It’s a common enough story, at least in pre-Covid times. You and your friend go out for drinks after work. They feel fine enough to drive, but they end up getting pulled over for a DUI.
Depending on how fast they can get legal help, they might not have a legal license to drive for six months or more – even longer, if they end up with a conviction in criminal or traffic courts.
You still care for your buddy, even if they did have a lapse in judgment. But, how can you help a friend who got a DUI?
After almost 30 years working with Marylanders to repair their lives and reputations after DUIs, these are the seven best things we’ve seen friends and family do to help our clients get back on their feet.
7 Ways Family and Friends Can Help Loved Ones With a DUI
- Save judgment for the courtrooms.
- Research Maryland DUI traffic laws and procedures.
- Get your friend help, fast — ideally within the first 10 days after their traffic stop.
- Don’t try to DIY a DUI defense.
- Proactively offer to drive them places before they ask.
- Remember to be their friend! Hang out together, as best you can.
- Practice self-care.
- [Bonus] What you should do if it’s not their first DUI charge.
All of this may seem simple when laid out in a list, but it could be more challenging than you think. Let’s go through each of these to see how we can help you, help your friend.
DUI Friendly Advice #1: Try not to (openly) judge your friend for getting a DUI.
If your friend gets a DUI, chances are that they’re probably freaking out a little bit – especially if it’s their first criminal charge.
When someone makes such a mistake, they’ll need a friend who won’t judge them.
They’ll need someone who can be calm on their behalf, while still empathetic to the worry and regret they must be feeling.
To help maintain the empathy and lack of judgment your friend needs most right now, try to separate who you know them to be as a person from their mistake.
After all, a DUI isn’t an automatic condemnation of their character. Regular people have been charged with DUIs for a wide variety of circumstances, including:
- Legally consuming prescribed medications;
- Sleeping off the night in their car with the keys in the ignition;
- Driving when they were too tired to safely operate the car, but felt they had to for whatever reason; or
- Misjudging their personal tolerance levels, as their comfort with alcohol increases with age and experience.
You were (probably) not at that traffic stop with your friend when they were charged. You don’t know what the circumstances of the stop were, or the greater context surrounding that mistake. Don’t rush to make snap judgments, and try to be there to support them through the coming ordeal as they pay for that mistake.
Chances are good that they already feel shame and regret for the incident without you having to say a word.
DUI Friendly Advice #2: Research the Maryland DUI traffic laws.
The best person to confide in is someone who doesn’t need too much of an explanation. Your friend might not even be able to explain what’s going on to you! Talk about frustration and stress at a time when they need an understanding, listening ear.
Also, by having at least a basic understanding of Maryland’s DUI laws, you might be able to point them in the right direction as they try to rectify their mistake.
As someone who’s not directly involved in the situation, you’ll be in a better place to absorb the technical information and advice.
To get you started, you’ll want to learn more about:
- What actually happens at the DUI stop;
- The difference between a DUI and a DWI charge; and
- The possible punishments for DUI convictions – including how long your friend may have no license and whether they might be able to participate in Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program.
DUI Friendly Advice #3: Get your friend the help they need, fast.
As you research, you’ll learn that Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration, or MVA, does not automatically schedule a hearing for those charged with DUIs.
If your friend wants to keep their license, then they should request a hearing in writing within 10 days of the traffic stop.
If you do wait and request a hearing between 11 and 30 days since your traffic stop, your friend won’t keep their license active. Your friend’s Maryland driver’s license will be suspended for 180 to 270 days, automatically starting on the 46th day after the traffic stop.
That’s six to nine months without a legal license to drive.
(Of course, if you’d like a lawyer to make sure you get that request right the first time, then you can always feel free to call us for a free initial consultation to get your friend started on the right foot.)
DUI Friendly Advice #4: Don’t try to be their lawyer.
Obviously, you want to help your friend so that their mistake doesn’t impact their lives or the lives of those around them – from innocent bystanders to their children and partners who rely on them to work.
One of the best ways you can help a friend with a DUI is to learn enough to be a sounding board. Then, you can knowledgeably redirect them to someone who has experience working with the traffic court and the Maryland criminal court systems on DUI cases every day.
After all, every DUI is different. So, even if you have experience with DUIs before – maybe even have gone through the process yourself! – this case will probably be handled differently.
An experienced lawyer will be much quicker to pick up on the nuances of the stop itself, the police report, the current mood of the courts and their representatives than anyone outside of the legal system.
Ultimately, the right lawyer can help their clients make the best out of a rotten situation for everyone involved. A DUI is probably not the best time to DIY your criminal defense.
DUI Friendly Advice #5: Offer to be the designated driver when you can – or avoid driving altogether.
After a DUI, it makes sense that your friend would be scared to go out and do things. Be patient, and give them some time to trust themselves again.
In the meantime, automatically offer to be the driver if they need to go somewhere, such as to a doctor’s appointment.
If you’re going to the grocery store, then consider picking up some staples for them, too, to cut down on the temptation to drive.
If you want to hang out, be mindful of your suggested locations. Try to pick open places close to your friend’s house that they can walk or bike to without needing to drive. Suggest activities which require movement or active participation, instead of ones that may lend themselves to social drinking.
On that note, you may want to avoid bringing alcohol for a while. Take the opportunity to try some fancy coffee, soda, or tea instead!
DUI Friendly Advice #6: Hang out with them outside of the legal stuff.
The pandemic makes it all too easy for people suffering from a DUI charge to let their legal worries be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. (“I already have to isolate and can’t see anyone because of covid-19, and now I have a DUI on top of that?!”)
They might sink into an even more extreme isolation, creating more problems in a vicious cycle.
So! As their friend, make a point to hang out with them beyond the legal stuff or basic necessities. Help them have something to look forward to.
- Maybe you both watch the same show on Netflix at the same time and live-tweet your reactions.
- Play a round of Among Us or another co-op video game with your online friend group.
- Handwrite random postcards and send it through the mail, when they’ll (eventually) get as a welcome surprise (…assuming the post office decides to start sending out mail again).
- Randomly order a surprise pizza for them one night!
Do your best to be there for them in the same way that you were before they were charged. They’re going to need times where they’re not thinking about their case.
By doing these things, you’ll remind your friend that people still care about them – that they’re worth loving and caring about, even though they screwed up.
DUI Friendly Advice #7: Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too!
Clearly, your friend is really lucky to have someone willing to read this lengthy – if helpful! – article that’s all about how to help them during a DUI.
But, you need to take time for yourself, too! Even as your friend needs your support, others rely on you, too. You need to take care of yourself and the other things in your life first.
So, if you need permission, here it is: It is perfectly acceptable and encouraged to take time for self-care. It’s not selfish to do so, or stupid or time wasting. It’s absolutely essential.
After all, your friend will need you mentally at your best to fully be there for them when you guys are together.
If they’re a good friend, they’ll want you to take care of yourself, too. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and speak up when you need self-care.
As the saying goes, you shouldn’t set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.
Bonus Experience: What to Do If It’s Not Their First DUI
Sometimes, people end up with multiple DUI charges. Again, the charges are more common and more easily received than a lot of people may think, so it’s entirely possible that it’s not your friend’s first rodeo in traffic court.
They won’t need you to research with them, since they’ve already been through the process. They will probably go with the same DUI lawyer as before, and they’ll have reasonable expectations of what’s possible. You can do the same social and self-care routines established as part of their first DUI process.
However, multiple instances of driving while impaired point to a larger systemic issue, rather than a one-off mistake.
In that case, consider teaming up with their other friends and family to encourage them to investigate and solve the deeper problems causing their repeated brushes with the law.
This might mean offering to drive them to doctor’s or therapy appointments, or helping them arrange for video visits. Maybe they need moral support attending their first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, or researching a good rehabilitation program.
Even if they’re going just because their lawyer told them to, remind yourself that them getting any help at all is a step in the right direction.The Law Office of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC Can Help Your Friend With Their DUI
Ultimately, your goal as their friend is to offer them as much support as you can – and that they’re willing to accept from you – without enabling their further bad habits.
That said, whether it’s your friend’s first DUI or fifth, chances are good that they’re going to need additional support in the form of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. It’s going to be your friend’s best shot at getting that fresh start so everyone can go back to normal – or as normal as life can get in the middle of a global pandemic.
We offer free initial consultations for any Marylander who needs legal help, whether they’re the one who committed the crime or not. We’ve spoken with thousands of friends and loved ones of clients who found themselves on the wrong side of the law, and championed many families through their DUI.
Indeed, many families view these charges as “theirs” to defend and help solve, even when it’s just one person who is charged. It’s heartwarming to see how so many clients are so loved by their community, and just never realize it until they ask for help.
Please, let us know if there’s anything we can do to help either you or your friend get through the DUI process and back to normal life.