Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious criminal offense in the United States. If you are arrested for DUI/DWI, you will likely have to face the legal process in court. Understanding this process can help you prepare for what is to come.
Step 1: Arrest and Booking
The first step in the DUI/DWI court process is the arrest and booking. If the police have probable cause to believe that you are driving under the influence, they will pull you over and administer field sobriety tests and in most cases a BAC test. If you fail these tests, you will be arrested and taken to the police station or jail for booking and possibly more testing. This process involves recording your personal information, taking your fingerprints and mugshot, and searching you for any contraband. At the point of arrest, you are entitled to an attorney.
Step 2: Arraignment and DMV Hearing
After you have been arrested and booked, the next step is arraignment. This is the initial court appearance where you will be formally charged with DUI/DWI. At this time, you will enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. It is important that you have legal representation before and at your arraignment. Having an experienced DUI attorney can be the difference between a DUI conviction or your freedom.
Additionally, after a DUI arrest, drivers have a number of days depending on their state to petition the DMV in order to keep their license. This process addresses the civil component of the traffic offense, rather than the criminal component, which is addressed in a court of law. Failure to schedule a hearing with the DMV within the allotted time will result in the loss of your driver’s license, regardless of the outcome of your criminal case.
Step 3: Pretrial Hearings
After the arraignment, there may be pretrial hearings. These hearings are designed to help both sides prepare for the trial. During this time, your attorney will request evidence from the prosecution, such as the police report, breathalyzer results, and blood alcohol content (BAC) test results. Your attorney may also file motions to exclude certain evidence or dismiss the case altogether.
Step 4: Trial
If your case goes to trial, it will be heard by a judge or a jury. The trial will typically begin with opening statements from both the prosecution and defense. The prosecution will present evidence to prove that you were driving under the influence, while your defense attorney will argue that the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient or flawed. Witnesses, including police officers and expert witnesses, may be called to testify.
If you are found guilty, the judge or jury will determine your sentence. This may include fines, jail time, community service, mandatory DUI/DWI education classes, SR-22 insurance, and criminal record. The severity of the sentence will depend on several factors, including the circumstances surrounding your arrest, your prior criminal history, and the judge’s discretion.
If you are found guilty and believe that the verdict was unjust or that the judge made an error in your case, you may have the option to appeal. This involves requesting that a higher court review your case and possibly overturn the verdict. However, appeals can be complex and time-consuming, and they may not always be successful.
The DUI/DWI court process can be intimidating and overwhelming, but it is important to understand the steps involved. If you are facing DUI/DWI charges, it is crucial to seek the advice of an experienced DUI/DWI attorney who can guide you through the process and help you achieve the best possible outcome. Remember, the consequences of a DUI/DWI conviction can be severe, so it is important to take your defense seriously and to seek help as soon as possible.
If you have been charged with a DUI and are searching for legal assistance, then use our free attorney matching service on this page or call (800) 384-5297 to get in touch with a DWI/DUI attorney today.