What to Expect in a DUI Case
Have you been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs? Facing any kind of criminal allegation is intimidating, frustrating and overwhelming. If you or a loved has been arrested, you probably want to know about the DUI process.
The DUI process starts the moment police officers arrest an individual because they suspect he/she has been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. At the time of the arrest, police officers must have observed you commit a crime or have good reason to suspect criminal activity. For instance, if a police officer watches a motorist run a red light and then notices empty beer cans on the floor of the car, the officer would have “probable cause” to suspect DUI.
After the arrest, officers “book” the suspect. This involved taking the suspect’s personal information, including his/her name, birth date and physical description. Officers may search police records to investigate the suspect’s criminal history, confiscate the suspect’s personal property, take fingerprints, take a photograph, and place the suspect in a holding cell. After booking, the DUI suspect may be allowed to pay a fee and go free until his/her trial goes to court. Bail amounts depend on a variety of factors, including past DUI records, the severity of the offense, and the suspect’s connections to family members, the community, and his/her job.
If you have been arrested for DUI, the official court proceedings for your case will begin with “arraignment.” Arraignment is the last stop in many DUI cases. Here, your charges will be read to you and you will be asked if you need the help of an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court may assign on to you. In the United States, everyone has the right to legal representation. If you are unable to afford professional, legal help, the court may appoint a “zealous advocate” to fight for you rights and freedom in court. During arraignment, you can decide to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges brought against you. Because many DUI defendants plead guilty, most DUI cases end during arraignment.
If you decide to plead not guilty, your cases will enter a preliminary hearing. Generally speaking, a preliminary hearing can be thought of as a trial before the actual trial. During this time, each side of the courtroom puts forth an argument in favor of their position – arguments for your guilt or innocence. After evidence is presented on both sides, a judge will decide whether or not the prosecution has grounds to take their case before a jury. If the judge decides that there isn’t enough evidence to pursue a conviction, your case will be dismissed. Preliminary hearings are put in place to convince the judge that the case is worth taking to a jury. This way, cases that simply don’t have enough evidence to merit a conviction will never be brought to court.
In order to be convicted of DUI, a jury must examine the evidence against you and conclude that, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” you drove under the influence of alcohol or drugs. During the trial, the U.S. government will present evidence against you and your attorney will present evidence in your favor. Although the trial is the most high-profile state of the case, most DUI cases are resolved long before they are brought before a jury. During the trial, the prosecution may present witnesses, which your attorney will probably cross examine. Eventually, both sides give closing arguments and the jury deliberates its verdict.
DUI sentences vary greatly, depending on the severity of the crime and your criminal history. If you have been convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol before, you may receive a relatively strict sentence. First-time convictions merit less severe punishment. Additionally, if you injured another person while driving drunk, you may receive a greater sentence. Drivers who are found drunk with children in the vehicle will receive harsher sentences, too. If you have been accused of impaired driving, contact an attorney as soon as possible.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Feldmann Nagel & Associates
Feldmann Nagel & Associates is a criminal defense law firm dedicated to helping people who have been wrongfully accused of a crime. Facing criminal allegations is never easy. In fact, a criminal conviction could change your life – not to mention the lives of your loved ones. If you’ve been charged with any criminal offense, contact an attorney from the firm today!
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.