If you are arrested for a DUI, you are taken to jail. After your arrest, 1 of 3 things can happen. (1) you are released if the prosecutor decides not to file charges; or (2) you post bail with a promise to appear at a later arraignment date; or (3) you stay in jail until your first court date.
Police Reports Sent to Prosecutor
After the police arrest you they write a report. This report summarizes the events leading up to the arrest and provides witnesses’ names and other relevant information. Defendants generally don’t have a right to get a copy of the arrest report, but their lawyers do.
Prosecutor Makes Charging Decision
Once the prosecutor receives the police reports, they first decide if they are going to file charges, and second, what charges to file. The prosecutor decides whether to charge the crime as a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecutor can file charges on all of the crimes for which the police arrested you on or can decide to file fewer charges or more charges than were included in the arrest report.
Speedy Trial Rights
Because defendants have a right to a speedy trial, the prosecutor must file charges within 48 hours of arrest when the defendant is in custody. Weekends, court holidays, and mandatory court closure days do not count against the 48 hours. If you are released from jail, the prosecutor has up to 1 year to file charges against you on a misdemeanor DUI charge.
The arraignment is the first time you appear in court. At the arraignment the judge tells you the charges you are facing, advises you about your constitutional rights, and appoints the public defender if you can’t afford an attorney. Also at the arraignment you will typically enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. Guilty means you admit you committed the crime and the judge enters a conviction in the court record. Not Guilty means you deny committing the crime. Even if you did commit the crime, you enter a not guilty plea at the beginning of the case to allow your attorney to negotiate with the prosecutor and judge for a better resolution to your case. No Contest means you do not contest the charges against you. A no contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea, except the conviction cannot be used against you in a civil lawsuit.
After the Arraignment – Misdemeanor Case
After the arraignment, the prosecution and the defense exchange information which is called discovery. Defendants are limited in what information they are able to see, but their lawyers are not. Either side can file pretrial motions, including motions to set aside the complaint, to dismiss the case, or to prevent evidence from being used at trial. The defendant can change his or her plea to guilty or no contest. The judge and lawyers from both sides talk about resolving the case prior to trial.
After the Arraignment – Felony Case
After the arraignment, if the case does not settle or get dismissed, the judge holds a preliminary hearing. At this hearing, the judge decides if there is enough evidence that the defendant may have committed the crime and that a trial should take place where the jury decides. If the judge decides that there is enough evidence for a trial, the prosecutor will file an “Information.” The defendant will be arraigned, a second time, on the Information. The defendant will enter a not-guilty plea and proceed to trial.
After the arraignment, there will be multiple settlement conferences where your attorney, the prosecutor, and the judge talk about case settlement. In between court dates, your attorney is negotiating for a dismissal, lesser charges, or lighter punishment. This is where case investigation, forensic analysis, blood retests, medical defenses, forensic defenses, no driving or drink after driving defenses or rising alcohol defenses are presented to the prosecutor in an effort to get a dismissal, reduction of charges, or lighter punishment. Mitigation evidence including character letters, rehab treatment, job issues, professional license issues, immigration issues, and commercial driving issues are also presented to the prosecutor in an effort to get a better resolution.
Trial Setting Conference
The trial setting conference is when your trial dates are set. Continued settlement discussions occur all the way up to trial. Prior to trial, motions are filed to exclude evidence including Miranda and Suppression motions.
Setting a Trial Date – Speedy trial rights
In a misdemeanor case an in-custody defendant must be brought to trial within 30 days of arraignment or plea, whichever is later. If the defendant is out of custody, the trial must start within 45 days of arraignment or plea, whichever is later. In a felony case, the prosecutor must file the Information within 15 days of the date the defendant was “held to answer” at the preliminary hearing. The trial must start within 60 days of the arraignment on the Information.
Waiver of Speedy Trial Rights
The defendant can “waive” the right to a speedy trial. This means the defendant agrees to have the trial after the required deadline. But even if the defendant waives time, the law says the trial must start within 10 days after the trial date is set. It is important for defendants to get advice from an attorney before they agree to waive time.
Pre-Trial Motion – Miranda Motion
If the officer didn’t read you your Miranda rights when he was asking you incriminating questions and you were in custody, a judge can suppress your statements and all evidence derived from those statements. In many cases, this is helpful especially if you made bad statements like admitting to driving or being impaired.
Pre-Trial Motion – Suppression Motion
Suppression motions are filed when there is unconstitutional police conduct in a DUI case. This includes illegal detention, arrest, or blood draws. Police can only detain someone based on a 911 call, observed vehicle code violation or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. If the officer cannot articulate why he detained you, a judge can suppress all the evidence in the case which means your case will usually get dismissed.
What Happens at trial
Before the trial starts, the lawyers choose a jury through a process called “voir dire.” The attorneys on both sides ask questions of the potential jurors to make sure the jurors will be fair and impartial. Before the lawyer’s present evidence and witnesses, both sides give an opening statement about the case. During the trial, lawyers present evidence through witnesses who testify about what they saw or know. After all the evidence is presented, the lawyers give their closing arguments. At the end of the case, the jury decides if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. The jury must find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defendants in criminal cases have the right to have a jury decide their guilt or innocence. Everyone accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent until they are convicted. It is the prosecutor who has to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty and must provide proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Since the burden of proof is on the prosecutor, the defendant has the right to remain silent and that silence cannot be used against them.
If the jury finds the defendant not guilty, it is called an “acquittal” and the defendant will be released. Because of “double jeopardy,” the defendant can never be tried again for the same crime. A finding of not guilty is not the same as a finding of innocence. It simply means that the jury was not convinced that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The arrest will still show on the defendant’s record, along with the acquittal. If the defendant is found guilty, the defendant will be sentenced.
Finding of Factual Innocence
If you are acquitted at trial and you believe you were wrongfully arrested and charged, and you want to get the arrest removed from your record you can file a finding of factual innocence motion. A hearing will be held in front of a judge to determine if you were factually innocent of the charge and shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place. It is often much harder to prove factual innocence, than to raise a reasonable doubt about guilt.
If you are found guilty after a trial, you have the right to an appeal. There are many reasons for an appeal of a criminal case. There are also important deadlines that apply to appeals. If you miss the deadline, your appeal will likely be dismissed. For misdemeanor cases, you must file a Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the date of the judgment or order. For felony cases, you must file a Notice of Appeal within 60 days of the date of the judgment or order. The appellate court will review the evidence presented at your trial to see if the trial court made any legal errors. The appellate court does not decide the facts of the case as the jury in the trial court does but decides if there was enough evidence justify the verdict or judgment; and/or if there were any mistakes of law during or before the trial that hurt your case.
Even if you are convicted of crime, you can still get your case expunged. All misdemeanors and most felonies can be expunged. An expungement allows you to lawfully answer that you have never been convicted of a crime. To be eligible, you must have successfully completed probation, paid all your fines and fees, and completed the terms of your probation. When you hire our law firm, we will help you with your expungement when you become eligible so that your criminal record and history our as clean as possible moving forward in life.
You don’t have to plead guilty, contact our office today for a free same day consultation
We have successfully represented many professionals, business people, and others accused of DUI. We have successfully obtained acquittals, dismissals and reductions of DUI charges and have had DMV suspensions set aside. Call our office today at (916) 939-3900 to speak directly to an attorney about your DUI case. We are open 24/7/365 to answer your questions.