conviction?
When you are arrested and “booked,” you will be fingerprinted and your identification will be input into the county computer system. Even before that, the arresting police officer will likely have already requested information about any prior arrests and/or convictions during the traffic stop that led to your arrest. This is standard procedure because a law enforcement officer needs to know who he/she is dealing with to try and judge the level of threat a suspect might pose to the officer’s safety. At the jail, a background check will again be conducted for much the same reason. Eventually, this information will be passed on to the prosecuting attorney’s office along with the probable cause affidavit relating to your arrest. Whether or not the information regarding your previous criminal history is correct or not will depend on several factors, including:
- Whether you were actually convicted of an offense or simply charged
- If you petitioned to have the conviction expunged
- Where the arrest/conviction occurred
- How long ago the arrest/conviction occurred
Not all that long ago, convictions that were from another state would routinely not show up on a routine criminal history report. Advances in computer technology over the last decade or so have improved the accuracy of criminal backgrounds checks immensely. Today, the fact that a conviction is from another state does not preclude it from showing on a criminal history report. On the contrary, convictions from anywhere in the United States are now likely to show up when the police/prosecuting attorney checks for prior convictions.
The other reason a previous conviction might not show up is the age of the conviction. Many law enforcement agencies and court systems did not start routinely entering information into central computer systems until the 1990s. Therefore, it can be very “hit and miss” with convictions prior to that time.
If My Previous Conviction Doesn’t Show Up, Why Should I Mention It?
For a criminal defense attorney, the one thing they absolutely dread is a surprise – particularly when the surprise is something the client withheld. Your attorney cannot give you meaningful advice without having all the facts. In the case of a DUI prosecution, a previous DUI conviction changes the potential penalties if you are convicted. That, in turn, might easily change your attorney’s opinion on pursuing and/or accepting a guilty plea agreement.
Keep in mind that your relationship with your attorney is a confidential one. In other words, your DUI defense attorney cannot disclose anything you tell him/her except in very narrow circumstances (such as if you admit you plan to kill someone tomorrow). The existence of a previous DUI conviction is not something your attorney can disclose. Knowing about the conviction, however, is important because it is possible that the prosecuting attorney will uncover it at some point and your attorney needs to be prepared if that happens.
The bottom line is that your Sarpy County DUI lawyer needs to know your entire criminal history in order to provide you with the best defense possible.
Contact a Sarpy County DUI Lawyer
If you were recently arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Nebraska, contact a Sarpy County DUI lawyer at Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense lawyer.