The DUI Process Explained
The DUI process is lengthy and arduous. We recognize that the criminal law process can be an emotional roller coaster for people that are arrested and their families. At Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh, we try to share and explain out knowledge and familiarity with the process so you can have a better idea of what to expect and be less anxious about the process.
What happens after a DUI arrest?
The criminal process begins with an arrest. After an arrest for a DUI, most people are released on their own recognizance (R.O.R.) after spending eight (8) hours in jail. In some situations, after an arrest, a person will be brought before a judge in the morning (within twenty-four hours), and the judge will determine a bond. If the judge sets a bond, then the bond will have to be posted before a person is released from jail.
What happens at the first court date?
The first court date is referred to as an arraignment. An arraignment is a merely a formality. At the arraignment, you will hear the formal charges read against you in open court, and in open court you can enter a plea of not guilty. As such, arraignment is more a formality and generally nothing substantive on your cases happens on that date. A lawyer has the ability to waive the arraignment and enter a written plea of not guilty. If the lawyer does this, then the arraignment court date gets cancelled and another court date gets generated. A lawyer may or may not waive the arraignment depending on the posture and strategy of the case. There can be specific reasons to keep the arraignment or waive it that you should talk to a DUI lawyer about.
Do you have to go to all the court dates?
It depends. It can be very difficult to take time off of work or school to attend a court date, especially if your work or school does not know about any DUI charge and you do not want them to find out about the charge. If you are charged with a misdemeanor DUI, a DUI lawyer can waive your appearance at pretrial hearings under the rules of criminal procedure. This means that you will not have to go to court for the majority of your court dates.
However, if you are charged with a felony DUI or any felony attached to a DUI, then you will probably have to attend your court dates. There are some felony judges that will allow a lawyer to waive their client's presence at a court date. It will depend on what judge presides over your felony case.
Should you waive speedy trial on your case?
This is a decision that is best left to your DUI lawyer when developing the defense strategy of your case. The speedy trial rule means that you have to be brought to trial within ninety (90) days from the date of your arrest for a misdemeanor and within one hundred seventy-five (175) days for a felony. Speedy trial can be waived at any time. Usually, speedy trial is waived by an attorney to allow for time to gather evidence, obtain videos, and take depositions. If speedy trial is not waived, then the judge will not give the lawyer additional time to prepare the defense to the DUI.
What is discovery?
Discovery is all the evidence that the prosecution has and can use against you. It includes the names of all the State's witness, police reports, videos, test results, etc. Once your lawyer reviews the discovery, they can make the decision of whether to take depositions. Depositions are when the attorney questions a witness under oath and the witness has to answer the attorney's questions.
A deposition can be useful for a couple of reasons. First, if a witness did not give a statement or write a report, the deposition can be instrumental in learning what the witness observed and what they would testify to prior to a trial. Learning what a witness knows about a case helps you and your attorney determine if you could prevail at a trial. Second, a deposition locks a witness into a position so that they cannot testify to something different in court. If the witness does change their testimony, a lawyer can use the deposition transcript to make the witness look untrustworthy. For example, if at a deposition a witness says the weather was clear and sunny, but in court the witness says the weather was a hurricane, then the attorney can confront the witness with the deposition and say that they asked the witness the exact same question and the witness has given to completely different answers.
Should you take your case to trial or take a plea?
You should only decide to take your case to trial or take a plea after careful consideration and thorough discussions with your lawyer. This decision should only be made after you have reviewed all the evidence in your case with your attorney. If you do decide to take your case to trial, then your case can be determined by a judge or jury. If you decide to enter a plea, you can enter a negotiated plea or a plea to the court. A negotiated plea is a plea agreement between the state and the defense and you know what the outcome of the case will be. A plea to the court is when you plead guilty to the judge, both the state and the defense makes their recommendations for the outcome of the case, and the judge will determine the outcome of the case. Generally, in a plea to the court you will not the know the outcome ahead of time.
At Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh, as former prosecutors, we have handled DUI cases from both sides and know how the process works. In addition to fighting your case and getting the right result, our job is to guide you through the process as smoothly as possible to reduce your anxieties and fears of the unknown in the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system is complex and overwhelming. The right DUI lawyer can make all the difference in your case. Call us to schedule a free consultation.