Practical Ways to Help Someone after a DUI Arrest

Practical Ways to Help Someone after a DUI Arrest


People in America have been conditioned to have an automatic stress response when seeing flashing red and blue lights. It is a societal norm – a conditioned reflex so entrenched that even those who have done nothing wrong still feel their heart rates increase, their palms sweat, and the worry pervade: What if I am pulled over? What will happen?

After seeing police headlights behind them, most people second guess if they were driving under the speed limit: even if they just saw it posted, they automatically believe they are doing something wrong.

“This is easily the most common reaction. It doesn’t occur because the driver is doing something wrong; it’s an entirely different feeling than, say, seeing a cop after shoplifting,” according to Pacific Standard Magazine. “Rather, we could be doing everything completely right behind the wheel, but we’re still going to slow down to double check.”

“Most people are affected with fear, respect, and concern when they see a police car around them,” Leon James, a University of Hawaii psychologist who studies driving says.

That stress is short-lived for those who just happen to be by a police vehicle on the highway, or who are pulled over for a broken taillight or for going 5 mph over the speed limit.

But for others who fail a Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”) breathalyzer, the stress is not short lived. Instead, the stress is just beginning with a long journey ahead. The stress of court proceedings, transportation juggling, work challenges, a strain on personal relationships, financial worry, and even, for some, a nebulous path through guilt if a person was harmed by their impaired driving.


The Right Legal Representation is Just One Aspect

After being charged with a DUI, most people don’t know where to begin or which DUI law firm and attorney they should choose. And it really is an important decision. This attorney will be their confidant, guide, and their ambassador in the court system, and it is important to find an attorney with experience and who specializes in DUIs.

Finding the right Orange County, Los Angeles, or Riverside DUI lawyer is only one piece of the puzzle to help those who are charged with a California DUI or have been accused of a DUI crash or accident.

Ask any of our DUI lawyers: Anyone experiencing a DUI arrest and charges is going through one of the most challenging times of their lives.

With so many things to juggle after the DUI arrest, one vitally important practical offer is to help them research attorneys and narrow the options to a few, that way they can focus on the outcome they would like and discuss probabilities with the selected attorneys during the first meetings.

Your loved one will need specific kinds of support from their family and friends so they can successfully traverse the unique personal, professional, and financial difficulties of a California DUI.


A Unique Stressor

Studies cited in the Psychiatric Times show that the “period after recent arrest may be a particularly vulnerable time,” and there is now a working hypothesis that being arrested is a unique stressor that it contributes to suicide risk.

Stressful circumstances and the inability to properly cope may have led to a DUI arrest in the first place, so the resulting DUI cost, including a California DUI Interlock device, court fees, and the price (and time investment) of a California DUI Class can leave people feeling desperate and depressed.

Chances are, you have friends and family members who are going through this right now, or who will. Forty-three percent of Americans admit they have driven under the influence of alcohol: 56% of men versus 29% of women, according to a recent survey by Value Penguin. Another 45% of respondents said they had gotten a ride from someone who had been drinking. Forty-eight percent of respondents who admitted to drinking and driving were stopped by the police.


Have a Real Discussion

The knee-jerk response of most people is to say they are “okay” or “fine” when asked how they are doing. The act of saying “I’m fine” when we aren’t is often “a way to deny painful feelings, avoid conflicts, and pretend that we don’t have problems,” according to Psychology Today. But the problems associated with a DUI arrest aren’t going to go away until there is a legal resolution. When speaking to a loved one who has received a DUI, let them know they can be honest with you and don’t have to hold back their feelings and emotions from you. Reiterate that you want to help and are willing to go beyond just moral support (if you are).


Approach With Kindness and Zero Judgement

Many people who are dealing with a first-time DUI arrest have never been in trouble with the law before. The level and type of stress they are under is probably unprecedented, and you can almost bet that several people have offered them unsolicited advice or even harsh criticism. Those who have been arrested for DUI likely feel that they are constantly being judged. They have to tell employers, coworkers, and family members what happened, all while they are kicking themselves for getting behind the wheel when under the influence. It is doubtful that anyone can say something they haven’t already considered. As a part of human nature, DUIs, or any legal problems for that matter, typically cause significant introspection.

Now is the time to be absolutely supportive, and that means you need to listen more and speak less; let them vent without feeling the need to offer your opinion or try to fix things. Put your phone down, shut the television off, turn the stereo down and actively listen. It is such a rare gift to give someone these days, and a particularly powerful approach when someone is struggling.

Don’t forget: At the end of the day, we are all human. All of us make mistakes. There are tons of old adages about this, but the premise is the same: don’t judge.

People going through such challenging times need to feel cared for and loved without judgement, which is rare, will be a welcome reprieve from their other interactions, and can make all the difference in the world.


Support Their Lifestyle Decisions and Abstain from Drinking Around Them 

A drink is probably tempting when someone is going through legal issues that are time consuming and stressful, but in the case of drunk driving/DUI arrests, it is the worst thing for them. Chances are high they will have to attend alcohol classes, and some may have substance use disorders that they are being forced to face for the first time.

It seems logical, then, to avoid inviting them out for a drink and instead suggest coffee or a walk, which will help to reduce stress and help them process their emotions.

Their shift in lifestyle may enhance feelings of alienation, when old social routines fly out the window, and there is a logical separation from many of the people they know socially through drinking or drug use. There are several logical reasons for this: your loved one needs to focus on making better decisions and will distance themselves from people who partake in things they might find tempting. Also, there can be a natural separation because those friends are unwilling to shift their routines (meeting at happy hour and drinking, for example) to include your loved one.

We, as humans, are basically tribal social animals, explains Simon Lenton, Professor and Director of the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University.  

“From an evolutionary perspective, early humans had to form social groups to hunt, gather food, protect each other and survive. As a result, we have evolved tendencies to support group cohesion by conforming to group norms and shunning non-conformity,” he writes. So, if we tend to associate with people who are like us and engage in similar behaviours, and we start doing things in a way that goes against the group norms, such as not drinking in a social situation, this can be a challenge to the acceptability of that behaviour in the group.”

A seismic shift in habits/behavior will challenge relationships, even ones initially perceived as strong.

People who experience a DUI arrest often suffer from depression and self-esteem/self-loathing issues in the following weeks and months. They may begin to pull away from social situations, partly due to transportation difficulties, likely not wanting to be tempted by social drinking or drugs, and also because of social isolation from dealing with the depression and guilt.

Chances are high that your friend who has experienced a DUI arrest will lose friends, and as a result will feel lonely. Show them that you value them and be willing to transcend old social patterns to help your relationship evolve, and to support them during a difficult time. In other words, be a true friend to them. Your friend needs you, so be there.


Think about Their Practical Needs

Help Them Get to Where They Need to Be

Public transit in many parts of the country is not conducive to working regular work hours or arriving at appointments on time. There is an ultimate lack of efficiency and convenience in public transit, even in many parts of California.

This forces people who are legally restricted from driving to explore ride-share apps or cabs, which when used consistently are financially prohibitive for many people. The result is that many people who have experienced a DUI arrest have to ask for rides and help from loved ones and friends. Dependability is key in these situations, because they may be counting on you to get them to court, one of their required DUI classes, or work. The loss of independence and ability to drive themselves, the loss of their freedom to that level, can have negative impacts on their mental health.


Help With Other Responsibilities

Those going through DUI arrest/charges/convictions have to invest a huge amount of time and money into classes, fines and navigating the pitfalls of a DUI arrest. Things like household chores, healthy cooking, and properly walking the dog can go by the wayside, especially if their mental health is suffering.

Offer to do specific tasks that you know will be supportive of them without being too burdensome to you. Show up, help them motivate—get them moving. It is painfully easy for people to get stuck in a rut after a DUI arrest. Be a bright light in their life and help them in little ways. The small things really do add up and equal a stronger form of support.

It is a common practice to turn away from situations that make us uncomfortable. While it is a standard defense mechanism, it also means that the person you care about—who was arrested for a DUI in California—is probably feeling hurt and alone. Imagine the stress you feel when you are pulled over for a simple traffic violation, now multiply that several times and extend that feeling for months to even begin to grasp the amount of stress your loved one is under. Be willing to take practical steps and be a guiding, supportive friend when they need it most.


Talk To A DUI Defense Attorney

Have you been charged with a DUI in Los Angeles or Southern California? An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and discuss your options with you. A lawyer serving DUI clients will often offer a free no obligation consultation and everything discussed is protected by the attorney client relationship.

Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.

Interested in this topic, or other topics similar to it? Find more articles on our blog, updated regularly!


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