What To Expect After Your DUI Arrest
A DUI arrest is a costly and life-altering event. The fact that other people are at serious risk of harm or death by drunk drivers is the reason DUI laws are becoming increasingly strict, even for first offenders. Every DUI case is different by virtue of the state and court system where your case is handled. The stressful part is not knowing the outcome, given that a DUI can carry serious penalties. Know your rights and prepare for issues you will face throughout the legal process.
First Court Appearance
In the case of a DUI, it is the prosecutor and not the police who files criminal charges. If the arrest was made unlawfully or the evidence or legal case is weak, then it is possible your case could get thrown out.
If the prosecutor files charges, then you must appear before a judge in court after your arrest. And if you need an attorney, then the judge grants you time to seek representation and schedules a court date within a few weeks for your arraignment.
A Department of Motor Vehicle Administrative Hearing allows you to seek the reinstatement of your license. After your DUI arrest, the police confiscate your license. The citation you receive acts as your driver’s license for the next thirty days. In order to keep your driving privileges, you must file for a DMV hearing within 10 days of arrest. If you fail to file within this time period, the loss of your license may be upheld.
Your attorney will look at the videotape of the arrest, question the arresting officer and examine any other information to determine if there are issues with the arrest that work to your advantage. If there are violations of protocol for the traffic stop, then you may have your license returned.
Criminal Case Procedures
The criminal process consists of your arraignment and attempts by your attorney to reach a plea agreement before trial. A number of pre-trial motions will take place to argue the unique aspects of your case. Most DUI charges do not result in a criminal trial, especially for first-time offenders. However, there are extenuating circumstances in certain situations, so the possibility of proceeding to court remains unless there is a pre-trial agreement.
The arraignment hearing is where you are formally charged for your DUI case after an arrest. Your attorney will represent you at the hearing before a judge. In most cases, a Notice of Appearance is filed beforehand, which frees you from appearing in court at that time.
Charges and Rights
At the arraignment, the judge will read the charges against you and cover the minimum and maximum penalties you face. During this, you will be advised of your constitutional rights, which includes the right to a speedy trial. In a misdemeanor case, you can usually get a trial within 30 days or so of being arraigned. You can waive your right to a speedy trial and proceed with the legal process at a slower pace.
Bail and Release
If you are not already released on your own recognizance, a judge will discuss bail and release conditions at this time. You may need to post bail. You must also meet the terms of your release as follows:
- Do not leave the state
- Appear in court as required
- Do not possess alcohol or other controlled substances
Enter a Plea
Some jurisdictions require you to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest at arraignment. Most defendants enter an initial plea of not guilty, as they are presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
This hearing will take place if you do not enter a plea at arraignment. This is the stage a prosecutor will negotiate on plea terms. A prosecutor may engage in plea bargaining with your attorney before the hearing.
There are some states that do not allow plea bargaining for DUIs, while other states mandate minimum sentence requirements for a conviction making it difficult to negotiate terms. Most cases are resolved in the plea-bargaining stages and do not reach trial.
Steps of Criminal Litigation
In the event your case goes to trial, these are the primary steps in the litigation of a case:
- Discovery: This is where evidence is gathered about your case. You can use the information from your DMV hearing here. The goal of discovery is to dismiss a case or seek a reduced charge of reckless driving.
- Pre-trial conferences: These hearings are used to file motions based on information found in discovery. Your attorney will use motions that may help your case, such as those that suppress or limit evidence. They may reintroduce motions to reduce charges or negotiate pleas.
- Trial: If pre-trial negotiations do not resolve your case, then it goes to trial. The merits of a case will determine the outcome. You will develop a trial strategy with your lawyer to present the issues of your case in the best way.
If you are guilty or plead no contest, then you will have a sentencing hearing. A sentence may be handed down in court on the day you are found guilty, or a judge may schedule a hearing at a later date.
A judge will take into account any aggravating factors, such as high blood alcohol count and prior offenses before issuing a sentence. Sentences vary based upon the jurisdiction and include jail time, probation, community service and fines, among other penalties.
Personal Steps To Take After a DUI Arrest and Charge
Here are ways to help yourself throughout the legal process and beyond:
- Participate in an alcohol counseling program
- Be forthright about the incident
- Do community service hours
- Attend DUI awareness classes
Work with an Experienced Local Lawyer
A DUI can have negative consequences on your life for years to come. The decision to drive drunk has the potential to impact other lives as well, so a criminal case against you is a serious matter. It is important to get proper legal support and representation from the start to mitigate damages and ameliorate outcomes. Hire an experienced DUI attorney to walk you through each step of the legal process after you arrest.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!