A criminal prosecution for driving under the influence can move quickly following your arrest. While you should consult a qualified criminal defense attorney personal to learn more about your cases and any potential defenses that you might have, the following article provides a general overview of these DUI court proceedings in California.
The first step in a DUI prosecution is your DUI investigation, usually at a roadside traffic stop, and you arrest for driving under the influence. After your arrest, you will have to surrender your driver’s license and will receive a notice of suspension that can substitute for your driver’s license for 30 days. You will have to request a DMV administrative hearing on your license’s suspension within ten days if you want to avoid automatic license suspension after 30 days, but those administrative proceedings are separate from your criminal DUI prosecution. You will receive a citation to appear at a court date within a few weeks or months on your DUI charge, or, if you have multiple DUIs or outstanding warrants, you may be kept in custody until you are called to appear in court to address your DUI charge.
Your first court appearance in your criminal DUI proceedings is known as arraignment. At arraignment, a prosecutor will generally provide you or your lawyer with some key documents related to your case, almost always including your arrest report and chemical breath test results, in something called an exchange of “discovery.” You will then have the opportunity to review any plea offer presented by the prosecutor with your attorney. You may have the option to waive time for arraignment and plea and come back within a week or two if you and your lawyer would like additional time to prepare. If you do not waive time for arraignment and plea, you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty (either to the original charges filed or a plea offer), not guilty, or no contest, which is functionally similar to a guilty plea. If you plead not guilty, the judge will usually set a pretrial hearing on your case within either 30 or 45 days of your arraignment, depending on the facts of your case.
You or your attorney will next attend one or more pretrial hearings to obtain additional discovery from the prosecutor and giving you time to consult with any expert witnesses you may wish to call at your eventual trial and otherwise further investigate your case. If your defense attorney decides that further investigation is no longer in your best interest, they can announce ready for trial, typically triggering a trial within eight to ten days of that date. Prior to the trial date, you attorney may make a motion to suppress certain evidence obtained by the police in violation of the Fourth Amendment or to suppress statements obtained in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Your attorney will be able to give you specific advice on whether any such motions are an option for you when they have discussed the specific facts of your case with you.
If you eventually proceed to trial, a judge or twelve jurors will be tasked with determining whether you drove a vehicle and whether, at the time you drove the vehicle, you were under the influence of alcohol. The prosecution must establish these points beyond a reasonable doubt. Your defense attorney may cross examine witnesses put on the stand by the prosecution, and your attorney may also wish to call alibi or expert witnesses to testify on your behalf. An experienced criminal defense attorney can give you detailed advice on trial strategy, and the earlier you retain such an attorney, the more time they will have to craft a potentially successful defense strategy for you.
A DUI court proceeding can be stressful and complicated, even in the most typical cases. Having a skilled and seasoned DUI attorney by your side will help to ensure that your rights and best interests are represented and protected throughout this process. In DUI cases, specific and, sometimes seemingly unimportant, evidence can make or break your case and be the difference between jail time with a criminal record or a ‘not guilty’ verdict. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced and knowledgeable DUI defense attorney, contact us at 888-360-4256.