For many people who are otherwise law-abiding in all other areas of their lives, an arrest for a DUI may be their first contact with the criminal court system. Without a criminal defense lawyer to explain the process and to handle all the paperwork, investigation and negotiations, this can be an intimidating if not frightening experience.
After you have been arrested, your blood alcohol (BAC) tested in most cases, and you are booked (photographed, fingerprinted and other information documented), you will be given a document with your court date and time noted. This is for your arraignment.
At this point, if you have not already done so, you should contact and retain a criminal defense lawyer. Your arraignment is the first stage of your criminal case where you appear before a judge and enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the charges presented against you. You do have the option of appearing by yourself and pleading guilty.
- Guilty plea
If you do plead guilty, you will not have the opportunity for an attorney to review your case and to advise you of your defenses and to possibly negotiate for a lesser plea, more reasonable sentence or to have the case dismissed or dropped if certain procedures were not followed or for other reasons.
Once you plead guilty, the judge will sentence you, usually after you have seen a probation officer who will review your history and drinking behavior.
- Not guilty
Most DUI defendants plead not guilty, though the judge will want you to have an attorney representing you so you can be properly advised. The prosecuting attorney will turn over to your attorney the police reports, a copy of the information or charging document listing the charges against you, and any other evidence found including your BAC results if you took a breath or chemical test.
You will also be given a return date for a pretrial conference.
Discovery and Investigation
Before your next court appearance, your attorney will request any other evidence, incriminating or exculpatory, that the prosecutor possesses. He or she will conduct any investigation of the facts of your case including contacting and interviewing witnesses, if applicable. In many cases, records pertaining to the breathalyzer or blood used to measure your BAC will be subpoenaed. Your attorney also looks at your driving conduct, performance on any field sobriety tests and the recorded results, and any statements you may have made. If evidence was seized from your vehicle that is being used to charge you with any other offenses, your attorney will review how it was taken. In many cases, either a iphone 8 camera photos or a surveillance camera attached to the officer’s car may have taken a video of you stop and all subsequent events until the officer arrested you.
There are occasions where your lawyer will challenge the officer’s stop of your vehicle in a probable cause hearing. Your attendance is required at these hearings. Your attorney may move the court to suppress or to toss out any evidence that was illegally obtained by the police or which unduly prejudices you. For example, an officer may have conducted an unlawful search of your car, threatened you or treated you roughly.
At this appearance, your attorney will appear with you and will discuss with the prosecuting attorney any flaws in the case against you or any inculpatory evidence that weakens the case against you. If the prosecutor makes an offer regarding the charges and any sentence, your lawyer will present to you and discuss its pros and cons. The majority of DUI cases are settled at this stage.
Should you not be satisfied with any offer made or after discussions your attorney recommends that a trial is in your best interests, it will be conveyed to the prosecutor and judge who will then set a trial date.
A trial can be an anxious experience. If you are facing DUI misdemeanor charges, you could be facing jail time depending on whether you have previous DUI convictions and if there are aggravating circumstances in your case that could enhance your sentence if you are found guilty.
Before the trial begins, the judge will often meet with the attorneys to see if a plea negotiation can still be worked out. If not, the trial will begin with the following sequence of events:
- Jury selection
- Opening statements by the prosecution and defense attorney
- Presentation of the prosecutor’s case by introducing and examining witnesses such as the arresting officer and office who administered a BAC test to you
- Cross-examination by the defense attorney of the prosecution’s witnesses
- The defense case if needed
- Cross-examination of the defense witnesses, if any
- Closing arguments by both attorneys
The prosecutor has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. All jurors must find you guilty. If there is no unanimous verdict after several attempts, the judge will declare a mistrial. If this occurs, the prosecutor may or may decide to recharge you.
Sentencing in a DUI Case
If you are found guilty, you will be usually be sent to see a probation officer who will prepare a pre-sentencing report outlining the offense, your taking responsibility for your actions, family and employment history, criminal background if any, and drinking or drug habits.
The judge will review the report, consider any sentencing recommendations made by the probation officer and prosecutor, and decide upon a sentence.
Possible penalties include:
- Participation in a DUI program
- Driver’s license suspension or revocation
- Possible jail or prison time
Your sentence largely depends on factors such as prior DUI convictions, your driving conduct in this case, your BAC level, if anyone was injured or killed, if there were children in your car and any other facts that may tend to mitigate or enhance your sentence in the eyes of the judge.
Call the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis
Any DUI is a serious matter. If convicted, you face jail or serious state prison time, loss of your job, driving privleges for months or years in some cases, loss of your professional license if convicted of a felony and right to bear firearms and other consequences that could affect your life for years. Talk to a legal professional who has succesfully handled numerous DUI cases at the law offices of Ramiro J. Lluis.
Call us today for a free initial and confidential consultation and case evaluation at (213) 687-4412.