With the outbreak of coronavirus, formally COVID-19, standard procedures relating to the process following a drunk driving charge have been modified in many states.
Persons with a pending OWI or DUI may have questions about how they need to proceed. Intoxalock spoke with attorney Molly Spellman of Spellman Law P.C. in West Des Moines, Iowa, to learn about her insights and advice for the OWI/DUI process during COVID-19.
I just got a DUI or OWI, but I know that the courts are closed in my state due to COVID-19. How can a lawyer help me right now?
Contacting a criminal defense attorney after receiving an OWI / DUI during the COVID-19 crisis can be valuable since both the courts and the DOT (Department of Transportation) have temporarily instituted limited services, delays, prohibitions regarding personal appearances, or have temporarily changed the way they are conducting business.
A criminal defense attorney who is well versed with impaired or drunk driving charges can provide quick and accurate answers to clients so that they can continue to focus their own time and energy on their families, on their health, and on their own jobs without sacrificing time or receiving conflicting answers on important questions.
Speaking to an experienced criminal defense attorney who handles OWI / DUI cases regularly will help individuals obtain quick and accurate advice, both in regard to current and developing mandates of the criminal court system, as well as the current and evolving policies of the DOT. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise a person who has been charged what the best steps of action are to take during the coronavirus pandemic.
What precautions or special actions is your firm – Spellman Law, P.C. – taking to help OWI & DUI clients right now?
To protect our clients’ safety in response to the threats of COVID-19, we are offering our clients and potential clients the ability to meet with us virtually via videoconference, by telephone, or if necessary, we can make arrangements to meet in person. Clients can still call our office and speak with us immediately, schedule appointments, and we are more than happy to make accommodations based on each client’s situation.
We continue to keep our clients advised on coronavirus-related developments and changes with the DOT and the courts by calling and emailing clients to keep them up to date on their court dates and DOT driving status and appeal process. We continue to provide our clients with a checklist of what they need to do including quickly-accessible hyperlinks to necessary items and services, as well as provide them with a list of DOT stations with contact numbers which are taking in-person appointments for obtaining restricted licenses.
What do clients need to know about installing or continuing to use their IID during this time in order to meet and fulfill their license reinstatement requirements?
While the courts may be delaying many or most court hearings during this time, it does not mean that laws are not still in place. Persons who operate vehicles while impaired may still be pulled over and charged with an OWI in Iowa, or similar charge in another state such as a DUI or DWAI.
If a person gets charged with an OWI / DUI during COVID-19, they should strongly consider calling an experienced OWI attorney. An attorney can advise you of any potential DOT appeal rights, advise you of what you need to do in order to obtain a restricted license, and assist with navigating your upcoming court appearances, which may be delayed or might be held via video or teleconference as a result of COVID-19. An attorney can help you provide your best defense as you navigate this uncharted territory during these uncertain times.
For states with ignition interlock device (IID) requirements, to obtain a restricted license, you will still need to install an IID, just as you would at any other time, in order to be in compliance with the laws of the state and in order to obtain your restricted license.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, many state DOTs have closed to general public traffic and are available by appointment only. However, in most states, obtaining a restricted license is considered an essential service at this time, so individuals may still obtain their restricted license right now. To do so, clients will need to schedule an in person appointment ahead of time in order to appear in person and submit their DOT paperwork and proof of financial liability and certificate of installation of the ignition interlock device and obtain their restricted license right then and there, on the spot.
For those with a current restricted license, in order to keep it valid during COVID-19, they will still be required to use their device normally to operate vehicles safely and legally.
About Spellman Law and our guest author, Molly Spellman:
Spellman Law, P.C., a criminal defense law firm based in West Des Moines, Iowa, is comprised of the brother and sister legal team of Molly Spellman and Sean Spellman. Both attorneys represent clients throughout the state of Iowa in a wide variety of criminal defense matters including OWI / DUI defense, marijuana possession, felony drug possession, felony offenses, and white collar crime.
Molly Spellman is a graduate of The University of Iowa and Drake University Law School. She is also a Board Member for the Iowa Association for Justice Criminal Defense Core Group, and is a member of the Legal Committee for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Molly belongs to the Iowa Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Iowa State Bar Association.