Working With Great General Attorneys

What Is Going On? Understanding The Legal Aspects Of A DUI Charge

by Maurice Moore

Being arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) can be distressing. Unfortunately, the law takes this type of offense very seriously, and being convicted of the charge can bring about life-altering actions. Legal actions can sometimes only add to the stress and confusion, and it can be difficult to understand what is going on. For a rundown on what happens after an arrest right up to the end of the case, read on.

Arraignment: The first appearance before a judge occurs soon after the arrest and usually before you are released from jail. The timing of the arraignment varies within states, counties, and municipalities, however. At the arraignment, several tasks are accomplished. You will usually be asked to enter a plea, and it's best to plead "not guilty" at this time. Then you might discuss bail with the judge. Finally, the judge will ask you if you have legal representation.

Pretrial Period: Once you are out of jail and have retained a criminal defense attorney, preparations get underway for a trial. Your lawyer will be busy gathering evidence to support your innocence. In the case of DUI charges, that often includes finding fault with the state's evidence against you using camera footage, police reports, the results of the field sobriety tests, and more.

Plea Bargains: Most cases are resolved using a plea bargain. This is when having a criminal defense lawyer pays off. The deal you are offered may or may not be beneficial to you — it just depends on the state's evidence against you. You need to get a firm idea of what might happen if your case should be tried before a judge and jury before you agree to a plea deal. If you agree to a plea deal, your case is over immediately.

Discovery: If you don't take a plea deal, discovery proceeds. Pretrial discovery involves the gathering and sharing of the facts of the case between the defense and the prosecution. Depending on your case, discovery can take some time to complete.

Jury Selection: You may or may not be present for jury selection (voir dire). This may only take a few hours for a DUI case.

Trial Begins: The court case gets underway with the opening statements from the two sides. Usually on the same day, the state begins the trial by calling witnesses. Then, it's the defense's turn to call witnesses and enter evidence. With a DUI trial, witnesses are often police officers.

Deliberations and the Verdict: Finally, after the jury meets, they will arrive at a verdict and it will be read in court. If you are found innocent, the case is over. If you are found guilty, you will be sentenced.

To find out more about the above process, speak to a criminal defense lawyer.